“From the mid-ark, a dove…”

The cold Roman eye, hand on seal.
Vale. Take the thief away.

‘You carry your own tree, Jimmy…’
Another gallowsbird behind.
One ahead, burdened, a bruised brightness.

I’ve carried millstones, wine-vats, a mast.
That one was a carpenter.
His knees buckle under the heavy baulk.

My mother, poor woman, is dead.
His mother is here. Poor woman. Poor woman.

Look, Simon’s come into town
With an ox to sell.
They’ve laid another yoke on Simon.

Veronica, seamstress. No napkin ever
Soaked up such blood and sweat.

I stagger but I don’t fall.
The sneak-thief plods like a mule.
The bright one, he’s down again.

Those women! Miriam, Judith, Esther
Go home, sing over your cradles.
Sing among looms and pots.

Below, cornfields and vineyards.
A third time, fallen.
He tastes golden dust.

The soldiers won’t bother, I think,
Haggling over my coat.
No scarecrow would wear a rag like that.

Silence – curses – from cross and cross.
From the mid-ark
A dove wings out into the blackest storm.

Thrust of lance into heart-root.
The soldiers are coming with mallets
To break the legs of the thieves.

The eyes of the mother
Drown all the world in pity and love.
The hammer beats on my knee.

That the hands of such a woman
Fold me gravewards.
Bear me and all men in her folds of light.

– George Mackay Brown

Fourteenth Station: Jesus is placed in the tomb

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

John 19:41-42

A deep silence surrounds Calvary. John, in his Gospel, tells us that at Calvary there was a garden containing an unused tomb. It was there that the disciples of Jesus laid his body.

That Jesus, whom they had only slowly come to recognize as God made man, is there, a corpse. In this unfamiliar solitude they are lost, not knowing what to do or how to act. They can only console, encourage and draw close to one another. Yet precisely there the faith of the disciples begins to deepen, as they remember all the things which Jesus said and did while in their midst, and which they had understood only in part.

There they begin to be Church, as they await the resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit. With them is the mother of Jesus, Mary, whom her son had entrusted to John. They gather together with her and around her. And they wait. They wait for the Lord to appear.

We know that three days later that body rose again. Jesus thus lives for ever and accompanies us, personally, on our earthly pilgrimage, amid joys and tribulations.

Jesus, grant that we may love one another,
and to have you once more in our midst,
each day, as you yourself promised:
“Where two or three are gathered in my name,
I am there, in their midst”.

Thirteenth Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross and given to His mother

After this Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him leave. So he came and took away his body.

John 19:38

Mary sees her son die, the Son of God and her son too. She knows that he is innocent, but took upon himself the burden of our misery. The mother offers her son, the son offers his mother. To John and to us.

Jesus and Mary: here we see a family that on Calvary suffers as it experiences the ultimate separation. Death parts them, or at least it seems to part them: a mother and son united by an unfathomable bond both human and divine. Out of love they surrender it. Both abandon themselves to the will of God.

Into the chasm opened in Mary’s heart comes another son, one who represents the whole human race. Mary’s love for each of us is the prolongation of her love for Jesus. In Jesus’ disciples she will see his face. And she will live for them, to sustain them, to help them, to encourage them and to help them to acknowledge the love of God, so that they may turn in freedom to the Father.

What do they say to me, to us, to our families, this mother and son on Calvary? Each of us can only halt in amazement before this scene. We know instinctively that this mother and this son are giving an utterly unique gift. In them we find the ability to open our hearts and to expand our horizons to embrace the universe.

There, on Calvary,
at your side, Jesus, who died for us,
our families welcome the gift of God:
the gift of a love
which can open our arms to the infinite.

Twelfth Station: Jesus dies on the cross

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’, that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’.

Matthew 27:45-46

Jesus is on the cross. Hours of anguish, terrible hours, hours of inhuman physical suffering. “I thirst,” says Jesus. And they lift to his lips a sponge dipped in gall.

An unexpected cry rises up: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Is this blasphemy? Is the dying man crying out the words of the psalm? How are we to accept a God who cries out, who groans, who doesn’t know, who doesn’t understand? The Son of God made man, who dies thinking he has been abandoned by his Father?

Jesus, until now you had been one of us,
one with us in all things but sin!
You, the Son of God made man,
You, the Holy One of God,
became completely one with us
willing even to experience our sinful state,
our separation from God, the hell of the godless.
You experienced darkness in order to give us light.
You experienced this separation in order to unite us.
You accepted pain in order to leave us Love.
You became an outcast, forsaken, hanging
between heaven and earth, in order to receive us into God’s life.

