Stations of the Cross
by Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart OP
First Station: Jesus is condemned to death
The Good Shepherd is now fulfilling His promise, that He will lay down His life for His sheep. How do we, as Dominicans, follow Jesus as He begins His way of the cross? Most of us, unlike some of our earlier brothers and sisters in Russia, are not called to physically lay down our lives. Yet, we must do this daily. As Dominicans, we must become sources of life for others. Not only in words, but most especially in our actions.
The laity belong to the Royal and Mystical priesthood of Christ, which means they too are sacrificial offerings to the Father.
The first step is the interior spirit of poverty, allowing ourselves to be despoiled of all that we are and have, in order to be transformed into Christ. Each gift of self offered in love becomes a source of life for others. And each gift of self we offer to the Father, is not a one sided offering. Each gift is returned by the Father, in ways we cannot imagine.
As Dominicans we need to let the cry of Father St. Dominic take root in our heart - "O Lord, what will become of poor sinners!" How much our brothers and sisters here in Russia need us!
Second Station: Jesus embraces His Cross
Jesus tells the Disciples on the way to Emmaus, that is was necessary for Him to suffer. As His disciples suffering becomes necessary for us also. Yet, this mystery is a hard one to accept. We do not ordinarily embrace suffering with the total act of our will, as did Jesus. Why? because we are not yet penetrated by the truth that the Father loves us.
"Welcome the Cross of Christ, the sign of God's Love for humanity," the Pope told the youth in Toronto.
We must welcome it joyfully at each moment of each day. Then we will become true Dominicans - who are supposed to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We can only welcome it joyfully however, after we have come to know the love which the Father has for us, for me personally.
St. Catherine of Siena tells us: "Dominic does not wish his sons and daughters to apply themselves to anything but remaining at the table of the Cross…." Let us go with Jesus to Calvary joyfully.
Third Station: Jesus falls the first time
"We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father's love for us…" (Toronto) We have only begun our journey with Christ, and already we find ourselves ready to fall too. In the beginning of our journey our human nature is still weak. Our love is weak. It would be easy to remain here. But we must get up, with the help of grace.
Only the beginning is hard, St. Therese tells us. Love, and love alone gives us strength and courage. Each rising is an act of the will, and thus an act of love. Thus each time we rise, we grow stronger in our following of Christ.
Fourth Station: Jesus and Mary meet on the Way to the Cross
Mary comes to join Jesus in His offering of Himself to the Father. To discover even a little of the depths of this mystery will take us many years. Her participation here at Calvary is even more necessary than it was at the Annunciation. We hear her say here also, "Let it be done as You will."
At the Foot of the Cross her mission is not ended. She has now the task of helping us all fulfill our own mystical priesthood vocation. If we truly give ourselves to her, she will make us truly docile instruments of the Holy Spirit. She will teach us that this priesthood can only be fulfilled in fraternal charity, the pouring out of ourselves for our brothers and sisters, the offering of our wounds to the Father for the sake of others.
St. Dominic, as her true son, spent his entire days working for the salvation of souls. Each of us in our normal daily lives must do the same.
Fifth Station: Simon is forced to help Jesus carry His Cross
Simon has to be forced to accept the Cross. How many times we too, grumble, complain, or murmur at the little sufferings, the splinters of the Cross that comes to us. But tradition tells us that Simon, in His contact with Jesus and the Cross, learned to accept the Cross. We can accept the Cross too, with complaints. Or maybe we can in time learn to accept the Cross with resignation. But if we want to be true children of St. Dominic, we need to learn to embrace it with joy and complete willingness.
Each splinter is given to us by the Father with love. To embrace this splinter with our will, is an act of love. So many acts of love a day, will no doubt transform not only us, but all around us.
"Communicate to everyone the beauty of the contact with God that gives meaning to your lives." (Pope John Paul II)
Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the Face of Jesus
What does Veronica see in this Face, so bruised, beaten, covered with blood and filth, crowned with thorns? It has been the object of hate for many hours now. But what does she see in These eyes? Love. Serenity. Peace.
"Be for the world the face of love," instructed the Holy Father in Toronto. When our neighbors, those who pass us by in the street look at our faces, what do they see?
We " are the salt of the earth and the light of the world when we become witnesses of love."
Seventh Station: Jesus Falls the Second time
How great the humility of Jesus. He takes on all our weaknesses in order to make us strong. How many times we find ourselves overcome with weariness. Life in this world is indeed a battle. The Church gives us the Sacrament of Confirmation that we may have the strength to do battle for God against selfishness inclinations. How many times do we think to call upon this grace?
We must turn in all our weariness to Mary. She will teach us that love will enable us to give unstintingly and completely each moment of our day. Only love can give us strength, and when we are reluctant to give love, then do we fall. Let us rise, with Mary's help and continue on our way to the great moment of love.
Eighth Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
These women are weeping at the sight of suffering, but because they do not understand yet the mystery. The letter to the Hebrews tells that Adam fell into sin because he was afraid of suffering. Jesus does not want us to love suffering, certainly. But He says we must carry our cross each day with Him, and also that He came that we may have joy and have it to the full. How can we reconcile these two opposites? If we stop each time we are sad, we will see that it is almost always because we are thinking about ourselves, feeling sorry for ourselves.
