Stations of the Cross

As we enter the holiest of weeks of the Church year Holy Week we turn to the Stations of the Cross. Now this is a fairly old tradition in the church with it dating back to somewhere in the mid to late 300s, it originated with the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. The Via Dolorosa, the way of grief/sorrow/suffering, a pilgrimage site which runs through the city of Jerusalem there have been some alternate routes and there continue to be today. It covers the 14 stations of the cross, nine of which are on the route and five are located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  In the middle ages the Franciscans made outdoor shrines in Europe to duplicate the experience with seven to thirty stations on an approach to a church. It took until 1686 when Pope Innocent XI said that the Franciscans could have stations in their churches. In 1731, Clement XII expanded this to all church although Franciscans needed to erect them and it wasn’t until 1862 that the right was extended to all bishops in the church.

There are two sets of the Stations, the Traditional set that most of us know and the Scriptural one which the Pope does on Good Friday. The Scriptural Way of the Cross were established by Pope John Paul II in 1991 as a way to add nuance to an understanding of the Passion. The Scriptural Way was introduced because of the 14 stations in the Traditional Way only eight can be found in the Scripture.

The Traditional one are as follows

  1. Pilate condemns Jesus to die
  2. Jesus accepts his cross
  3. Jesus falls for the first time
  4. Jesus meets his mother, Mary
  5. Simon helps carry the cross
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
  7. Jesus falls for the second time
  8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
  9. Jesus falls for the third time
  10. Jesus is stripped of his clothes
  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
  12. Jesus dies on the cross
  13. Jesus is taken down from the cross
  14. Jesus is placed in the tomb

The Scriptural one are as follows

  1. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane;
  2. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested;
  3. Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin;
  4. Jesus is denied by Peter;
  5. Jesus is judged by Pilate;
  6. Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns;
  7. Jesus takes up his cross;
  8. Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross;
  9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem;
  10. Jesus is crucified;
  11. Jesus promises his kingdom to the repentant thief;
  12. Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other;
  13. Jesus dies on the cross; and
  14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.

A fifteenth station, the Resurrection can be added to both of these

Barnfloor and Winepress

As we begin this Holy Week. I hope that everyone can take some time from all our busy lives and reflect on the events of this week. Sure some people like to do the whole Triduum (Holy Thursday/ Good Friday/ Easter Vigil/ Easter Sunday) other pick and choose one or more of those events some just do Easter. However you want to get ready to celebrate I felt that this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins is a nice reflection for this week leading up to the main event.

Barnfloor and Winepress

“And he said, If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? out of the barnfloor, or out of the winepress? ” 2 Kings VI: 27

Thou that on sin’s wages starvest,
Behold we have the joy in harvest:
For us was gather’d the first fruits,
For us was lifted from the roots,
Sheaved in cruel bands, bruised sore,
Scourged upon the threshing-floor;
Where the upper mill-stone roof’d His head,
At morn we found the heavenly Bread,
And, on a thousand altars laid,
Christ our Sacrifice is made!

Thou whose dry plot for moisture gapes,
We shout with them that tread the grapes:
For us the Vine was fenced with thorn,
Five ways the precious branches torn;
Terrible fruit was on the tree
In the acre of Gethsemane;
For us by Calvary’s distress
The wine was racked from the press;
Now in our altar-vessels stored
Is the sweet Vintage of our Lord.

In Joseph’s garden they threw by
The riv’n Vine, leafless, lifeless, dry:
On Easter morn the Tree was forth,
In forty days reach’d heaven from earth;
Soon the whole world is overspread;
Ye weary, come into the shade.

The field where He has planted us
Shall shake her fruit as Libanus,
When He has sheaved us in His sheaf,
When He has made us bear his leaf. –
We scarcely call that banquet food,
But even our Saviour’s and our blood,
We are so grafted on His wood.

Good Friday

Today here are a couple of Poems called Good Friday. I hope that we all are able to take a break today and be still and reflect on this Lenten Season which is coming to a close.

The first is by Michael Field. Michael Field is a the pen name of an aunt and niece writing duo, Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper. They would work separately and then edit the others work and they would only publish under the name Michael Field.

