Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sixth Station of the Cross

Saturday, fifth week in Lent:
Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

The relic of St. Veronica's veil is traditinally displayed on the fifth Sunday of Lent at the altar of St. Peter's Basilica.  Though there has been much speculation about the truth of the story of St. Veronica, fact or fiction, there is no dispute that a most remarkable representation of the face of Our Lord exists upon the cloth kept safe at the basilica of St. Peter in Rome.  It has been proven scientifically that the image was not rendered with paint and the representation is identical on both sides of the cloth -- both features impossible to produce in medieval times.  There are striking similarities with the image of the face on the Shroud of Turin, but, contrary to speculation that the veil of Veronica was in former times the shroud only folded, this relic is entirely separate and distinct from the relic in Turin.  An unusual and unexplainable feature of the image is that it disappears when viewed from certain angles.  It is unique and has not been explained by modern science.

Talking with the children about the sixth Station of the Cross

Again, in the sixth Station we get to witness love and compassion shown to Jesus during His ordeal on the way to the cross.  And what a woman was St. Veronica! Imagine the incredible courage and love it must have taken for her to defy the Roman soldiers in order to come to the aid of a condemned man!  We know almost nothing of Veronica's life, though -- whether she was a stranger to Christ and acting only out of compassion and perhaps some interior compunction of the Holy Ghost, or whether she had seen Christ previously, heard his sermons, and knew Who He was.  Regardless, it was a tremendous act of courage, faith and love which prompted her to wipe the sweat and blood from Our Lord's adorable face with her own veil.  But it was an act rewarded tangibly-- as few have been rewarded: We can still see the veil of Veronica today with the miraculous image of Christ's face visible upon it.

And what a Face.  Think about the condition that Christ was in on that fateful Friday.  He looked horrible.  The crown of thorns had pierced his skull and blood had  run down from the wounds into his hair and eyes.  His face was beaten, bloody, swollen and bruised.  The beauty of his manhood had been destroyed.  But, Veronica, whether she knew Him already or not, knew there was something to be loved in Him.  Easy for us to imagine, who know Who He was and what He did for us, but we might wonder if Veronica really understood at the time Who's face she was tenderly blotting. 

Of the many lessons we can glean from this incident of the Passion -- like the virtues of compassion, charity, and courage -- we might also bring to the children's attention the understanding of vanity and personal judgments.  Jesus' looks were not important to Veronica; she did not judge Him by them.  She came to His aid because He was in need -- and possibly because she suspected His innocence or knew of His holiness.  Jesus' appearance didn't enter into her thoughts at all, except that it made it obvious to Veronica that He needed compassion. In one of the most courageous acts in history, this woman defied brutal Roman soldiers, crossed their barriers, and helped when noone else dared. And God blessed her selflessness.  We can go to Rome today on the fifth Sunday of Lent and see the material reward she was given for her kindness.

Remembering the sixth station of the cross, we must ask ourselves and the children: How much store do we set on the outward appearance of things?  Do we judge others by their clothing, by the bookbag they carry, by the car they drive?  Do we believe that we can tell all about a person by how they look?  By how they speak?  By how they spell?  Do we make judgments based upon the neighborhood a person lives in?  The casual observer would have thought the worst of Our Lord on the Friday He was crucified.  Would we be guilty of jumping to the same kinds of conclusions about others?  It says in the Bible, "By their fruits ye shall know them,"  (Matthew 7:16) not "by their namebrand sneakers ye shall know them."    We can find this right after "Judge not lest ye be judged." (Matthew 7:1)

The Sixth Station (St. Alphonsus de Liguori) 
Veronica Offers Her Veil to Jesus

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)

R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)
V: Consider the compassion of the holy woman, Veronica. Seeing Jesus in such distress, His face bathed in sweat and blood, she presented Him with her veil. Jesus wiped His face, and left upon the cloth the image of his sacred countenance. (Kneel)
R: 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.
(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled
She beheld her tender Child
All with bloody scourges rent.

Sixth Station (St. Francis of Asissi)
Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee. R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Moved by compassion, Veronica presents her veil to Jesus, to wipe His disfigured face. He imprints on it His holy countenance, and returns it to her as a recompense. Shall Christ reward you in like manner? Then you too must do Him a service. But you do a service to Christ every time you perform a work of mercy towards your neighbor: for He says: "What you have done to the least of My brethren, you have done to Me."

Dearest Jesus, * what return shall I make Thee for all Thy benefits? * Behold, I consecrate myself entirely to Thy service. * My whole heart I give to Thee; * stamp on it Thy holy image, * that I may never forget Thee. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.

Stational Lenten Churches in Rome
Friday, Fifth Week in Lent, The Basilica di Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio

Find a great description of this round church here and the history  and pictures here.

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