Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eucharistic Way of the Cross: Fourteenth Station

Jesus' Body Is Laid in the Tomb
Because it was the day of preparation for the Sabbath, and that Sabbath was a particularly holy one, Jesus’ body was hastily buried. Without ceremony the body was interred in a nearby tomb. Some of the women planned to return to the tomb in a few days to bring spices to dress the body as was their custom. And they were rewarded that first Easter Sunday with a vision of God’s glory…

At Mass:

Without a word spoken and with little ceremony, Jesus Body is placed in the tabernacle. But unlike those gathered at the foot of the cross on Calvary, we know the end of the story. The risen Christ is inside us and we carry Him out into the world. While they mourned His loss before their Sabbath rest, we bring Him with us as we leave this Sabbath celebration

Some who are gathered there with us at Mass plan to return to His resting place in the sanctuary of the church, just as others visited the tomb. And they too will be rewarded as they pay homage to their Savior.

[For an explanation of this series of meditations on the Way of the Cross see this Introduction.]

Monday, March 29, 2010

Eucharistic Way of the Cross: Thirteenth Station

Jesus' Body is Removed from the Cross

Jesus’ body is removed from the cross. His mother Mary comes forward to receive Him into her arms as once she did the infant Son of God at His birth. She surely wept as she held the lifeless body of her child who came to bring life to the world.

At Mass:

We come forward to receive He who died to bring life to the world as we hear the words: “The body of Christ!”

And we respond: “Amen!”

Mary is called Theotokos - the God-bearer. She bore Christ in her womb and suffered with Him as He accepted His cross and gave up His life for the world. She came forward to receive His body when many others turned away.

We become bearers of God as we come forward to receive His body now. We, like Mary, say “yes” – AMEN – and receive the Lord into our bodies and into our hearts.

[For an explanation of the series of meditations on the Way of the Cross, see this Introduction.]

Friday, March 26, 2010

Eucharistic Way of the Cross: Twelfth Station

Align CenterJesus Dies on the Cross

With His suffering at an end, Jesus announces, “It is finished,” and gives up His Spirit. His bloody sacrifice fulfills the animal sacrifices once offered by the Jews in the Temple, and so the Temple curtain rips from top to bottom as the earth trembles and the sky darkens. The true “Lamb of God” has been slain.

At Mass:

We sing or recite:

“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: grant us peace.”

Jesus is the Lamb of God that is foreshadowed by the Passover lambs sacrificed and consumed by the Jews since the time of Moses. His death cleanses the world of sin and His Blood washes us and makes us new creatures in God’s eyes. Through His death, God will “Have mercy on us” and “Grant us peace.”

The Jews sacrificed new lambs every year at Passover, unable to fill the void between them and God. But with Jesus’ death “It is finished” – mercy and peace has triumphed.

[For an explanation of the series of meditations on the Way of the Cross, see this Introduction.]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Eucharistic Way of the Cross: Eleventh Station

Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross

Jesus’ arms are stretched out on the wood of the cross and nails are driven into His flesh. His hands and feet are pierced as the hammer blows drive the shafts of metal through His skin until they penetrate through to the other side, pinning Him to the cross, where He awaits the peace that death will bring.

At Mass:

We all exchange a sign of Christ’s Peace.

Jesus extended His arms on the cross in submission to a violent death. The excruciating agony that He must have suffered at that moment earned for us our eternal peace in Heaven which we now eagerly await. As we gather for Mass and experience a foretaste of the Heavenly banquet, we offer a sign of that Peace as we extend our arms to one another in a handshake or a warm embrace.

We might think of our own hands as we turn to our neighbors to offer this sign of peace, and imagine how we might use our hands to do Christ’s work as His own hands are pierced and bleeding on the cross. His agony on the Cross, which was anything but peaceful, has purchased for us our lasting peace. We respond with the work of our hands.

[For an explanation of this series of meditations on the Way of the Cross, see this Introduction.]

Monday, March 22, 2010

Eucharistic Way of the Cross: Tenth Station

Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

As a sign of further humiliation, Jesus’ clothes are removed before his execution and the soldiers divide His garments among them. They cast lots to see who would receive His cloak.

At Mass:

We stand and recite the “Our Father” the prayer given to us by Jesus when His disciples asked Him how they ought to pray.

The soldiers who stripped Jesus did not realize what priceless relics they held in their hands. The clothing worn by Christ, drenched in His own blood, would be safeguarded by any Christian today and could not be sold or traded or gambled away. To receive such a reminder of Jesus’ Passion would be a humbling gift.

The “Lord’s Prayer” is such a gift. Christ was not ashamed as He stood naked and in agony before the Cross – He was clothed in His own glory as God’s Son. He offers us this priceless cloak when He instructs us to call God “Our Father” and to become children of God.

