Sunday, February 25, 2007

Returning to the Stations

['Tis a long post, so click on the 'read more' link at the bottom of the post for the epic version]

‘O Lord, as penitent as I wish the world to be, make me doubly so.’

The first round of this Lent’s Stations of the Cross was as powerful as I remember it last year. The opening prayer started things rolling:

“My Lord, Jesus Christ, You have made this journey to die for me with unspeakable love; and I have so many times ungratefully abandoned You. But now I love You with all my heart; and, because I love You, I am sincerely sorry for ever having offended You. Pardon me, my God, and permit me to accompany You on this journey. You go to die for love of me; I want, my beloved Redeemer, to die for love of You. My Jesus, I will live and die always united to You.”

My throat tightens as I pray these words, my vision blurs. My sins, though thoughtless on my part, are grievous insult to Him that goes to the Cross for me. My soul is shown in stark relief next to Him, and the difference is almost unbearable. The priest is now at the icon of the Condemnation:

“My adorable Jesus, it was not Pilate; no, it was my sins that condemned You to die. I beseech You, by the merits of this sorrowful journey, to assist my soul on its journey to eternity. I love You, beloved Jesus; I love You more than I love myself. With all my heart I repent of ever having offended You. Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.”

Do I love Jesus? More than Myself? My behaviors too often indicate the opposite. Were that I was always this conscious of my misplaced affections. The Priest winds from Condemnation to Christ receiving the Cross, and from the Cross to the First Fall:

“My beloved Jesus, it was not the weight of the cross but the weight of my sins which made You suffer so much. By the merits of this first fall, save me from falling into mortal sin. I love You, O my Jesus, with all my heart; I am sorry that I have offended You. May I never offend You again. Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.”

My voice breaks as I pray, the tears swell, as my sins are laid bare before me. Insouciance has a price, and that price was paid by Another. This knowledge is too convenient, and also, too antiseptic. Like a child who lives richly by the sweat of his parents, it is too easy to be comforted by platitudes about “being Saved.” Would the Bridegroom accept me, one who so often takes His saving gift for granted? The priest leads us to Mary, Simon the Cyrene, and to Veronica:

“My beloved Jesus, Your face was beautiful before You began this journey; but, now, it no longer appears beautiful and is disfigured with wounds and blood. Alas, my soul also was once beautiful when it received Your grace in Baptism; but I have since disfigured it with my sins. You alone, my Redeemer, can restore it to its former beauty. Do this by the merits of Your passion; and then do with me as You will.”

I have disfigured myself, by my choices, when I chose sin over the Cross. By no merit of mine does He come to rescue me from myself. The priest speaks, and Jesus has again fallen:

“My most gentle Jesus, how many times You have forgiven me; and how many times I have fallen again and begun again to offend You! By the merits of this second fall, give me the grace to persevere in Your love until death. Grant, that in all my temptations, I may always have recourse to You. I love You, Jesus, my Love with all my heart; I am sorry that I have offended You. Never let me offend You again. Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.”

Patterns repeat, a dog returns to its vomit, and I, too, sin again. How can He love me so much, to see me ever fail, and yet still beckon to me? The priest announces the Meeting of the Women:

“My Jesus, laden with sorrows, I weep for the sins which I have committed against You because of the punishment I deserve for them; and, still more, because of the displeasure they have caused You who have loved me with an infinite love. It is Your love, more than the fear of hell, which makes me weep for my sins. My Jesus, I love You more than myself; I am sorry that I have offended You. Never allow me to offend You again. Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.”

I’m sure that many will perish who will protest that they deserve better. I cannot protest, for I know what I, for my sins, deserve. Yet I am humbled by the promise of Life in trusting Christ. The priest brings us to the Third Fall, and then Jesus is Stripped of His Garments:

”My innocent Jesus, by the torment You suffered in being stripped of Your garments, help me to strip myself of all attachment for the things of earth that I may place all my love in You who are so worthy of my love. I love You, O Jesus, with all my heart; I am sorry for ever having offended You. Never let me offend You again. Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.”

Ever so attached to my comforts, I resist so many mortifications for Him. Even tonight, upon hearing rumor of some new imposition, I seethe at the agents of the impending crisis. It is a rare cross that is picked up with perfect joy, may I quit rebelling against mine. The priest is now at the icon of the Crucifixion:

“My despised Jesus, nail my heart to the cross that it may always remain there to love You and never leave You again. I love You more than myself; I am sorry for ever having offended You. Never permit me to offend You again. Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.”

My journey leads me to the foot of the Cross; I can embrace it, at great pain to myself now, or I can disregard it, to my eternal peril. Only the most stalwart could bear the proximity to our crucified Lord, where God’s Will loomed so large, and our conscience looms large as well. Who else could so closely witness the consequences of my sins, but our Blessed Mother, Mary. The priest moves on, Jesus dies on the Cross:

“My dying Jesus, I devoutly kiss the cross on which You would die for love of me. I deserve, because of my sins, to die a terrible death; but Your death is my hope. By the merits of Your death, give me the grace to die embracing Your feet and burning with love of You. I yield my soul into Your hands. I love You with my whole heart. I am sorry that I have offended You. Never let me offend You again. Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.”

The price has now been paid, the debt to the Father now forgiven, but now, I am to be judged by Christ. Can I be faithful? How do I return the love so dearly shown? By taking up my own loathsome cross, to follow Him. The priest intones that Jesus is taken down from the Cross, then buried in the Tomb:

“Oh my buried Jesus, I kiss the stone that closes You in. But You gloriously did rise again on the third day. I beg You by Your resurrection that I may be raised gloriously on the last day, to be united with You in heaven, to praise You and love You forever. I love You, Jesus, and I repent of ever having offended You. Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.”

Jesus was confident of the Father’s promise to raise Him up. So shall I be confident in Jesus’ promise to raise me up from my sins. May I always be steadfast in my love and obedience to Him.

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. Because, by your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

2 comments:

Tiber Jumper said...

That was very moving. Thanks for posting such a beautiful account of the stations. The stations alone make it worth checking out the Church. What a gift to us from God.

lijialefw said...
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