A primary purpose of Lent is to prepare ourselves by spiritual renewal to celebrate Jesus’ Death and Resurrection in Holy Week and Easter Sunday. A time honoured tradition is to pray the Stations of the Cross during Lent and particularly on Fridays as a way of commemorating Jesus’ Sufferings and Death. The below link is to a version of the Station of the Cross that I came across in the US in which Jesus speaks to us in the first person. After clicking on the link you will see a file that can be selected with another click. Then it is ready to be downloaded by clicking on ‘Download’ and printed off. It is conveniently formatted as a double-sided A4 page. If there is some problem with this method, the contents are pasted below. It may be better to meditate on one station daily and then repeat the exercise after going through all 14.
STATIONS OF THE CROSS
First Station– I AM CONDEMNED TO DEATH
Pilate has just read my death sentence. I am to die on the cross. Should I rebel against Pilate? How can I? He is not my enemy. He is an envoy of my Father and the voice of my human destiny.
Pilate told me when and how I would die. You may not get that blessing. You won’t have a Pilate to tell you the place, the time or circumstances of your death. Yet you stand condemned to death as surely as I was. You were destined to die the moment you were conceived. That is part of being human. Do you think of that very often? If you thought about your death, you could see more clearly that some of the things you are most obsessed with are the least important. You would not be so worried about money, clothes, cars and careers. These things don’t make you precious. These things won’t help you when your time to die comes. I remind you of your death not because my Father and I want you to be fearful of your future. I remind you to help you live fully and freely as my brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters of my Father. In my death and resurrection you will receive the power to do that.
Second Station I AM MADE TO CARRY MY CROSS
My instrument of suffering and death has been thrust on me. Should I curse this heavy timber and those who laid it on me? No. The cross is neither bad nor good. My response alone determines whether it will be redemptive or destructive.
You also must carry the instruments of your own suffering and death. You were born with defects that you may control but never abolish. You have flaws that cause pain and suffering. You want to be kind, patient and understanding, but at times you find yourself mean, short-tempered and cynical. But you must not curse yourself or your limitations. That becomes like quicksand pulling you down lower. My cross did not come only from Pilate or the Roman soldiers. My cross came when I took on my Father’s work and became human. Your crosses are the same. They are our credentials for being human. The question is not whether life brings crosses, but rather your response to them. I embrace my humanity. You must embrace your humanity. Resisting crosses leads to self-hatred, hatred of others and bitterness. Some woods are stronger than steel because they bend. Learn to bend. Learn the wisdom of triumphing through your crosses rather than in spite of them.
Third Station I FALL THE FIRST TIME
I have just fallen flat on my face. I tried to avoid it. I wanted to stay on my feet. I wonder if I fell partly because I was trying too hard to keep from falling?
You can learn from my fall. You also will fall if you try too hard to succeed all by yourself. I was so wrapped up in my efforts that I forgot to let my Father guide me. I forgot for an instant to let Him work through me. You are often tempted to take on more than you can do well. Or to take on goals that, however worthy, may not be right for you or may be undertaken for inferior reasons. You decide what you want and then say to yourself: I am going to achieve this goal, and when I succeed, even God will have to be impressed. You do not need successes to get my Father’s attention. If you succeed, it is because of His grace anyway. So what you would be holding up as yours is really His already. My Father wants you, not your successes. In all you undertake, go first to Him in prayer and ask what He wants. Then, when you go to work, open your heart to Him and let Him work in and through you.
Fourth Station I MEET MY SORROWFUL MOTHER
I have just seen Mary. I wished for a second that she and I could have been spared that meeting, which was short but painful. Was I trying to hide this final agony from her, thinking she might not be strong enough ?
Do you tend to avoid your loved ones and they you, in times of crisis? Some spend a lifetime shielding their deepest selves from their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons and daughters. In the end, this will fail, because your death exposes your weakness to your loved ones like nothing in life could. Why wait until death or desperation to ‘meet’ your loved ones? Share with them your most profound aspirations, joys, fears, and troubles before the opportunities are gone. But no matter how often you open yourself to them in crises, it won’t be easy. I know. You want them to see you at your best, just as I wanted Mary to see me. I didn’t want her to see me so helpless. For an instant I was under-estimating Mary and losing sight of my Father’s grace. Just as He gives you the grace to face loved ones when all hope seems lost, so he gives them grace to cope not only with your pain but theirs as well.