As we stand naked before God, we can cry out to Him in confidence with Jesus, “Abba” – “Father.”

[For an explanation of this series of meditations on the Way of the Cross, see this Introduction.]

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Eucharistic Way of the Cross: Ninth Station

Jesus Falls the Third Time

Jesus has nearly reached His destination, but is overcome once again with exhaustion and collapses once more. Bloodied and bruised, He must lift Himself up off the ground and face His executioners.

At Mass:

The priest elevates the consecrated bread and wine, which has been transformed into the Body and Blood of our Lord. As we reflect on the Stations of the Cross and Jesus’ third fall, we might imagine the priest lifting up Jesus’ Body, holding Him up so that He can fulfill His mission. As He hold’s Christ’s broken Body, the celebrant proclaims:

“Through him, with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.”

And we reply: “Amen.”

This is the “Great Amen” – when we give our assent to the great mystery of Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. Amen; I believe; I stake my life on it.

The irony of Jesus’ redemptive death is that He became weak and powerless (in our own human estimation) and succumbed to a humiliating death. And it was in this weakness that He triumphed over sin. As He fell a third and final time His weakness and frailty must have seemed impossible to overcome. Yet we hold up His Body and proclaim: “…all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.”

[For an explanation of this series of meditations on the Way of the Cross see this Introduction.]

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Eucharistic Way of the Cross: Eighth Station

Jesus Meets the daughters of Jerusalem

As Jesus draws near to the place of His death, He encounters some women of the city who wept bitterly at His suffering. He turns to them and says, “Do not weep for me, but for yourselves and for your children…” Jesus was not absorbed in his own self pity; rather He knew that His own sacrificial death had implications that reached far beyond His own human suffering. Future generations would share in His sufferings, as He tells the women gathered there, “For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!'” – But also every generation will share in His victory over death and sin.

At Mass: The priest recalls that our Eucharistic celebration commemorates Jesus’ suffering and death as a memorial for all generations. We remember the pope, the clergy and all the faithful and especially we remember those who have gone before us in faith.

Jesus’ death certainly had a far-reaching effect, uniting all generations and the “wombs that bore them and the breasts that nursed.” Our suffering is united to His and His triumph will be ours to share.

The Mass is a foretaste of this final victory which will be celebrated at the eternal banquet in Heaven.

[For an explanation of this series of meditations on the Way of the Cross see this Introduction.]

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Eucharistic Way of the Cross: Seventh Station

Jesus Falls the Second Time

Again Jesus succumbs to the weariness of his sufferings and falls to the ground. A momentary pause while He gathers His strength to continue on. A break in the procession toward the Place of the Skull, where He will be nailed to the Cross.

At Mass:

We pause with Jesus to proclaim the mystery of our faith. This proclamation can take several forms:

“Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”

“Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory.”

“When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory.”

“Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Savior of the World.”

As Jesus picks Himself up from the dusty streets of Jerusalem, we help Him on His way by lifting up our voices to proclaim the mystery of His death and resurrection. We pause with Him to ponder this mystery and then proceed with our Eucharistic celebration.

[For an explanation of this series of meditations on the Way of the Cross see this Introduction.]

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Eucharistic Way of the Cross: Sixth Station

Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Jesus has now traveled some distance in pain and suffering. Sweat mingled with blood drips from his face. From the crowd a woman steps forward to offer a small gesture of consolation. She wipes His face with a cloth. Tradition tells us that an image of Jesus is transferred onto this holy relic and too His sacred blood is preserved there.

At Mass:

The priest continues with Jesus own words: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.”

Veronica used her veil to capture the blood of Jesus mingled with the sweat of His brow – the priest now holds a chalice of wine mingled with water. This becomes for us Jesus’ Blood.

Symbolically, Veronica’s veil is a relic that memorializes Jesus’ shedding of blood. The Blood of the Cross is preserved on her veil and it is the same Blood that we find in the chalice from which we drink at Mass.

The Mass is the memorial feast which Jesus instituted to make His sacrifice present to us down through the ages. We do this in memory of Him. We celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as He commanded us. It is like a sacred “relic” handed down to us which pours out grace on all who gather to worship - pouring out Christ’s Blood as true drink.

[For an explanation of this series of meditations on the Way of the Cross see this Introduction.]

Monday, March 8, 2010

Eucharistic Way of the Cross: Fifth Station

Simon of Cyrene Carries the Cross

As Jesus struggles under the weight of the cross, the Roman soldiers press into service a man from the crowd, Simon from Cyrene, to help Jesus carry His burden. We might ask: Is Simon a disciple of Jesus? Had he ever laid eyes on the man before this moment? Was he simply in the wrong place at the wrong time? – Regardless of Simon’s worthiness and regardless of his status in life, he shares Jesus suffering and participates in His sacrifice. He was called out for this role it was given to him…as a burden…as a gift?

