I hope that all of us have experienced the Stations of the Cross at some point during our formation as Christian disciples. The Stations are a prayerful way to share in Christ’s walk to Calvary, from his sentencing to death by Pontius Pilate until he is laid in the tomb. A common hymn to accompany the praying of the Stations is called the “Stabat Mater,” or in English, “At the Cross her Station Keeping.” This hymn has been associated with Mary as Mother of Dolors (sorrows) since the 13th century. It imagines how Mary must have felt during her Son’s suffering and death. Jesus suffered the utmost physical pain while he died for our sins, but Mary suffered the utmost emotional pain as she witnessed her Son experience this.
Many of us have been asked by God to suffer with Jesus physically. Some people seem to never be able to escape physical suffering or illness, and in a mysterious way, Christ’s cross can be present through these illnesses. However, a suffering that can be more deeply felt is emotional suffering. Some people suffer not from their own physical pain, but from witnessing people around them making bad choices or suffering from their own illness. Both of these sufferings can be a share in the cross of Jesus, if we respond with faith and ask Jesus for healing and to carry our cross with us. It is significant that Mary stood at the foot of the cross. I recently noticed in the Cathedral’s stations of the cross that Mary is depicted as standing by the cross, looking up at Jesus. Other characters in common depictions of the crucifixion scene often show Mary Magdalene lying on the ground or leaning against the cross, overcome with grief. However, even though Mary suffered immensely because of her great love for her Son, she also had a great hope – even the hope that he would rise from the dead. This same faith is what allowed Abraham to be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac in Genesis. And this hope seems to give Mary the confidence to stand by her Son as he died for our sins. I invite you to join us at the Cathedral at 5:45 for the Stations of the Cross on Fridays during Lent. The time of prayer is simple yet profound, as we reflect more deeply during this Lenten season on our need for a Savior. Here are a few verses of the beautiful hymn Stabat Mater for your consideration.
At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword has passed.
O how sad and sore distressed,
Was that Mother highly blest
Of the sole begotten One!
Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious Son.
Is there one who would not weep,
Whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?
Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that Mother’s pain untold?
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.