A mystery surrounds us,
as we relive each step of your passion.
Jesus, you did not cling to your equality with God
as a jealously guarded treasure,
but made yourself completely poor, in order to make us rich.

“Into your hands I commend my spirit”.
Jesus, how were you able,
in that abyss of desolation,
to entrust yourself to the Father’s love,
surrendering yourself to him, dying in him?
Only by looking to you, only in union with you,
can we face tragedies, innocent suffering,
humiliation, abuse and death.

Jesus experiences his death as a gift for me, for us, for our families, for each person, for every family, for all peoples and for the entire human race. In that act, life is reborn.

Eleventh Station: Jesus is nailed to the cross

They crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”.

John 19:18-19

Having come to the place called Calvary, the soldiers crucify Jesus. Pilate has a sign written: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”, to insult him and to humiliate the Jews. But, without intending to do so, this inscription testifies to a reality: the kingship of Jesus, the king of a kingdom unlimited by time and space.

We can only imagine the cruelty and the unrelenting agony which Jesus experienced during the crucifixion. We enter into the realm of mystery: why did God, who became man for love of us, let himself be nailed to a piece of wood and lifted up amid atrocious physical and spiritual torments?

It was for love. Love. It is the law of love that leads us to give our own lives for the good of others. We see this in mothers who face even death in order to bring their children into the world. Or parents who have lost a child in war or in acts of terrorism, yet choose not to seek revenge.

Jesus, on Calvary you embody all of us,
every man and woman, of the past, present and future.
On the cross you taught us to love.
Now we begin to understand the secret of that perfect joy
of which you spoke to the disciples at the Last Supper.
You wished to come down from heaven, to become a child,
then an adult, and thus to go up to Calvary,
in order to teach us by your life the meaning of true love.

Gazing at you on the cross, we too, as families, husbands and wives, parents and children, gradually learn to love one another, and to love and cultivate around us that openness which generously gives and gratefully receives. An openness capable of suffering, and of transforming suffering into love.

Tenth Station: Jesus is stripped of His garments

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom.

John 19:23

Jesus is at the soldiers’ mercy. As is the case with every condemned person, he is stripped to humiliate him, to reduce him to nothing. Indifference, contempt and disregard for the dignity of the human person here are joined to greed, covetousness and private interest: “They took his garments”

Your robe, Jesus, was seamless.
This shows the care shown for you
by your mother and your followers.
Now you find yourself disrobed, Jesus,
and you experience the distress of those at the mercy
of people lacking respect for the human person.

How many people have suffered and continue to suffer because of this lack of respect for the human person, for their privacy. At times we too may not have shown the respect due to the personal dignity of our neighbours by being possessive of those closest to us, a child or a husband or a wife or a relative, someone we know or a stranger. In the name of our supposed freedom we impinge upon the freedom of others: how casual, how negligent we have been in our way of acting and treating one another!

Jesus, who let himself be exposed in this way to the eyes of the world of his time and to the eyes of mankind in every age, reminds us of the grandeur of the human person and the dignity which God gives to each man and woman; nothing and no one should violate this dignity, for we are made in the image of God. Ours is the task of promoting respect for the human person and for his or her body. In particular, the spouses among us have been given the task of uniting these two fundamental and inseparable realities: personal dignity and complete self-giving.

Ninth Station: Jesus falls for the third time

You are those who have continued with me in my trials; and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom”.

Luke 22:28-30a

The ascent is brief, yet his weakness is extreme. Jesus is physically spent, but spiritually too. He senses that he has taken upon himself the hatred of the elders, the priests, the crowd, all of whom seem to want to unleash on him all the repressed anger caused by past and present oppression. It is almost as if they are seeking some sort of vengeance by lording it over Jesus.

And you fall, Jesus, you fall for the third time.
You seem to give up.
But see! With utter weariness you rise again
and take up anew the journey to Golgotha.
So many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world
are enduring tremendous trials because they follow you, Jesus.
They are going up with you to Calvary
and with you they are also falling
beneath the persecutions which for two thousand years
have been inflicted on your Body which is the Church.

We wish, alongside these beloved brothers and sisters of ours, to offer our own lives, our weaknesses, our poverty, our daily sufferings great and small. Often we live lives anesthetized by prosperity, without making a strenuous effort to rise or to help humanity to rise. But we can rise, because Jesus found the strength to stand and take up the journey anew.