Fifth Station SIMON IS FORCED TO CARRY MY CROSS
I felt badly for Simon of Cyrene. He had no way of preparing for what happened to him. He was a farm hand coming in from the fields when the soldiers forced him to carry my cross. I overheard him complaint to himself, ‘Why me?’
Don’t you dare condemn Simon. You would have been startled, reluctant and bitter, too, if you had been in his shoes! You must learn, as Simon did, that much in life is not just and fair. You will be startled by crosses thrust upon you when you least expect them. When that happens, my Father and I will not hold against you your reflexive cry of ‘Why me?’ But you must quickly move beyond that. You must not spend your life looking for ‘reasons’ for your crosses. You may never know until you die. Learn this from Simon’s plight. My Father uses anything and anyone to accomplish salvation. He used Simon, so Simon could be said to have done the will of my Father. But that alone doesn’t make one holy, because holiness is willing what my Father wills, wanting what he wants, accepting it and embracing it and making it your own. Only you in the depths of your freedom can do that.
Sixth Station VERONICA WIPES MY FACE
I am grateful to Veronica for wiping the blood, sweat and dirt from my eyes. She had not been as close to me in life as many others, but she responded when I needed an act of kindness. Do you realize she was the last person in my earthly life to touch me in a gentle act of mercy?
You never know when an act of kindness you do will be the last one a person experiences. So you should regard every opportunity for kindness as an act that will last an eternity. Kindness begets kindness. Veronica didn’t just happen to be at the right place at the right time. She had spent a lifetime learning to be gentle. My face wasn’t the first – or the last – that she soothed. You, too, cannot expect to be gentle in a crisis unless you have practiced gentleness so often that it comes naturally. Would you have wiped my face? How can you say you would have if you had ignored a thousand troubled faces before you saw mine?
Seventh Station I FALL THE SECOND TIME
I had wanted to pace myself better to make it to Calvary without another fall. But I tripped. I’m not sure how. Maybe it was a loose cobblestone, a rock I stubbed my foot on or a wet spot that was too slick.
This fall shows me up for being human as nothing else on my way to Calvary. I had enough strength and presence of mind to avoid it. Why did I fall? I think I was lulled into a momentary lapse. Simon had eased my burden. Veronica had soothed my sweaty face. A breeze had cooled my body. What flashed in my mind was that these fleeting strokes of good fortune meant I could somehow bypass the rest of the journey. Before I even recognised that as a temptation, I fell. What a profound lesson for your! Momentary good fortune does not mean the struggle is over. If things are looking rosy, be careful. You may be about to fall harder. Both good and bad are fleeting in this life. Do not count on them. Count on nothing expect my Father.
Eighth Station I MEET THE WOMEN OF JERUSALEM
Why wasn’t I more understanding with these women, who, after all, seemed to be showing me sympathy? Instead of graciously accepting their show of concern, I turned on them with the seemingly harsh words; ‘Don’t weep for me, Weep for yourselves and your children’.
I was harsh because these women were part of a great multitude of curiosity seekers who had turned out to watch an execution. Remember that these women were engaged in a kind of formal religious practice of mourning and lamenting for the dead or condemned. They were weeping for the sake of weeping. They were weeping without really knowing me or my Father. I am intolerant of religious routines when they are an excuse to avoid your deep personal commitment to me and my Father. Sometimes it is better to be silent, to pour out your heart where no one can hear. Go to you room and pray. When you know for whom you weep, then come to Calvary’s road.
Ninth Station I FALL A THIRD TIME
I have no regrets about this fall. My strength was gone. I did not want to fall and I did not want to stand. I just fell. And this time I had to be helped up. I couldn’t get up myself.
You may someday fall for a third time and have no strength to get up. You will have to be picked up by others. Don’t let that lead to despair; it does not mean you are less than human. Do not let those around you rob you of your dignity when you are on the ground. “What good am I to anyone” you may ask as others pick you up. If you bear your weakness with love, you are doing wonders for yourself, as well as the whole of creation. You are making yourself like me. In this life, you cannot become like me in many things. You cannot have the power I have. You cannot have the knowledge I have. You cannot have the wisdom I have. But you can become like me in the love you show when you are helpless.
