The First Station: Jesus is condemned to die
How often are we like Pilate, how often do we wash our hands of a situation when to engage would mean meeting Christ in our midst? Those times we have washed our hands in matters of right and justice, or of our duty of care and love for our fellow humans.
The third figure in the station, the slave boy holding the bowl doesn’t appear in the biblical account, but we can safely assume there would have been a servant to bring Pilate his water, water that would never quite cleanse him of his guilt or sin. Water so unlike the regenerating water of Baptism. The boy has almost by accident been brought into to contact with Jesus, how would his life been transformed by the encounter.
As we journey through Lent we need to find ways to allow people to encounter Jesus, to come across him almost by accident, to allow them to meet him. We don’t know anything about the slaves in Pilates household but we do know they cannot have failed to have their lives changed by coming into contact with Jesus who frees us from the slavery of sin.
Fr Philip Corbett, All Saints’, Notting Hill
The Second Station: Jesus receives his cross
St John seems to describe Christ as in full control of the events of his Passion and death. St John’s Passion is characterised not so much by the agony as by the glory.
We might feel it is unlike the experiences we sometimes have of carrying our own crosses. Burdens of illness, anxieties about loved ones, our own personal insecurities, perhaps feelings of loneliness: these be might the crosses we have to offer up. But on the whole, we don’t accept them with the same peaceful serenity that Christ exhibits in this image.
The Passion of Christ in Matthew, Mark and Luke offers us an image of the suffering Lord in solidarity with us, like us, when times are hard. This is an important image of Christ: like us – a fellow sufferer – who is able to redeem our suffering and who ultimately save us. Christ takes up his Cross, by which he redeemed us.
Fr Tim Pike, St Michael’s, Croydon
The Third Station: Jesus falls for the first time
It is too much for him. He staggers, and collapses beneath it. The full weight of the cross comes crashing down upon him. The splinters drive themselves deeper into the open wounds across his back from the scourging. And yet he hauls himself to his feet again for our sake. And once more takes up the cross which has already caused him so much pain, and takes another step.
We have all experienced times when we have fallen. When the weight on our shoulders is too much to bear. When we again fall into the same old sins. We are reminded that in our trials, in those moments of intense pain and difficulty, Christ is with us. He walks with us and supports us as we take up our crosses and follow him.
Fr Stephen Miller, St Matthew’s, Sinclair Road
The Fourth Station: Jesus meets his mother
What a meeting this must be, a tender meeting, As Jesus continues his journey, his eyes meet those of his blessed Mother. How must she feel? She surely wants to help her Son with his burden, but she cannot get near to him. The piercing of her heart begins, just as Simeon prophesied.
The pain of watching a loved one suffer can be unbearable. Sometimes we lack the patience to walk with them in their suffering. Sometimes we turn away because the burden is too heavy. Even though the challenge to love may at times feel overwhelming, we are invited to put aside our own feelings and be present to those before us.
And what of Jesus? How does he feel in this moment? Perhaps he wanted to reach out and comfort his weeping mother and be comforted in return. Burdened by the cross and held back by the soldiers and the crowd, his heart is breaking, a look is all he can give, a look of love for his mother, for the whole world and for us.
Fr Alex Lane, All Saints’, Twickenham; filmed in St Mary’s Convent, Chiswick
The Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross
Jesus’s road from the place of sentence to the place of execution was filled with a crowd. We have to imagine the noise, the shouting, the jeering, the taunting, the mocking. The crowd were spectators to the execution of Jesus. We, too, can be a spectator to the events of Jesus’ walk to Golgotha. But then into this scene walks one of the great bit players of the Gospels. A character who will make a fleeting appearance then disappear again. Simon of Cyrene.
We don’t know what it was about Simon that made the Romans pick him from out of the crowd and force him to help Jesus carry the cross. Whether he looked willing or not, Simon found himself swept from the crowd, changed from spectator to one now sharing in Jesus’ walk to his death. To change from the one on the outside of the story, to one on the inside.
Now Simon is walking alongside Jesus, seeing the walk to Golgotha with the same view Jesus had. To be a follower of Jesus, as he tells us, is to daily take up our cross and follow him. To step out of the crowd.
