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Stations of the Cross

March 2, 2010

In Fourteen Stations, you would think that whoever invented the devotion could have been a bit more imaginative than to have three of them the same: “Christ Falls for the First Time” “Second Time” “Third Time”.

That’s what I used to think, but then I educated myself!

When I walk round the walls of the church now, especially on Fridays in Lent, I feel the accumulative force of these three Falls. If these is one thing that Stations of the Cross convince one of, it is that our Lord Jesus Christ was fully human, and suffered all that we suffer.

It begins with the humiliation of being mocked and despised and sentenced to death by Pilate. Then there are the heart-rending meetings with various people as he toils up the hill to Golgotha; his Mother, Veronica, the weeping women of Jerusalem, Simon of Cyrene. and finally the stripping off of his clothes, the driving in of the nails, and the hoisting him up into the view of all that passed by. Whether they read Hebrew, Greek or Latin, the placard on the Cross sent them the same message: THIS (this wretched, bloody failure) THIS is the King of the Jews. It was meant to provoke mockery and laughter, and no doubt it did.

My favourite Station is the one where the Cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene. It is the station that should comfort and console us all. Simon was picked out of the crowd, I suspect, because he was black, from Africa. He was a Jew who had fulfilled a life’s ambition to be in Jerusalem for the Passover. Maybe he had saved money half his life for the means to do this.
But now he was forced to touch the cross of execution which would make him unclean and therefore unable to celebrate the Passover.

At that moment, it must have seemed to Simon that disaster had struck. But within a short while he was a fervent Christian, referred to by St Mark as “the father of Alexander and Rufus” who were clearly well known in the church at Rome. The Cross that Simon had thought had ruined his life turned out to be the instrument by which he came to know Jesus and to inherit everlasting life.

And so it can be with all of us when disaster strikes. The Cross that is laid on us – whether it be an illness, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, misunderstandings, whatever it is – can turn out to be the turning point. That’s when we can understand the saying of Jesus:
“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.

Imagine St Simon the Cyrenian’s reaction, when he heard or read these words for the first time in the Gospel. The Cross he had been forced to carry was his most precious memory and his most powerful incentive to love God and his neighbour as Jesus Christ had loved him.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Charles Rileigh permalink
    March 2, 2010 7:35 pm

    Dear Canon Reid,

    A beautifully stated comment on the meaning of the Stations of the Cross. Until I began participating in them in my own parish, I thought how much they could offer, if only one participates. Well, we do celebrate the Stations each Friday during Lent, and I am so deeply moved to be able to do so; it is a necessary part of my Lenten devotions. If only more people would participate throughtout the Church, think of how much the Church might be energized and lives changed!

    God bless you,

    Charles Rileigh

  2. David O'Rourke permalink
    March 3, 2010 2:01 am

    Well, I’ll never look at this Station in quite the same way. Here is the irony of God! A man comes from afar to fulfill his dream of being in Jerusalem for the Passover. Events as you describe them mean his dream is torn from him by a few non thinking soldiers but he thus takes part in the new and infinitely greater Passover.


    • March 3, 2010 3:15 am

      Dear David,

      You’ve got it in one! In all my disasters, it has been my greatest consolation.


  3. Michael Pahl permalink
    March 5, 2010 12:47 pm

    What a moving an inspirating interpretation, thank you very much indeed, Father! I believe that especially those (mostly very devoted!) faithful meditating the Stations of the Cross will be able to identify easily with such a regard to Simon of Cyrene; I’m already looking forward to share these thoughts with them…

  4. Felicity Pickup permalink
    March 22, 2010 8:20 pm

    Hey! Neat! Something to think about this year besides my pride (chagrin) in how well (or badly) my knees are genuflecting.

  5. April 5, 2010 2:07 am

    The problem with the via crucis is that in the Western rites it is a paraliturgy. In the Byzantine rite it is shaped upon the Mattins of the Good Friday. Twelve gospel readings are proclaimed, the cross is borne in procession and planted in the middle of the church.

    This could be also done in the Roman rite (not for the Good Friday, but for Lent), with three nocturnes and psalms of the Good Friday.

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