31 March 2023
Praying at the Stations of the Cross in
Lent 2023: 31 March 2023 (Station 6)
These final weeks in Lent are often known as Passiontide, beginning with last Sunday, the Fifth Sunday in Lent or Passion Sunday (26 March 2023).
We are now coming towards the end of what is often known as Passion Week. In these two weeks of Passiontide, Passion Week and Holy Week, I am reflecting in these ways:
1, Short reflections on the Stations of the Cross, illustrated by images in Saint Dunstan’s and All Saints’ Church, the Church of England parish church in Stepney, in the East End of London, and the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Francis de Sales in Wolverton, which I visited for the first time last month;
2, the Gospel reading of the day in the lectionary adapted in the Church of England;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.
Station 5, Veronica wipes the face of Jesus:
The Sixth Station in the Stations of the Cross has a traditional description such as ‘Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.’ Veronica is not a Biblical or historical figure, but her name reminds us of every woman who takes a stand for truth, even when great personal costs and risks are involved.
I was staying at Glenstal Abbey, Co Limerick, when I heard the news that the journalist Veronica Guerin had been murdered on 26 June 1996. She first wrote for the Sunday Business Post and the Sunday Tribune, and began writing about crime for the Sunday Independent on 1994. She was shot dead while she was stopped at traffic lights near Newlands Cross, on the outskirts of Dublin. She was due to speak two days later at a conference in London on ‘journalists at risk.’
Her murder caused national outrage in Ireland, and the Taoiseach John Bruton called it ‘an attack on democracy.’
Her name and those of 38 other international journalists who died in the line of duty in 1996 were added to the Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, in 1997. In 2000, she was named as one of the International Press Institute's 50 World Press Freedom Heroes of the past 50 years. The Veronica Guerin Memorial Scholarship at Dublin City University offers a bursary for a student following the MA in Journalism who wishes to specialise in investigative journalism.
Her husband Graham Turley has said: ‘Veronica stood for freedom to write. She stood as light, and wrote of life in Ireland today, and told the truth. Veronica was not a judge, nor was she a juror, but she paid the ultimate price with the sacrifice of her life.’
In the Sixth Station in Stepney, Veronica falls to her knees in front of Jesus as she reaches up to wipe his face, while a second woman stands weeping. Behind them, a soldier reaches his hand out to Christ’s shoulder, while Simon of Cyrene balances the weight of the Cross and a young apprentice carries a tool box, perhaps carrying the implements of the Crucifixion.
The words beneath the scene read: ‘Veronica offers Jesus a towel.’
This scene is depicted in a simpler presentation in Station 6 in Wolverton, where Veronica holds out the cloth and Jesus leans forward for it with one hand. Behind him, a soldier is carrying the spear that will pierce his side.
The words beneath read: ‘Jesus and Veronica.’
John 10: 31-42 (NRSVA):
31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus replied, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?’ 33 The Jews answered, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.’ 34 Jesus answered, ‘Is it not written in your law, “I said, you are gods”? 35 If those to whom the word of God came were called “gods”—and the scripture cannot be annulled— 36 can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son”? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’ 39 Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.
40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. 41 Many came to him, and they were saying, ‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ 42 And many believed in him there.
The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Good Neighbours: A View from Sri Lanka.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday morning with an adaptation from Father Rasika Abeysinghe’s contribution to USPG’s Lent Course ‘Who is our neighbour,’ which I have edited for USPG. Father Rasika Abeysinghe is a priest in the Diocese of Kurunagala in the Church of Ceylon.
The USPG Prayer Diary today (Friday 31 March 2023) invites us to pray:
Let us pray for the Diocese of Kurunagala. May its work amongst struggling farmers and labourers, and those of different faiths, aid those most affected by Sri Lanka’s economic crisis.
Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us
that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters
we do also for you:
give us the will to be the servant of others
as you were the servant of all,
and gave up your life and died for us,
but are alive and reign, now and for ever.
Stations of the Cross in Stepney, Wolverton and Stony Stratford (Photographs: Patrick Comerford)
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
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