Fr Tim Handley, St James’s, Garlickhythe; filmed in St Luke’s, Uxbridge Road
The Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Veronica, so moved with sympathy upon seeing Jesus on route to his crucifixion, offers her veil to wipe his face, which is caked with blood, sweat, and dirt. He wipes his weary face, then hands it back to Veronica with his image imprinted upon the piece of cloth. While there is no explicit reference to Veronica in the Gospels, her gracious act on the Via Dolorosa has lived on in legend for centuries. Who of us wouldn’t offer this some token of comfort to somebody suffering so? This station surely also moves us to show compassion.
The true image of who God is has a lot less to do with physical appearance than to do with the actions we take for one another. Veronica was not just compassionate, she was attentively compassionate. It did not take theatrics or heroics for Veronica to receive Jesus’ miracle – only the awareness of the need for compassion and the compassionate action itself.
In our own lives, let us relish these simple moments where our own attentive compassion is needed.
Fr Simon Clark, St Mark’s, Noel Park
The Seventh Station: Jesus falls a second time
Did Jesus have to fall a second time? Was not once enough?
Yes, that fall immediately relates to our own theological description of not only the temptation but the falling from temptation into sin by Eve and Adam and hence ‘The Fall’ not only of humanity but, as a consequence, of the whole of creation.
Yes, Jesus in his utter compassion, his desire to identify totally with humanity now he falls with his cross to identify with humanity’s and creation’s fallen state.
Perhaps it was sheer exhaustion. Indeed, how often do we fall under such maltreatment from those set above us? The consequence of their power and authority divorced from justice or whatever virtue they should be innately displaying yet forget, or worse, lay aside, washing their hands, pretending, while the abuse is played out. Perhaps this fall is one of exhaustion and if so can bring comfort to those who are exhausted at the unprincipled whim of others.
Perhaps this fall was Jesus’ voluntary identification with us in our frailties. Yet, within his frailties he is without sin, we in our frailties are sinful. Not just once, if only so that would be an improvement. We repeat. So often we fall a second time.
Perhaps this is Jesus voluntarily identifying with the sinful humanity he knows he is about to sacrifice himself to death and hell to rescue. We fall so often.
Fr Colin Amos, St Augustine’s, Kilburn
The Eighth Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
The women of Jerusalem who encounter Jesus are moved to tears at the sight they witness. Many of them were no doubt mothers and understand that this figure of tragedy could be one of their children. They put themselves psychologically in the place of Mary who witnesses the agony with them. They see not only his physical pain but they also see his innocence.
What then of the reaction of Jesus to their tears and wailing? To their empathy and compassion? He says to them that they should not weep for him but for themselves and for their own children! They cannot for one moment have imagined such words to be coming from Jesus. Surely he would be grateful to them for extending their love and pity for him? But no, it is not just about the suffering Christ but about the state and predicament of humanity. This final journey, as Jesus knows, but others didn’t was to fulfil the promises of God the Father in God the Son. By going to Calvary and dying on the cross, Jesus is bringing everything to accomplishment. He is bringing salvation to the world and forgiveness to the wayward children of God.
Fr Nicholas Wheeler, St Mary the Virgin, Hayes
The Ninth Station: Jesus falls for the third time
All that is, is created through him. This wood, this iron, this hill, this earth. This flesh. This man, who struggles to carry the cross on which he will be sacrificed.
Now he falls. Again. Or rather, kneels. Not to another in adoration, for it is to him that every knee must bow and of him that every tongue must make confession. Rather, he sinks to his knees beneath the weight of the world; to anoint the earth with his holy blood which even now streams from his sacred skin. God in substance of flesh, who will for three days sleep in this same earth, now loves by his third fall that which his willing sacrifice will redeem.
And we too, who are both created and yet through baptism begotten, kneel. We kneel to adore. To adore the ground on which he has trod, to adore the way that he has walked, and to follow. To follow the one who has made holy the path of suffering, if we but bear it for him – who is making holy our very selves if we but live in him.
Fr Guy Willis, St Benet’s, Kentish Town
The Tenth Station: Jesus is stripped of his garments
Jesus is stripped of his garments. Clothing gives a us our social position; it gives us our place in society, it makes us someone. His public humiliation means that, in that moment, Jesus is no longer anything at all – he is simply an outcast, jeered at and despised by all alike.
