This is a series of reflections and prayers for the Stations of the Cross which form the core of the Church of England’s “The Way of the Cross”. They can be used in various ways:
By individuals for their own devotional reading and meditation during Lent.
By home groups who might want to share thoughts and ideas about the reflections.
As part of worship during Lent, particular in Holy Week.
This series was published by Redemptorist Publications in “Living the Word” in Lent 2010.’
Week One: Introduction
We don’t know exactly when the tradition of praying the stations of the cross began. We do know that it goes back centuries to early Christians who, when visiting Jerusalem, wanted to follow the path Jesus took on his way to crucifixion and death. At various places along that path these early pilgrims would pause for prayer and devotion, recalling some particular aspect of Christ’s passion.
When the pilgrims returned home they shared this experience and the tradition evolved in many different ways as Christians all over the world followed the way of the cross in their own churches and homes.
During this Lent we will be offering the opportunity to spend time with the stations of the cross which form the core of the Church of England’s liturgy “The Way of the Cross”.
We all pray, reflect and think in different ways but here are some suggestions for praying the stations of the cross this Lent.
· You might arrange a particular place in your home for reading and prayer, perhaps with a lighted candle and some small objects to symbolise our Lord’s passion, e.g. a cross, some nails, a rope, dice etc.
· Keep a copy of the New Testament to hand so that you can read each passage of scripture referred to.
· Each week we will be reading verses from the Gospels relevant to three stations of the cross, reflecting on them and praying in response to that reflection. You might like to jot down your own reflections and prayers in a notebook.
· If you belong to a house/Lent study group you might think about sharing together something of your experience of following these devotions.
Risen Lord Jesus, you have overcome the power of death and revealed to us your resurrection life. Be alongside us as we follow the road of your suffering. Bless our thoughts and prayers and draw us ever closer to you and into your eternal Kingdom. Amen.
Week Two: Agony, Betrayal and denial
1. Jesus in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane
Jesus you wanted your close friends with you while you prayed; Peter, James and John, men you called to follow you. What potential and promise did you see in them? How do you feel now as you face terrible injustice, pain and death? You fear what lies ahead and plead for reprieve but you know you can’t escape. It takes amazing courage to do what you are doing now, while Peter, James and John sleep, unable to watch and pray with you.
2. Jesus betrayed by Judas and arrested
Not so long ago, Jesus, crowds came running to find you so you could teach them, heal them, free them from demons. They searched you out and marvelled at what they saw and heard. Now the crowd searching for you are angry and violent. Did you know, when you asked him to follow you, that Judas would one day lead men to you not for healing and blessing but for your unjustified arrest? Is that what you saw in him or did you see some other glorious potential that he has chosen to reject?
3. Peter denies Jesus
Jesus, what did you see in Simon when you changed his name to Peter, the Rock? He promised you he would never let anyone harm you and was prepared to die for you if necessary. Now, suddenly, he doesn’t even want to know you. Is this the most painful wound of all, that a trusted friend can throw away years spent together to protect himself? Even as your heart grieves, do you know that somehow this broken, weeping man will be transformed by the power of your Holy Spirit and proclaim to all the Good News of your Kingdom?
Lord Jesus, what do you see in us as you call us to follow you? Forgive us when, like Judas and Peter, we let you down. Transform us by your Holy Spirit so that in our lives your love and compassion are revealed to people today who search for healing in their troubled hearts. Amen.
Week Three: Injustice and Cruelty
4. Jesus condemned by the Sanhedrin
Now, Jesus, we see you standing alone but surrounded by your enemies or those who couldn’t care less about you.
Your words are misrepresented and distorted by those who will not hear the voice of Truth.
False allegations are hurled at you like stones. And we remember a woman dragged before you for judgment because she was found committing adultery. They said she should be stoned but they crept away when you said that the first stone should be thrown by someone without sin.
Now you, the one truly without sin, endure unjustified verbal stoning and cruel mockery when you speak words of Truth: “I am (the Messiah)”.
5. Jesus judged by Pilate
Jesus, as you stand in front of Pilate can you sense his indecision and hope that even now, so close to the end, the bitter cup of suffering might be taken from you after all? Surely there must always have been that possibility or else we are not beings with freedom of choice and self-determination.
Do you sense a moment when Pilate’s wish to do what is right and just gives way to fear of the crowd and political expediency?
6. Jesus scourged and crowned with thorns
“It’s not fair” our hearts cry out as if we haven’t yet learnt that life often is unfair and that too frequently the innocent and the vulnerable are oppressed and bullied by the cruelty of the powerful.
But surely there is hope for our souls if, seeing you condemned, mocked and flogged we repeat the cry “it’s not fair”. It means that our hearts are not so hardened that we are unmoved by your ordeal and sickened by the knowledge that it doesn’t end here – there is worse to come.
