Monthly message from Father David
So, do the crushing problems we face define our reality, or does faith offer a reality beyond what we can see and imagine? There are no easy answers to the problems of the world but in God’s mind there must be an answer. In the light of global issues so many of the things we get worked up about fall into their proper significance.
This Vicar’s Message brings us to Lent with Ash Wednesday on the 6th March. The Stations of the Cross followed by the Eucharist every Friday morning during Lent at the Church of the Good Shepherd leads us to Passiontide and then Easter. If you have never been to the Stations, I can certainly recommend them to you as a spiritual devotion.
So, what is the Stations of the Cross and what do we mean by devotion? 14 pictures of incidents in the last journey of Jesus Christ. ‘Stations’ simply means places where we stand still. The devotion consists in pausing at them in sequence for prayer and meditation.
Origin practice recorded from early times of pilgrims to Jerusalem following the way of the cross that is from Pilate’s house to Calvary and re-enacting it when they returned home. Devotion to the holy places and to Christ’ passion was given greater prominence with the return of the crusaders who often erected tableaux of places they had visited in the Holy Land. In 1342 the Franciscans were given custody of the holy places and they promoted this method of devotion. From these Franciscan churches the practice spread widely into parish churches.
The subject matter of the stations varied widely as did the number, anything from 5-30. The number 14 seems to have appeared first in the 16th century in the Low Countries. In 1731 Pope Clement the 12th set the number at 14 with 9 gospel scenes and 5 from popular tradition. By the 19th century most Roman Catholic churches had a set of 14 ranged around the internal walls or occasionally outside in the church grounds. Today Stations of the Cross are to be found also in the Church of England and are used during Lent and Passiontide and at certain places of pilgrimage such as Walsingham.
A recent change has included a 15th station representing the Resurrection stressing the integral unity with Christ’s death. My own view is that the stations should remain at 14 since by definition they are a representation of our Lord’s journey from Pilate’s house to Calvary.
I hope that our Lenten observances will help us to work out our priorities not just in terms of prayer but also in terms of evangelism and service. We need a strong sense of renewed commitment on the part of everyone. This means reaching out in all kinds of ways to individuals, societies, nations, indeed the whole world in order to share the Good News of God in Christ Jesus.
The season of Lent gives us an opportunity to think and pray about the really important truths of life and of our faith, as we try to focus on the redemptive suffering of Jesus. Try to make a rule about your worship and prayer and study this Lent.
Your Friend and Parish Priest