A reflection on the Way of the Cross
by Abbot Barnabas Senecal, OSB
Much of the world’s most beautiful art is rooted in Christian themes. And then there is the ugly art — the art of the Stations of the Cross. No matter how beautifully it is rendered, it indelibly illustrates the ugly truth that Jesus paid the price for our sins. Leaven photographer Fernando Uguarte has made a specialty of photographing Stations of the Cross in churches around the world. The accompanying meditations were provided by Abbot Barnabas Senecal of St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison.
I. Jesus is condemned to death
Jesus was not to be protected by civil authority. Pilate distanced himself from those who wanted Jesus killed. He washed his hands. A child witnessed this washing. Pilate held power, could have defended Jesus. He chose not to do that. Perhaps the child near Pilate learned a lesson. Perhaps we also learn a lesson: to defend the innocent among us.
II. Jesus carries His cross
Jesus accepted the cross. He knew the Father’s will. He heard the will of the people: “Crucify him!” Jesus loved both the Father and the people. It would take a dramatic action to prove this love. It would require sacrifice, a lesson I learn to imitate in daily life.
III. Jesus falls the first time
Jesus wanted to be strong. There was a crowd of witnesses, taunting him, at the beginning of this difficult walk. He fell to the ground. The weight of the cross was not expected. The unexpected does cause the burden to be greater, for each of us.
IV. Jesus meets his mother
Jesus knew his mother’s sorrow. She had thrilled at the way Jesus had taught and healed others. She knew he had power to make this scene go away. She knew, however, that good would come from this suffering. She wasn’t sure how. I, too, accept this unknown in my life.
V. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross
Jesus welcomed Simon. The soldiers must have seen that Jesus was in need of help, and they allowed another to walk with Jesus. There was no apparent reward for Simon. His help didn’t put a stop to the cruelty. It didn’t help Simon understand why. I need to be Simon to another.
VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Jesus thanked Veronica. He truly left his impression on her cloth and in her person. Veronica means “true image.” She represents all who identify with Jesus and bear his image in their lives. That image is to be clearly visible. Followers of Jesus are impressed with and imitate his graciousness.
VII. Jesus falls the second time
A second helper, perhaps, is seen along with Simon. Art depicts a balance, “where two are gathered in His name.” Many want to help in the work of Jesus. They recognize his innocence of any crime. They want to eliminate such unfair use of power by others. You and I step forward when we are able.
VIII. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
“Weep not for me.” The women of Jerusalem were grouped as one, and Jesus acknowledged this. Women give life and nurture life. They suffer with one who suffers — be that child, spouse or friend. Jesus, however, encourages them to weep for those who cause suffering. We regret any suffering we cause.
IX. Jesus falls a third time
Jesus stretched his human strength. He fell a third time on the hard stone of the pathway. Soldiers, men and women friends were near him. To carry that which will lead to one’s death is an added weight, crushing the spirit. We may want to lay aside that which burdens us.
X. Jesus’ clothes are taken away
Jesus was stripped of his outer garment, making evident the stripes that had been inflicted and the bruises of the heavy cross. It made evident, also, his total gift of self. He was humbled in his apparent helplessness. We share that feeling at times, and we are drawn to the Father, as was Jesus.
XI. Jesus is nailed to the cross
Jesus was nailed to the cross he had carried. He felt the pain, heard the pounding of the hammer, knew the reality of death was near. He was nailed to his loneliness, a feeling of abandonment swept over him. This was the human condition, experienced deeply by the Divine. An awesome sharing.
XII. Jesus dies on the cross
Jesus died on the cross, an upright position for an upright Person. Love is felt in loss. We see persons in sorrow, often. When the dying are our family members or our friends, we long to prolong the love we’ve known. We are grateful for them and promise to never forget them. We do this with Jesus.
XIII. The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross
Jesus died and was taken off the cross. Mary embraced her son. The burden of death bore heavily upon her. This was her only son, the one mysteriously conceived and now mysteriously deceased. What further mystery is to unfold, or is this truly the end of his life? We share Mary’s tender heart and her search for continued life.
XIV. Jesus is laid in the tomb
Jesus was laid to rest behind the stone. Heavy-hearted persons carried this burden, a life cut short, a teacher, a quiet leader, one who had great promise. Such hope should not have been begotten in so many. Could it be sustained without him? We would welcome his return, but how might this be?