Tenth Station I AM STRIPPED OF MY CLOTHES
When I was stripped of my robes, it hurt because parts of them were plastered to my body with caked blood. But it didn’t hurt my ego. By this time, I had nothing to cling to. I was emptied.
I want so much for you to know and live the truth symbolised by the ripping off of my clothes. My human life was an emptying of myself so I could be filled by my Father. Your life must be the same. Clothes are very personal. You would instinctively resist having them ripped from you. Yet clothes are a part of your outer self, and a symbol of it rather than your spirit. The more you cling to your superficial self, the more you wrap layers of clothing around you that will one day be all stripped off. Your death will be the end of your ego, and all other empires you have been building in a lifetime. If you have died daily to yourself, the stripping of your humanity at death will not hurt so much. You may, like me, not even clutch at them as your clothes are stripped from you
Eleventh Station I AM NAILED TO THE CROSS
The pain of those nails almost made me black out. They were blunt Roman spikes that crushed flesh and bone. Yet it was not so much that pain I felt. It was the agony that welled up at the thought of what was happening. “Why, Father? Why nails in your Son?”
Let me tell you the difference between pain and suffering. Pain is the blind impersonal clashing of forces that is universal. Suffering is uniquely human. An animal may be in pain, but there is no suffering. Suffering springs from a mind capable of turning raw pain into agony by asking why. Why is this happening to me? Must it happen? Is it fair? That is why you must never underestimate the degree of suffering of any of your brothers or sisters. If you look only at their pain, you may wonder what they have to complaint about. But you cannot see their suffering. You don’t know how sensitive their souls are, how quickly their pain can become insufferable agony. Instead of judging, do all you can to relieve both their pain and their suffering.
Twelfth Station I DIE ON THE CROSS
I was dying, and it hurt. I was alone, so utterly alone. I had never felt this way before. I was sinking into hell and wondered if I was going to come back. I said, “ My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Some of you may think I said that only to fulfil an Old Testament passage. But I said that because I felt it. I was lost. I was in despair, even if I didn’t stay in despair for long. This was not pretending. How could it be? Could I have lived and died as a man without experiencing despair and doubt? If someone tells you that faith and hope will keep you from experiencing doubt and despair, do not listen to them. Faith and hope are opposite sides of doubt, and despair. They are not as different as most people think. You pass through doubt and despair, not around them. When you are falling into hell, do what I did. Shout your anguish directly to my Father. Complain to Him to your last breath, as I did. Your complaint will become a prayer, even as mind did… and He will hear and answer.
Thirteenth Station I AM TAKEN DOWN FROM THE CROSS.
The noise has stopped. Mary and a few faithful disciples take me from the cross. They say nothing. They do nothing, except, with hearts aching, hold my limp body. All is silent.
You may have been taught that being my disciple is an active role. The more you do to improve yourself, the Church and the world, the better. There are times when you must work, but there are even more crucial times when you must say nothing and do nothing except be with me, your heart aching, as Mary and the faithful disciples after the crucifixion. I had asked some of my Apostles to be with me during my agony in the garden. But they were so depleted from talking, walking, planning and worrying that they quickly feel asleep. Not even one of them had the energy left to be with me. How often that has happened through the centuries! After my crucifixion, my disciples waited and in silence. Some were closer to me then than before. Do I have to die to get you to listen and love in silence?
Fourteenth Station MY BODY IS PUT IN A TOMB
I had no grave of my own. My body was laid in somebody else’s tomb. Was it fitting that I be buried in a borrowed tomb?
I was always borrowing things. I borrowed a crib in Bethlehem to be born. I borrowed Peter’s boat to preach from. I borrowed a donkey to ride on when I came into Jerusalem. I borrowed bread and wine to make my body move and my blood flow in history. I borrowed thorns, wood and nails to redeem the universe. Why should my burial be any different? I will go on borrowing things until the end of time, until I have borrowed them all and made them holy. I will also borrow you. You will be my tongue and my throat, parched. You will be my hands and my feet, nailed. You will be my head, thorned. You will be my side, lanced. You will be my body, stripped. You will be my corpse, buried. And when the borrowing is over, you will be my brothers and my sisters, risen.
© James E Adams, used with permission.