At Mass:

The priest invokes the words of consecration: “Take this, all of you, and eat: this is my body which will be given up for you.”

Saint Augustine used to tell Christian upon receiving the Eucharist at communion: “Receive what you are and become what you receive.” We are the “Body of Christ” and we receive His Body at Mass under the appearance of bread. We should see this as a call to better imitate Jesus in His suffering. We are called out from among the crowd to bear the cross. Simon of Cyrene bore the weight of the very cross that would be the instrument of our salvation. Simon, whether he knew it or not, was making Jesus’ sacrifice his own and so participated in the salvation of the world. Is the Mass any different?

When the priest declares that he holds in his hands the very Body of Jesus, like Simon of Cyrene, the priest places himself in Jesus’ role (in persona Christi), and bears up the weight of the cross with His own hands. We are called to make this sacrifice our own.

[For an explanation of this series of meditations on the Way of the Cross see this Introduction.]

Friday, March 5, 2010

Eucharistic way of the Cross: Fourth Station

Jesus Meets His Mother

Along the way to Calvary, Mary waits to see her son. He is battered and bruised, yet it is He who comforts her. She must know that this is what He came to do. She raised Him from birth and prepared Him for this moment. Now she must let Him go to His Father and the way He must go is through the Cross. She has fulfilled her role faithfully.

At Mass:

The priest begins the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer. We might say that Mary is the “preface” to Jesus’ earthly Ministry. From Mary and her husband Joseph, Jesus learned the Jewish faith, which itself is the “preface” to our own Catholic heritage.

We might also note that the words spoken in the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer introduce the most solemn moment of the Mass – the consecration - just as Mary’s words spoken in the Magnificat set the stage for the Word-made-flesh – the Incarnation.

We end with a song of praise which we sing along with the angels: “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might…” Likewise, Mary’s “yes” to God invoked songs of praise from the heavenly hosts as they sang out praises to God at Jesus’ birth.

As we sing the final notes of the Sanctus, we then kneel in humble reverence (much as we bow during the Creed upon speaking the words of the Incarnation (“…born of the Virgin Mary…”).

As the Eucharistic Prayer then begins the priest prays that the Holy Spirit come upon our gifts and make them holy that they might become Jesus’ Body and Blood. We recall that the Holy Spirit was once poured out upon Mary so that the Son of God might become Flesh and Blood and live among us.

With Mary’s role complete, and Jesus on His way to fulfilling His mission, we bid goodbye to His mother and travel on with her Son.

[For an explanation of this series of meditations on the Way of the Cross see this Introduction.]

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Eucharistic Way of the Cross: Third Station

Jesus Falls the First Time

Under the weight of the cross Jesus falls to the ground. Certainly there must have been crowds gathered who jeered and taunted Him as He struggled with His burden. They were there to ridicule a condemned man, but He died for them as well.

At Mass:

The Priest begins: “The Lord be with you.”

We reply, “And also with you.”

“Lift up your hearts.”

“We lift them up to the Lord.” “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” “It is right to give him thanks and praise.”

Indeed it is right to give the Lord thanks and praise, when he suffered such humiliation and pain on our behalf. Like the crowd gathered there that day, we do not deserve His gift of grace.

During this part of the Eucharistic Prayer we remain standing, while at this Station Jesus has fallen to His knees. We are among the crowd gathered around Him standing over Him as He suffers. We must “lift up our hearts” so that we might lift up Jesus from the ground and help Him on His way. We must not be counted among those who scoffed and ridiculed. We must take seriously the words we speak at Mass and lift Jesus up in prayer.

[For an explanation of this series of meditations on the Way of the Cross see this Introduction.]

Monday, March 1, 2010

Eucharistic Way of the Cross: Second Station

Jesus Receives His Cross

Having been condemned to die, Jesus is given His cross, which He will carry through the streets of Jerusalem and out of the city to the place of crucifixion. Having already been beaten severely, this journey will add to His pain and suffering. Jesus accepts the Cross as the sacrifice He must endure.

At Mass:

The priest declares: “Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.”

And we reply: “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good, and the good of all his Church.”

Just has Jesus accepted the Cross and offered it to the Father as a worthy sacrifice, we pray at each Mass that the bread and wine be acceptable to the Father in Heaven. Jesus’ death transformed the wood of the cross from an instrument of torture into the instrument of salvation. We pray that God might now transform simple food and drink into the same Body and Blood that once accepted the Cross.

[For an explanation of the series of meditations on the Way of the Cross see this Introduction.]