Good Friday
There is wild shower and winter on the main.
Foreign and hostile, as the flood of Styx,
The rumbling water: and the clouds that mix
And drop across the land, and drive again
Whelm as they pass. And yet the bitter rain,
The fierce exclusion hurts me not; I fix
My thoughts on the deep-blooded crucifix
My lips adore, and there is no more pain.
A Power is with me that can love, can die,
That loves, and is deserted, and abides;
A loneliness that craves me and enthrals.
And I am one with that extremity,
One with that strength. I hear the alien tides
No more, no more the universe appals.

The second comes from Christina Rossetti, she was the sister of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet. Christina is considered by some to be an early feminist.

Good Friday
Am I a stone and not a sheep
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon—
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

Holy Thursday

I’ve mentioned Godspell in passing in a couple of post in the past, and last year was about Jesus Christ Superstar. Godspell is a Stephen Schwartz musical that uses the parables of Jesus to tell a story about the community and love using the pop music of the late 1960s. There are multiple ways that the musical can begin, there can be a prologue with the voice of God (never seen this version), another way is with a gaggle of philosophers all spouting out their respective ideas, or the version that they used in the film with John the Baptist preparing the way for the Lord and the baptism of the cast and Jesus. From there the musical goes through a bunch of the parables before reaching the Last Supper and Crucifixion. If you haven’t seen this musical check your local high schools as it is a popular show to do in high school or the film version which will be on TCM on Easter Sunday are both great places to see this musical.

Godspell get mentioned today because two of the songs in the show I feel are great to meditate on throughout Lent but today in particular. The first song By My Side, comes after Jesus chides the people for wanting to cast stones at an adulteress, the woman sings that she’d like Jesus to stay with her. Even if she must put a pebble in her shoe she’d like to stay with Jesus just a little while longer. This is true today as I am sure we’d all like to stay with Jesus just a little while longer. The second song is actually an adaptation of Psalm 137 On the Willows there we hung up our lives, this song is sung after the Last Supper and is Jesus saying goodbye to everyone.  If you have some time listen to them on the myriad of choices that exists to listen to music on line.

Chrism Mass

The Chrism Mass is one of the most wonderful liturgies of the Church year and it is a shame that most people miss out on it. At the Chrism Mass the Bishop of the diocese prepares and blesses all the oils (Holy Chrism, Oil of Catechumens and Oil of the Sick) which will be used throughout the year in the diocese. Traditionally this event is held on Holy Thursday but many diocese have moved it to earlier in Holy Week so more priests from parishes in the diocese can attend, although I am sure that some smaller diocese, like Rome still have it on Holy Thursday.  It is one of the Masses you should go to at least once in your lifetime.

It is just a regular mass that the Bishop presides, so off we go. The Chrism Mass doesn’t change year to year so it’s the same readings like most of the other Triduum events. There are a few changes from your typical mass during Lent the first among them is the Gloria is said and there are a couple of other additions to the liturgy. The first reading comes from the prophet Isaiah and in the reading we hear Isaiah say that the Spirit of the Lord is upon him because he has been anointed. Then he gets into his mission [the Lord] has sent me to bring glad tiding to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners,  comfort all who morn and give them oil of gladness in place of mourning. These people will be priests of the Lord. Now this is a reminder to priests of their role in the world but this reading also has meaning for everyone who is baptized, we have all been anointed and therefore it it our  job to do the mission as outlines above. All to often we just leave it for the priests and other religious sisters and brothers to do but it is a universal calling to bring glad tidings to the world.

The Psalm even gets into the anointing vibe and also bring forth the bringing the joy “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.” Turning to the second reading we hear from the Book of Revelation, now we side step the whole anointing thing for a reading, but the role of priests is brought up again. We hear the greeting from John of Patmos to the seven churches in Asia minor, although the reading cuts off the first verse. Now the greeting is more of a list about Jesus and it goes on the say that Jesus has “made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father” this also seems to indicate the universal priesthood that the first reading touches on.