All who knew St. Dominic tell us that he was always joyful. Joy radiated from his whole person, so that even his face shone. Only that sorrows and sufferings of his neighbor caused him to feel, not sadness, but compassion. He gave them joy, by healing their afflictions, and by taking on their sorrows.
The world, Russia, all our brothers and sisters need us to bring them joy. When they see our joy in the midst of so much suffering, they will be relieved of their own sufferings. But first we have to learn to forget ourselves.
Ninth Station: Jesus falls the Third Time
Here we are, at the Foot of Calvary, and Jesus falls. It is not because He is reluctant to carry out the Father's will to the full. But because He knows, we will.
We too may be asked to suffer even death, death spiritually, psychologically, physically. No doubt, we will feel incapable to go on. But Jesus will give us strength to go on. Nothing is impossible where there is love. Our fiat must extend even to the ultimate gift of ourselves.
Tenth Station: Jesus is stripped of His garments
Jesus emptied Himself, and here it is being fulfilled even physically. Only love can give us strength to let ourselves be emptied. Jesus is the Vine, and we are the branches. The Father prunes us that we may bear fruit. He cuts out of the garden of our souls all that hinders the life of Jesus coming to fruition in us.
Even the gifts and talents God has given us, all the good things, can become obstacles to grace if we become attached to them. Let us accept every action of the Holy Spirit in detaching us from ourselves. Then Jesus Who is the Light of the world will be able to shine through us to others.
Eleventh Station: Jesus is nailed to the Cross
There is silence now, after all the noise and shouts along Calvary. What a confusing moment. Those who thought Jesus was the One to bring liberation to Israel is being nailed to the tree. He is no longer free. Yet, He is free. Truly free. I lay down My Life freely, Jesus said.
The Cross is the great Epiphany of the Father's love for humanity. And Jesus freely wills it all.
ST. Thomas tells us freedom means to be without the need for something. We need so many things it seems. The need to be loved, the need to be accepted, the list can go on and on. We feel, if only these needs are fulfilled, we can be free. But here we see it is just the opposite. Jesus is despised and rejected, by those He is giving His very life for. And He is freest of all. Can we likewise offer these needs to the Father, and let ourselves be nailed to the Cross with Jesus?
Twelve Station: Jesus dies on the Cross
"I have earnestly desired to eat this pasch with you before I suffer." (Luke 12:15)
The Fathers of the Church saw the Last Supper as the great Wedding Feast of the Lamb. The death of Jesus on the Cross is but the wedding consummation of the Groom with His Bride the Church. Indeed in the Eastern Tradition, the Suffering Christ is always called the Divine Bridegroom. Mary and John are at the Foot of the Cross, yet Jesus deprives Himself of them, by giving them to each other.
Even His Father is silent. Jesus is Alone. When we suffer, we are always alone, even when surrounded by others. Yet, we should not take refuge in ourselves. Suffering by its nature makes us turn in on ourselves. Yet, Jesus does not. Here on Calvary He unites Himself to us as our Spouse. In order that our love of Him may become fruitful, in our moments of suffering we too forget ourselves.
Only suffering enables one to go the end in love. Suffering makes us magnanimous. And Magnanimity is St. Dominic's greatest gift to us.
Thirteenth Station: Jesus is taken down from the Cross
Mary, the Mother of Sorrows holds Jesus in her arms for the last time. Maybe she is thinking of Bethlehem. Surely no other human heart can know the depths of her sorrow.
Yet, I think a painting of this moment at the Hermitage best expresses that moment. John is kneeling beside her as she holds Jesus. His hand is clasping that of Jesus and offering to us the Sacred Wound. On their faces is only peace, serenity and even a slight smile. All has been accomplished.
We must ask for this grace, that like our Father St. Dominic, we can show to all our brothers and sisters who are suffering, the peace and joy that only God can give.
Fourteenth Station: Jesus is laid in the Sepulcher
Why do we pause here at the Sepulcher and not pass on immediately to the Resurrection? The events of the last 24 hours have been so overwhelming, we want quickly to go and remember Jesus has risen. In the Eastern Church, they spend at great deal of time here. For them it is a time of refreshing sleep for Christ as He visits the souls of the just awaiting the opening of the gates of Heaven.
"At the time of Thy repose, Thou hast raised the dead, and awoken them with a royal roar, as with the voice of the lion of Juda….Why didst Thou go down to those who dwell in Hades? Was it not to free the race of men? The double-nurtured grain of wheat has been sown in the bosom of the earth: but it shall bring joy with its hidden growth, with its glorious resurrection from the tomb….The Hosts of angels were amazed and dazzled as they beheld Thee, O Savior, among the dead, and destroying the power of death, and raising up Adam with Thee and releasing all the souls from Hades…Let all generations come to Thy grave and sing Glory be to Thee O Christ, in Thy long-suffering!"