Our families are also a part of this threadbare fabric, tied to a life of ease which becomes the goal of life itself. Our children grow up: let us try to train them in sobriety, sacrifice, renunciation. Let us try to give them a fulfilling social life through sports, clubs and recreation, but not in such a way that these activities become simply a way of filling up their days and giving them whatever they want.

And so, Jesus,
we need to listen to your words,
and we ourselves want to bear witness:
“Blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek, blessed are the peacemakers,
blessed are those who suffer for justice’s sake…”

Eighth Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem, who weep for Him

And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children

Luke 23:27-28

Among the throng following Jesus there is a group of women from Jerusalem: they know him. Seeing him in this sad state, they join in the crowd and ascend to Calvary. They are weeping.

Jesus sees them and feels their sorrow for him. Even at that tragic moment he wants to leave them a word which communicates more than sorrow alone. He desires, for them as for us, not simply pity but heartfelt conversion, a conversion which acknowledges past failures, seeks forgiveness and begins a new life.

Jesus, how often, for weariness or blindness,
for selfishness or fear
do we close our eyes and refuse to face reality!
Above all we choose not to get involved,
we do not share, deeply and actively,
in the lives and the needs of our brothers and sisters, near and far.

We continue to live comfortable lives,
we deplore evil and evildoers,
yet we do not change our lives
and we do not personally pay the price to change things,
so that evil can be overcome and justice served.

Often situations fail to improve because we have made no effort to change them. We withdraw without having wronged anyone, but also without having done the good that we might have done and ought to have done. Perhaps someone else pays the price for us, for the fact that we were not there.

Jesus, may these words of yours revive us,
and give us a portion of that strength
which impels the witnesses to the Gospel
– often martyrs, fathers or mothers or children –
who by their blood, united to your own,
have opened and continue to open even today
a path to goodness in our world.

Seventh Station: Jesus falls for the second time

He bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:24

For the second time as he makes his way along the narrow path to Calvary, Jesus falls. We can sense his physical weakness after the long night and the torture he had endured. Perhaps it was not just that ordeal, his own exhaustion and the heavy cross on his shoulders that made him fall. An unfathomable burden weighs on Jesus, something personal and profound which makes itself felt more clearly with each step.

We see you as a just another poor man,
one who made a mistake in life and now must pay for it.
You seem to have no physical or moral strength left
to face the new day. And so you fall.

We recognize ourselves in you, Jesus,
even in this further, exhausted fall!
Yet you get up again; you want to carry on.
For us, for all of us,
to give us the courage to get up again.
We are weak indeed,
but your love is greater than our failures;
it is always ready to accept and understand us.

Our sins, which you took upon yourself,
crush you, yet your mercy
is infinitely greater than our misery.
Yes, Jesus, thanks to you we get up again.
We made our mistakes.
We let ourselves be taken in by the temptations of the world
perhaps for nothing more than a glimmer of satisfaction,
at the thought that someone still wants us,
that someone says he or she likes us, even loves us.
At times it is a struggle even to maintain
the commitment to fidelity made in our marriage vows.
We no longer feel the freshness or the enthusiasm we once had.
Everything is repetitious, every act seems a burden,
We just want to escape.

But we try to get up once more, Jesus,
And not to fall into the greatest temptation of all:
that of not believing that your love can accomplish all things.

Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:6

Veronica was one of the women who had followed Jesus, who understood who he was, who loved him; she suffers to see him suffer. Now, standing nearby, she sees his face, that countenance which had so often touched her soul. She sees it distraught, marred and covered with blood, yet ever meek and humble.

He cannot long endure. She wants to relieve his suffering. She takes a cloth and tries to wipe the blood and sweat from that face.

In our lives we have had occasion at times to wipe the tears and sweat of those who suffer. Perhaps we have assisted a terminal patient in the wards of a hospital, or helped an immigrant or someone looking for work, or listened to someone in prison. And in trying to ease their suffering, we may have wiped their face simply by looking upon them with compassion.

And yet, all too seldom do we remember
that in each of our brothers and sisters in need
you, the Son of God, are hidden.
How different would our lives be
if we would but remember this!
Little by little we would become aware of the dignity
of every man, woman and child living on the earth.
Each person, beautiful or not, gifted or not,
whether newly conceived in a mother’s womb
or advanced in age, represents you, Jesus.
And not only. Each of our brothers and sisters is you.
Looking upon you, utterly abased on Calvary,
we will understand with Veronica
that in every human being we can recognize your face.