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The Way of the Cross

From the earliest days, those who wish to follow Jesus have found immense value in making real footsteps. Pilgrimages to the great centres of Christianity, especially Jerusalem, have been a high point of Christian prayer. Realising that most people would never travel so far, Franciscans developed the ‘Stations of the Cross’ as a way of following Jesus’ final footsteps in our prayers.

The number of stations varies from place to place; a ‘full set’ includes fourteen. At All Souls’, there are ten stations sculpted in the walls of the Church; an eleventh is added by making use of the reredos above the high altar. We begin by reading from Isaiah chapter 53, which was written hundreds of years before Jesus was born.

He was despised, shunned by all, pain-racked and afflicted by disease;
we despised him, we held him of no account,
an object from which people turn away their eyes.
Yet it was our afflictions he was bearing, our pain he endured,
while we thought of him as smitten by God,
struck down by disease and misery.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities;
the chastisement he bore restored us to health,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We had all strayed like sheep, each of us going his own way,
but the Lord laid on him the guilt of us all. (Isaiah 53.3-6)
1. Jesus is Condemned to Death

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

The soldiers took him inside the governor’s residence, the Praetorium, and called the whole company together. They dressed him in purple and, plaiting a crown of thorns, placed it on his head. Then they began to salute him: ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ They beat him about the head with a stick and spat at him, and then knelt and paid homage to him.
(Mark 15.16-19)
2. Jesus Takes up his Cross
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

It was the day of preparation for the Passover, about noon. Pilate said to the Jews, "Here is your king." They shouted, "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!

"Am I to crucify your king?" said Pilate. "We have no king but Caesar," replied the chief priests. Then at last, to satisfy them, he handed Jesus over to be crucified. Jesus was taken away, and went out, carrying the cross himself, to the place called The Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha).
(John 19.14-17)
3. Jesus Falls to the Ground
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Jesus said, "Anyone can walk in the daytime without stumbling, because he has this world’s light to see by. But if he walks after nightfall he stumbles, because the light fails him."
(John 11.9-10)
4. Simon of Cyrene
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

A man called Simon, from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they pressed him into service to carry his cross.
(Mark 15.21)
5. The Women of Jerusalem
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Great numbers of people followed, among them many women who mourned and lamented over him. Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when people will say, ‘Happy are the barren, the wombs that never bore a child, the breasts that never fed one.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if these things are done when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"
(Luke 23.27-31)
6. Jesus Falls Again
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

‘[God’s] grace is all you need; power is most fully seen in weakness.’ I am therefore happy to boast of my weaknesses, because then the power of Christ will rest upon me. So I am content with a life of weakness, insult, hardship, persecution, and distress, all for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2nd Corinthians 12.9-10)
7. Jesus is Stripped of his Garments
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Naked I came from the womb,
naked I shall return whence I came.
The Lord gives and the Lord takes away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.
(Job 1.21)
8. Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

There were two others with him, criminals who were being led out to execution; and when they reached the place called The Skull, they crucified him there, and the criminals with him, one on his right and the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

They shared out his clothes by casting lots. The people stood looking on, and their rulers jeered at him: "He saved others: now let him save himself, if this is God’s Messiah, his chosen." The soldiers joined in the mockery and came forward offering him sour wine. "If you are the king of the Jews," they said, "save yourself." There was an inscription above his head which ran: ‘This is the king of the Jews.’
(Luke 23.32-38)
9. Jesus Dies on the Cross
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

One of the criminals hanging there taunted him: "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself, and us." But the other rebuked him: "Have you no fear of God? You are under the same sentence as he is. In our case it is plain justice; we are paying the price for our misdeeds. But this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come to your throne." Jesus answered, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."

By now it was about midday and a darkness fell over the whole land, which lasted until three in the afternoon: the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the Temple was torn in two. Then Jesus uttered a loud cry and said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit"; and with these words he died. The crowd who had assembled for the spectacle, when they saw what had happened, went home beating their breasts. His friends had all been standing at a distance; the women who had accompanied him from Galilee stood with them and watched it all.
(Luke 23.39-49)
10. The Body of Jesus is Given to his Mother
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace:
your word has been fulfilled.

My own eyes have seen the salvation:
which you have prepared in the face of every people.

A light to reveal you to the nations:
and the glory of your people Israel.

Simeon said to Mary, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be rejected, so that the inner thoughts of many will be laid bare; and you too will be pierced to the heart."
Luke 2.29-32, 34-35)
11. The Garden Tomb
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,

Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Now there was a man called Joseph, a member of the council, a good and upright man, who had dissented from their policy and the action they had taken. He came from the Judaean town of Arimathaea, and he was one who looked forward to the kingdom of God. This man now approached Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Taking it down from the cross, he wrapped it in a linen sheet, and laid it in a tomb cut out of the rock, in which no one had been laid before. It was the day of preparation, and the sabbath was about to begin.
(Luke 23.50-54)
Conclusion

Christ himself suffered on your behalf, and left you an example in order that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, he was guilty of no falsehood.’ When he was abused he did not retaliate, when he suffered he uttered no threats, but delivered himself up to him who judges justly. He carried our sins in his own person on the gibbet, so that we might cease to live for sin and begin to live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. You were straying like sheep, but now you have turned towards the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (1st Peter 2.21-25)

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all evermore.

Amen.
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