Lord Jesus, you were subjected to savage injustices and cruelty although you didn’t deserve such punishment. Forgive us when we judge people unfairly or wound them with words spoken in anger or hatred. Help us to show compassion towards those whom society has condemned and mercy towards those who have offended us. Amen.
Week Four: The long walk to death
7. Jesus carries the cross
8. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the cross
9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
Jesus, you have been tried, judged, condemned to death, tortured and abused and now you have to face the final suffering on the cross.
It’s hard to watch you, wounded, bleeding and haggard. It’s hard even though we know that beyond this dreadful journey and its dead end there is resurrection, new life and hope for us all.
For the soldiers, though, for Simon of Cyrene, for the women of Jerusalem this present moment, and where it’s leading, is all there is.
For the soldiers it’s all in a day’s work – they’ve carried out hundreds, maybe thousands of crucifixions so you’re just one more “criminal”, barely human.
For Simon it’s a terrible imposition, being made to carry this cross makes him seem no better than a condemned prisoner.
For the women, who knows what this great outpouring of grief is about. Perhaps they were all followers of yours and cry out in distress at your fate. Perhaps they, like you, can see the ending of their world as they know it and this day marks the beginning of that end.
Jesus, what do you see and hear? How terrible is the physical pain and the torment in your mind?
Where’s the other Simon? Where is Simon Peter, the Rock? Do your eyes, through blood and tears scan the crowd for Simon, James and John or for anyone who cares deeply about you in this hour of your greatest need? In one sense we all face death alone, but now, Jesus, you are more alone than any of us can imagine.
Alone, you take this long walk to death and there’s no-one who can stop it happening.
Lord Jesus, we see you in pain and distress. Open our eyes to see those who today carry heavy loads of suffering and loneliness. Give us love in our hearts to share their burden knowing that to do so is also to love and serve you, the Servant of us all. Amen.
Week Five: On the cross
10. Jesus is crucified
11. Jesus promises the kingdom to the penitent thief
12. Jesus on the cross, his mother and his friend
Jesus, we see you now a broken man. Naked, your body is on public display, nailed into an agonising position. Punctures from thorns bleed down your face, mixing with salt of sweat and tears. The wounds from the flogging sting and your back is torn again by the rough wood of the cross. Here is utter shame and humiliation, the horror of nightmares while the mid-day sun adds its torture of glare and scorching heat.
Would we have been able to stay and be with you as your life ends? Or would we have run away to hide in fear?
If we stayed we would have seen the true power and glory of the God of Love flowing through you, a crucified, broken man. For even in your brokenness, Jesus, you call men and women to yourself and offer healing, wholeness, love and a new hope to cling to.
Another man, broken as you are acknowledges your innocence as he too approaches death. Like others before him he finds your forgiveness and healing – they reach him even in his dying. They give him a promise of paradise with you and for him the dreaded end to life becomes a glorious road into everlasting light and love.
Your mother and your friend, Jesus, are broken by grief and dread of a future without you. The life they’ve known is over and maybe they would even rather die with you. Broken as you are your love reaches out to them and you give them a new identity, a new relationship and way of life. A glimmer of hope is born that, together, they can perhaps face the days ahead.
Lord Jesus, broken and powerless, you offer the love of God that makes all things new. In our brokenness we ask you to forgive and heal us. Empower us by your Holy Spirit to reach out to people who live with pain, dread, despair and loneliness and offer ourselves to be their friend. Amen
Week Six: Death and burial
13. Jesus dies on the cross
As the end draws closer, Jesus, you cry out in desolation, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and you share that sense of being abandoned that men and women have experienced throughout the ages. Perhaps the sour wine is offered to you in an attempt to dull your senses, to relieve you of just some of the pain. But there are people around you who seem to be there for entertainment and now wonder if Elijah is going to be the star attraction.
There often comes a point in the story of someone’s suffering when we feel we just can’t bear it any more, we long for it to stop even if that means the story ends in death. Perhaps you too, Jesus, have reached that point in your own ordeal and you cry out for God’s presence with you.
And your cry is heard for it is now, when life has become unbearable, that your spirit is released into the hands of your loving Father. For those who love you, bereft as they are, there is also relief that you are now beyond the torment you’ve had to endure.
14. Jesus laid in the tomb
So now your body, Jesus, is at last gently wrapped in cloth and laid in a place of warmth and safety just as it was when you were born. Then there was the thrill and wonder of new life, angels and worshipping shepherds. Now there is only the silent stillness of the tomb and the respectful privacy after public humiliation.
Now is the time of waiting, praying, resting and, for us, the people of Easter, the glorious hope of resurrection and new life.
Risen Lord Jesus, as we wait now for the dawning of Easter Day, fill our hearts with your peace, hope and joy. Give us the assurance of your presence with us at all times and teach us to trust you and follow you along the road to eternal life with you in paradise. Amen.