Lately I have been thinking a lot about Jesus’ Passion and the Mass. Specifically I have been pondering the connection between the celebration of the Mass and the events of the Passion that are marked by the fourteen Stations of the Cross. As my own personal spiritual exercise I have noted some parallels between our Eucharistic celebration and the Traditional Stations as depicted in the artwork of most Catholic Churches. So to commemorate Lent this year I will post on this blog some reflections on the Stations of the Cross and how I see each related to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. But first I will offer a further explanation as a way of introducing what will follow…
As Catholics we believe that the Mass makes present to us here and now the sacrifice of Jesus which happened nearly 2000 years ago. At every Mass we are drawn into the Mystery of His Passion, death, and Resurrection as He is made physically present to us under the appearance of bread and wine. We are brought before the Cross where we behold the Lamb of God crucified for our sins. There is nothing that can compare to the Eucharistic Liturgy for Catholic spirituality – it is “the source and summit of our faith.”
Yet outside of Mass we can still be with our Lord in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. There we can ponder His sacrifice and behold His physical presence in silent contemplation. But even when adoration is not available to us there are other means of meditating on Jesus’ sacrifice outside of Mass. Chief among these is the Stations of the Cross usually found in every Catholic Church in the form of pictures or statues positioned around the outer walls so that the faithful may walk with Jesus from His trial through his agony and death until His removal from the cross and His burial. These stations transport us spiritually (although not sacramentally) to Jerusalem where we again stand before the cross and witness Jesus’ Passion and death.
Obviously the Eucharist and the Mass are infinitely more “real” than the Stations of the Cross, but the Stations do point to the reality of the Eucharist and so can be a useful tool in meditating of this deep mystery of our Catholic faith. It is altogether fitting that Catholic churches contain images of the fourteen Stations in the same place where the sacrifice of the Mass takes place. The Way of the Cross leads us to the altar of sacrifice and there we find the Eucharist. As we kneel at Mass watching the Liturgy unfold we can see around us these images of His Passion while we are taken up into the mystery ourselves. These holy images reflect the reality of the Eucharistic Presence.
With that in mind I have incorporated the Stations of the Cross into my own meditations on the Eucharist as a way to visualize Jesus’ sacrifice while the Eucharistic prayer unfolds. Beginning with the preparation of the gifts and through to the reposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle I mark each moment with a different Station and see the Passion unfold in the words and actions on the altar. Admittedly this requires a little imagination to make each Station fit what is laid out in the Liturgy, but it works surprisingly well. In following posts I will reflect on each Station and how I see the Liturgy reflected in these events.