Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Hard Lessons of Lent

Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
                                                                                                 ~Psalm 44:22 (NIV)

One of the central devotional practices of Lent is found in the 14 Stations of the Cross. It is a practice of the Catholic Church that dates back to the fourth century when people would make pilgrimages to the Holy Land to retrace Jesus' steps to the cross. In church, the people walk to the various icons positioned around the sanctuary which represent each station of the cross while devotions and prayers are said.

I have friends and family who question why we continue to emphasize the crucifixion of Christ. Do we still think of God as a punitive deity who demanded the sacrifice of his own son to redeem the world? Well, no, I don't believe that, but I will not attempt to answer that question theologically in this brief space (see the writings of Jürgen Moltmann for a much more complete articulation of thought than I could give to the subject). Instead, I am inclined at this time to give a more visceral response to the question.

For all the good that humanity does, we are a people well acquainted with sorrow, suffering and grief. Moreover, we continue to organize ourselves under empires which practice death-making and crucifixion as a method of control. I believe that we engage in the passion of Christ at Easter because we ourselves live with suffering and crucifixion and we find hope in the Christ who resisted Empire, suffered, died and was buried and transcended the soul-numbing forces of Empire.

In the posts that follow, we will walk through the Stations of the Cross with few words. We will view images to remind us of the way of the cross as it is manifest in our day and time. The following guideline is taken from Loyola Press at

Stations of the Cross

The 14 Stations of the Cross represent events from Jesus’ passion and death. At each station we use our senses and our imagination to reflect prayerfully upon Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection.

1. Jesus Is Condemned to Death.
Pontius Pilate condemns Jesus to death.

2. Jesus Takes Up His Cross.
Jesus willingly accepts and patiently bears his cross.

3. Jesus Falls the First Time.
Weakened by torments and by loss of blood, Jesus falls beneath his cross.

4. Jesus Meets His Sorrowful Mother.
Jesus meets his mother, Mary, who is filled with grief.

5. Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross.
Soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross.

6. Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus.
Veronica steps through the crowd to wipe the face of Jesus.

7. Jesus Falls a Second Time.
Jesus falls beneath the weight of the cross a second time.

8. Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem.
Jesus tells the women to weep not for him but for themselves and for their children.

9. Jesus Falls the Third Time.
Weakened almost to the point of death, Jesus falls a third time.

10. Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments.
The soldiers strip Jesus of his garments, treating him as a common criminal.

11. Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross.
Jesus’ hands and feet are nailed to the cross.

12. Jesus Dies on the Cross.
After suffering greatly on the cross, Jesus bows his head and dies.

13. Jesus Is Taken Down From the Cross.
The lifeless body of Jesus is tenderly placed in the arms of Mary, his mother.

14. Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb.
Jesus’ disciples place his body in the tomb.

15. The Closing Prayer
Sometimes included as a 15th station, reflects on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.


  1. Quite the fitting series of posts for thy Masthead. Who does not face the tension daily between the plight and the delight of a given momentary spur. Like tending a garden, Charlie, you manage to leave no plot unturned, no reader unattended. I appreciate your attentive gaze.


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