In the moment that Christ is divested of his clothing we are brought in our mind’s eye to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden: the moment where God’s splendour fell away from our first parents, who stood naked and exposed, unclad and ashamed as a result of the first sin.
In this station Christ takes upon himself the shame of Adam, but he also heals it.
We ask at this station that Christ may implant in us a profound respect for humanity at every stage of existence, and in all situations. We pray for those in this parish and in our city whose dignity is diminished in any way: those who are homeless, victims of modern-day slavery, those who today are without home or without work, for any who are victims of discrimination, and for all who go hungry today.
Fr Philip Kennedy, The Ascension, Lavender Hill
The Eleventh Station: Jesus is nailed to the cross
Jesus and the two criminals who are to be crucified with him are stretched out upon their crosses.
He takes upon himself all the pain of the crucifixion. Yet he is also feeling a real sense of abandonment from the people he loves so much.
So often our prayer, our hope, is to be more like Jesus and by that we usually mean gentle, meek and mild – as witnessed by his quiet acceptance of the nails piercing his flesh. Yet perhaps we are more like Jesus when we rail and shout out against God. ‘My God. My God, why have you forsaken me’. It is in that moment of utter desperation, that moment of emptiness, that sense of abandonment, that we become fully open to the love of God. Here Jesus is a priceless ransom. We share in the faith that Jesus had in his Father. But in this deepened faith we need to cling to him, as Benedict put it ‘nail ourselves to him’, uniting with him resisting the desire to separate ourselves from him to stand apart, and not to mock him.
Canon Andrew Stevens, St Nicholas’s, Plumstead
The Twelfth Station: Jesus dies on the cross
It is finished. Humanity has passed judgement on God, who came among us in a unique life of humility and love, but we still brought about his death. All of humanity’s transgressions, from the greatest evil to the smallest resentment, all the disobedience of God’s people throughout history, all our petty idolatry, duplicity, cowardice, find their climax in this moment, in the rejection of God by his people.
And yet, just as we might be tempted to despair, we remember that ‘God sent his Son…that the world might be saved through him.’ But the image of the dead Christ upon the Cross looks like an image of defeat, not victory.
This moment of death is, paradoxically, the place where freedom and life are made possible. Here we find a new depth of meaning for in Christ we see that real power is not about knowing how to kill, but knowing how to die, not returning evil for evil, but transforming it through forgiveness and love. Here Jesus Christ, God made man, lays down his life for his friends; he loves even unto death. Such love is stronger than death and so it cannot be defeated. It is finished, but it is not over.
Fr Christopher Trundle, Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell
The Thirteenth Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross
The death of any loved one feels like a desolation, but the loss a mother feels for a child is particularly acute. But there’s something else here: Jesus is received into Mary’s arms, she cradles him again as she once cradled him in Bethlehem. Could it be that this place of death is also a place of new birth? Could it be that this is not simply one more image of sorrow, but an image of fecundity, of life, a sign that beyond human sight there’s a new beginning for him who Mary holds at her maternal breast.
‘In my end is my beginning’ writes T S Eliot in the Four Quartets. In this seeming end is the sign of the utter creativity of God, who takes a dark act, the murder of his only Son, and makes it bear fruit for us. A fruit which is the ground of our hope, and the source of our light in the darkness of sorrow.
Fr Philip Barnes, St Stephen’s, Gloucester Road
The Fourteenth Station: The body of Jesus is laid in the tomb
On the seventh day, at the end of his work of creation, God rested. Now the Lord of Life rests in the tomb. For his friends, for this disciples, this is a time of confusion, desolation, despair. Hopes are dashed, dreams dispelled, vision occluded. The early days of any bereavement combine grief, anger and denial and we can be sure that those who had fled and those few who had stood near to or at a distance from the cross would be united in that mixture of emotions.
Christians bless graves, that they may offer a peaceful resting place for the departed. But as St Paul writes, in Christ we have the victory over the grave; and as he writes in another place, in baptism we were buried with Christ, so that, as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
The stillness of the grave, the silence of the tomb: these are but the prelude: and on the third day, the garden where Our Lord was laid will become the fresh Eden of resurrection, the site of the new creation.
The Bishop of Fulham,
filmed in All Hallows’, Gospel Oak