As we reach the Gospel we hear from Luke of a time Jesus preached in Nazareth, this is early in the public ministry of Jesus, he had just returned from his time in the desert after his baptism. The reading has been trimmed so it doesn’t tell the whole story but Jesus goes to synagogue and reads from the scroll, he reads from the prophet Isaiah “The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me…” we should remember that reading. when Jesus finishes he rolls the scroll back and says that “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” This is a reminder to priests my St.Joseph’s Sunday Missal says that preaching should come from scripture, not be something that the congregation wants to hear and that the congregation should care more about what is said than who says it. I’ve always been a fan of good preaching but sometime you get really bad preaching like the past Sunday, I heard 6 minutes in which the Gospel was basically summarized and how Jesus was just quoting scripture when he said “My God, My God why have you abandoned me” since he wasn’t abandoned or something.

Next comes the homily from the bishop and after that a renewal of commitment to Priestly Service by all the priests present, this is like how some religious need to renew their vows before they get to final vows or married couple renew their wedding vows, since priests are not it is pretty cool event.  At this point there could be the blessing of all the oils or they could take place before the end of the Eucharist prayer (oil of the sick) and after communion (the others).

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

There is a chance that we can get two Gospels today one at the beginning before the processional and the regular one, it all depends on how the parish handles the event. In the first one we hear Mark or John’s account of the entry into Jerusalem. I will only be talking about Mark here today. The story is basically the same across the gospels Jesus and his disciples are approaching Jerusalem and Jesus send two into the village to get a colt for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem on. Jesus tells them that there will be a tethered colt and you should take it and if anyone asks “Why are you taking the colt” answer “The Master has need of it.” So the two went into the village and came upon a colt and while they were untying it they were asked “Why are you taking the colt” and they responded just as Jesus had told them to. They brought the colt back and after placing their cloaks on it Jesus rode it into the city and the people on the side of the road we shouting Hosanna, and waving palms branches and placing their cloaks and branches on the road. The big part of this reading is that we are taking the place of the crowds I know that some communities rent a donkey\colt for this weekend and have a huge spectacle. This participation continues later on as well.

In the Mass proper we begin with a the prophet Isaiah and we hear one of the Servant songs. It is the third one (Is 50:4-9) and we hear the servant described for us, the servant has a well trained tongue, and he give his whole self, my back to those who beat me, my cheek to those who pick my beard, and he has set his face like flint knowing that he will not be out to shame. Christians like to associate the servant with Jesus while Jews take the servant as a metaphor of the Jewish people.

In the letter to Philippians we hear a Christological hymn, which was perhaps even sung by the early Church, sort of like how the Psalms are sung. This is the most famous of the Christological Hymns and there are several others. The  hymn hits all of the big parts about who Jesus is. We hear in the hymn how Christ Jesus chose humility and emptied himself becoming obedient even until death on a cross, and because of this at the name of Jesus every knee should bend. Scholars believe that the words were not originally Paul’s and he just wrote them down. The key aspect of this reading is that to attain heaven we hear that we need to humble ourselves.

Turning to the actual Gospel reading we have Mark’s account of the Passion of Christ. This is that one time of the year when we all get to participate in reading the gospel, We all know the story but to be quick. There are fourteen scenes we begin with the chief priests and scribes looking for ways to arrest Jesus and in Bethany while at Simon the leper’s house a woman comes in and anoints Jesus. The scene changes to Judas approaching the chief priests and offering to help get Jesus. We are on to the events on the first night of Passover and the Last Supper. Jesus once again sends to disciples into town and says there’s a room and just say the master needs it and get everything ready for Passover. Jesus arrives and while they were eating Jesus took bread blessed it broke it gave it saying “this is my body” then he did the same with the wine saying “this is my blood.” After this they went out to the Mount of Olives, and Gethsemane where Jesus asked them to sit here while I pray. Jesus prayed that three times asking that the cup may pass from him, the disciples fall asleep and Jesus wakes them saying he comes the betrayer. Judas shows up and kisses Jesus so the crowd knows who to arrest. Jesus is brought before the high priest and Peter follows at a safe distance. The priests claim that Jesus blasphemed and Peter denies knowing Jesus three times.

Jesus is then brought before Pilate when Pilate tries to understand why they want Jesus dead. On Passover there was a tradition in releasing one prisoner so Pilate brought out Barabbas and Jesus then he had the crowd decide who to same they chose Barabbas. Jesus is crowned with thorns and beaten by the soldiers. On the way to Golgotha, Simon the Cyrene is forced to help carry the cross, Jesus is crucified with two others. On Calvary passersby jeered as Jesus asking you saved so many other why can’t you save yourself? Jesus then dies on the cross darkness covers the whole land and the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two. Jesus is then taken from the cross and placed in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, and they rolled a big stone in front of the tomb.

