Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Third Station

Wednesday, Fifth Week of Lent

Jesus Falls the First Time

The executioners, bare of all human compassion and kindness, dragged our Savior Jesus along with incredible cruelty and insults. Some of them jerked Him forward by the ropes in order to accelerate his passage, while others pulled from behind in order to retard it. On account of this jerking and the weight of the Cross they caused Him to sway to and fro and often to fall to the ground. By the hard knocks He thus received on the rough stones great wounds were opened, especially on the two knees and they were widened at each repeated fall. The heavy Cross also inflicted a wound on the shoulder on which it was carried. The unsteadiness caused the Cross sometimes to knock against his sacred head, and sometimes the head against the Cross; thus the thorns of his crown penetrated deeper and wounded the parts, which they had not yet reached. To these torments of the body the ministers of evil added many insulting words and execrable affronts, ejecting their impure spittle and throwing the dirt of the pavement into his face so mercilessly, that they blinded the eyes that looked upon them with such divine mercy. Thus they of their own account condemned themselves to the loss of the graces, with which his very looks were fraught. By the haste with which they dragged Him along in their eagerness to see Him die, they did not allow Him to catch his breath; for his most innocent body, having been in so few hours overwhelmed with such a storm of torments, was so weakened and bruised that to all appearances He was ready to yield up life under his pains and sorrows.

Talking with the children about the 3rd Station of the Cross:

Persistence in Our Spiritual Lives

This is the first of three falls counted in the Stations.  Our Lord was already suffering terribly from exhaustion and loss of blood, and He knew the road he traveled carrying the heavy burden of the Cross led only to more agony...  Nevertheless, each time Jesus fell, He got back up. He kept going. 

What does this make us think of?  Love?  Persistence?  How can the children apply the lessons here in the context of their own lives?   

It's important for children to understand that the spiritual life, like anything else they try to achieve, requires hard work and patience.  Almost noone learns to do something well the first time they attempt it. It takes years for a Little League baseball player to master the skills to make it into the Major Leagues, and even then, he has to constantly hone his skills and train his body to keep his place there.  And, boy, does he have to want it.  A concert pianist isn't born overnight either, but perfects her musical mastery with hours and hours of practice throughout her career.  She has to love what she's doing or she'd never keep up with it.  Mathmeticians start out struggling through the multiplication tables just like the rest of us, until they work their way up to real expertise.  But it's worth it to them.  In order to be good at anything we have to want it enough to work for it tirelessly. 

It's a long, hard road to mastery in any field. (The children can surely give a lot of examples.) And we're bound to make a lot of mistakes along the way.  When I was learning gymnastics as a child, I fell on my head many a time before I learned to do aerial somersaults.  (Those bumps on the head may explain some things, huh?)  But I kept trying until I had it down pat.  I didn't give up because it was important to me to master.  (Again, the children can contribute from their own experiences here...)  But that's what practice means -- making mistakes and working to fix them until we get the hang of doing the thing right. Practice makes perfect.

Our spiritual lives are the same way. It's not easy to perfect ourselves.  In fact, it's probably the hardest thing we'll ever try to do.  It seems everything is against it: our own bad inclinations and stubborn temperaments, the temptations of the world, the snares of the devil...  But, just like anything else we want to accomplish, we can do it if we want it enough and if we work hard at it.  And if we never give up.  We can count on falling many times, just like Our Lord did on the way to Calvary, but dragging ourselves back up won't seem to have the same heroic quality that you see in Passion Plays. We rarely hear the heavenly applause for our spiritual accomplishments, unfortunately, and on earth spiritual perfection  ranks under perfect teeth for most people.  It's a pretty thankless business the spiritual life; there's rarely fanfare for the successes but everyone seems to notice the failures. And then, when we think we may have conquered a fault or perfected a virtue, there's something else that rises to the surface that needs to be worked on.  And, of course, all the spiritual muscles we do succeed in developing need to be constantly exercised, too.  The work never ends. There's no sense in sugar coating it; it's hard! 

So why do it?

There's one real reason and you know what it is: Love.  We must work to save our souls because the alternative is horrifying -- but most of  all we do it for love of Christ -- Who loves us enough that He willingly carried the Cross up Mount Calvary, fell repeatedly under its weight, and stubbornly got up over and over again to be crucified and die -- so He could save us from that horrifying alternative.  To give us the chance to work hard to save our souls  for Love of Him.

And the prize, the reward, the paycheck for all our work and trouble is at the end of  the rocky road,  the road to Calvary, which leads to Paradise.

The Third Station (St. Alphonsus de Liguori):
Jesus Falls the First Time
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 first fall of Jesus. Loss of blood from the scourging and crowing with thorns had so weakened Him that He could hardly walk; and yet He had to carry that great load upon His shoulders. As the soldiers struck Him cruelly, He fell several times under the heavy cross. (Kneel)
R: 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.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)


Christ above in torment hangs
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious Son

Third Station (St. Francis of Asissi):

 Jesus Falls the First Time
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Carrying the Cross, our dear Savior was so weakened with its heavy weight that He fell exhausted to the ground. The Cross was light and sweet to Him, but our sins made it so heavy and hard to carry.

Beloved Jesus, * Thou didst carry the burden and the heavy weight of my sins. * Should I then not bear in union with Thee * my light burden of suffering, * and accept the sweet yoke of Thy commandments? * Thy yoke is sweet and Thy burden is light. * I willingly accept it. * I will take up my cross and follow Thee.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.

Stational Church in Rome
Tuesday, Fifth Week in Lent, S. Ciriaco (S. Maria in via Lata al Corso)

Go here for the history and a picture tour.

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