“We love because he first loved us.” I John 4:19 (NRSV) reminds us that our capacity to love God and to be in relationship with God is made possible because of God’s initial love for us. It is made known to us through Jesus Christ. We, then, come to understand that prayer is a relational dimension initiated by God through Jesus, the Son. It is infused with the essence of the Holy Spirit.
Because God first shows love to us through Jesus, we are freed to choose to respond to God’s invitation directly, this is to say, through prayer. Also, notice that our capacity to love others is made possible only through God’s love for us. We know that this is not always easy. But, it is always possible. We might look at the examples of others who have chosen love amid difficulty. Now, in the midst of Lent, there is no shortage of examples.
Consider the “Stations of the Cross.” Also known as “The Way of the Cross,” this devotional developed so that all could make a spiritual pilgrimage alongside Jesus on the road to Golgotha. It was designed specifically for those unable to make the actual journey to the Holy Land during the Middle Ages. It has been in use ever since. The “Way” offers a glimpse into how some of those around Jesus chose to walk in love. They did so, particularly in the face of the grueling narrative of Jesus’ last days on earth. Consider that:
- Mary (the Mother of Our Lord) never left Jesus’ side, nor did she doubt Jesus.
- Simon of Cyrene (cross bearer) was commanded by the soldiers to carry the cross for Jesus’ when he was no longer physically able to do so himself.
- The Women of Jerusalem (the unnamed, insignificant weeping for Jesus) are instructed by Jesus to weep not for him but for themselves. While not comforting, we see a frank admission of the reality of the events and permission to express grief.
- Joseph of Arimathea (cared for Jesus body) lovingly cared for Jesus body burial.
Mary, Simon and the others confront the reality of life’s difficulties with no other choice than acceptance and love.
The “Way” includes a recurring prayer: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. By your holy cross, you have redeemed the world. We, like Mary, Simon and the others encounter the reality of life’s difficulties. We, like them, may choose love, acceptance and faithfulness above all else.
While “The Stations of the Cross” is most commonly used during Lent, it may be used anytime companionship in difficulty is desired. I invite you to spend some time between now and Easter, or at other times of the year on spiritual pilgrimage with Jesus in his last days. Don’t be surprised if your outcome to the experience of “The Way of the Cross” leads you to an unexpected. What begins as an experience of walking beside Jesus on the road to Golgotha sometimes becomes an experience of Jesus walking beside us on our life’s road.
Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
Joan Chittister and Janet McKenzie, The Way of the Cross: The Path to New Life (Maryknoll: Orbis Books), 2013.
Jansen, Gary, Station to Station: An Ignatian Journey through the Stations of the Cross (Chicago: Loyola Press), 2017.
Henri Nouwen and Helen David, Walk with Jesus: Stations of the Cross (Maryknoll: Orbis Books), 2015.
A printable pdf of the “Stations” from the Episcopal Church may be found here: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/files/stations_of_the_cross_global_justice.pdf
For a virtual “Stations:” http://www.liturgies.net/Lent/Stations/enter.htm
Also, there are numerous videos on youtube. Search “Stations of the Cross” “Way of the Cross” or similar.
© Douglas A. Beck, 2017