As we begin this Holy Week let us remember the servant in the first reading and how Jesus in the second are both described. We must be able to humble ourselves and be willing to give all of ourselves for something greater than us. Humility is one of the biggest thing that the world need more of there are too many egos floating around in the world today who thing they are better than everyone else, but we are all the same. Let us all try to be a bit more humble this week and not brag about doing it. I hope that we all can take some time this week and reflect on the Passion of Jesus and ponder what role we would have played if we were there, would we be in the crowd shouting for Jesus to die, just a bystander who gets wrangled into helping or that guy who just happens to have an empty tomb.

Holy Saturday

On Holy Saturday Jesus was in the tomb and the Disciples were together in the Upper Room for they were afraid.

Today is the Second day of the Novena of Divine Mercy, today Christ asks us to bring to Me the souls of priests and the religious.

As this is the last day of Lent I guess it’s time to admit that I am not getting The Seven Storey Mountain finished this year, as I currently have over 200 pages left in the book and I doubt that I’ll be getting much reading done today. Seven Storey Mountain may be considered a great book by many but to me if feel very dense, there is so much information on the page. Maybe I just didn’t get the hook of the story. Basically the book is about a man who comes to find what faith is and he gives up everything for it. Merton had a remarkable life traveling the world at such a young age. I think he did more and saw more of the world that the average 26 year old, when he entered the monastery.

So I stopped reading Thomas Merton and have picked up a book by George R.R. Martin, of the A Song of Ice and Fire series. That would be Game of Thrones to those television fans out there. I’ve been told that George R.R. Martin’s writing is very reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien, so I thought it would be an interesting thing to read. I picked up a retrospective of his early works and so far it is a fun read. Perhaps one day I will get around to reading his main series and perhaps watch some of the television that he has had a hand in making.

Good Friday

Good Friday is best known for the Trials and death of Jesus which happened today.  Usually there are Stations of the Cross services on this day along with the veneration of the cross. The Vatican has put the Stations of the Cross meditations they will be/are using online and is a good thing to reflect upon today.

Today is also the beginning of the Novena to The Divine Mercy. The novena  last from Good Friday to the Second Sunday of Easter. This devotion began with Helena Kowalska, better known as Sr. Faustina. She is not that well known here in America but I am pretty sure that she is popular in Poland her home. Faustina felt called to the religious life at seven and wanted to join after she finished school, but her parents didn’t given permission. So at 19 when she and her sister were dancing in a park Faustina had a vision of Jesus suffering, Faustina stopped dancing and went into the Church where she say Jesus told her to go to Warsaw and become a nun. When she arrived in Warsaw not knowing anyone she went around to various convents and they all rejected her until she went to one the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy which conditionally accepted her if she could pay for her habit.It took her about a year but she got enough money for a habit and she took the name Sister Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament. About two year later (1928) she took her first vows.

In 1931 Jesus appeared to her as the “King of Divine Mercy” wearing a white garment with red and pale rays emanating from his heart and he told Faustina to paint what you see and at the bottom place “Jesus, I trust in You”.  Jesus also told her that the Divine Mercy image is to be “solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, as that day is to be the Feast of Mercy.” It would take Faustina three year to get this image painted. After she had the image made and blessed she wrote down a powerful prayer given to her by Jesus that he wanted everyone to say the Chaplet of Mercy, promising extraordinary graces to those who would recite the prayer. ” Encourage souls to say the Chaplet which I have given you… Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death… When they say this chaplet in the present of the dying I will stand between My Father and the dying person; not as the just Judge but as the Merciful Savior… Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy. I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy… through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask is compatible with My will.”

We must thank Karol Wojtyła for keeping Faustina and the devotion to Divine Mercy in people minds. As he was opened the Diocesan inquiry into her life and then as Pope he beautified (1993)and canonized (2000) her. He once said that “The message she brought is the appropriate and incisive answer that God wanted to offer to the questions and expectations of human beings in our time, marked by terrible tragedies. Jesus said to Sr Faustina one day: ‘Humanity will never find peace until it turns with trust to the Divine Mercy.'” John Paul II will be canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday this year further connecting these two Polish Saints.

Last year I had a bit more on the chaplet itself. It is typical for the chaplet to be said according to tradition at the hour Jesus died[3:00 PM (15:00)]. This is also known as the Hour of Mercy.

First Day – Today bring to Me all mankind, in particular all sinners.





Holy Thursday

Today is Holy Thursday and the major event today is the Last Supper and all of the Gethsemane events as well, the prayers,  the betrayal and the fight the ensued.

Last night my one of my sisters sent me a wonderful link it is a mash up of Jesus Christ Superstar and the Muppets. I think this is brilliant as it takes the music of Jesus Christ Superstar and he sings it as The Muppets. Kermit is Jesus, Gonzo is Judas, Piggy is Mary Magdalene and it has Pepe the Prawn as Pilate and Rowlf as King Herod. I have a great love for The Muppets as well as for Musical Theater and this hits that sweet spot.

Jesus Christ Superstar focuses on roughly the last week of the life of Jesus and it features Judas as the protagonist. Judas is concerned for the poor and the consequences of Jesus’ fame and he see Jesus as only a man. This musical began it’s life as an album and from there it became a stage show. If you ever get the chance to see it in person it is a wonderful show with some catchy songs.

Recently it has been announced that Jesus Christ Superstar will be touring around North America this summer with a cast featuring many rock/pop singers from musical acts people have heard of. This leg of the tour will feature Ben Forster reprising his role as Jesus, Brandon Boyd of band Incubus as Judas, Destiny’s Child singer Michelle Williams as Mary Magdalene, former ‘N Sync singer JC Chasez as Pilate, and former Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd lead singer John Lydon as King Herod. Ben Forster has been touring with the show as Jesus for awhile now after winning the role in 2012 on one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s talent search shows.

There are film versions as well the most well known is the 1973 Norman Jewison film with Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson as Jesus and Judas. Ted and Carl would recreate their roles later on stage numerous times.  There is also the 2000 video version which aired on Great Performances. I have also read that Hollywood is trying to make a new film version, I really hope that Jack Black will be involved as I’ve wanted to see and hear his King Herod since I read and saw pictures that he was involved in a concert version of the show in Hollywood back in 2006.


Spy Wednesday

According to most chronologies of Holy Week not much happens on Holy Wednesday. It is the day in which Judas goes to the high priests and says I will hand over Jesus to you.

So on to the News Round up being Holy Week it will be roughly religious in nature.

One of the bigger stories that has come out recently is the whole finding of the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife“. In 2012 a historian found a parchment fragment  which is supposedly a translation of a gospel (perhaps 2nd century greek)  into Egyptian Coptic that included the line “Jesus said to them, ‘my wife’…” I have never studied Coptic and the full text has not be released yet so we really don’t know what else the fragment really says. The Vatican was prompt to call it a forgery. So they did some dating of the fragment and it comes from the sometime between the 6th and 9th century.  Researchers have said that there shouldn’t be much taken by the statement as none of the Early Church Fathers ever mentioned this text before and the text should be read symbolically.

There was blog post recently that I really liked. Over on . there is a nice post it came out some time last month but it brought up a great point. All to often Catholics like to identify themselves and others as a certain type of Catholic (traditional, John Paul II, Francis, Vatican II, Pre-Conciliar, etc) and I believe that this really makes no difference in the long run. If anyone wants to self identify they need to have a mix of all of these different types of Catholics. Sure many living self-identify with John Paul II as he was the Pope for most of our lives, but being a JPII Catholic means that you are also a Vatican II Catholic as well as much of the interpretation of Vatican II come from JPII, and Benedict and Francis  have both used John Paul II as a stepping stone. With the Catholic Church nothing is ever thrown out it just gets refined .

Last but not least I would like to direct everyone to read Pope Francis homily from Palm Sunday. It was completely off the cuff and is a great thing to reflect upon this week. Who am I, it is a simple question but it has great meaning. Sure the week is half over but over the next couple of day I hope that the words of Francis resonate within you.