The Season of Lent – Te Wā o te Reneti

Published on 4th Mar, 2019

Lent is the season when Christians reflect on the marvellous mystery of the passion, death and fullness of life in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, through a devotion known as the Stations of the Cross. The six-week season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, this year on 6 March.

Joy and gladness from sorrow and suffering

Fr James Lyons

Joy and gladness fly high of the banner of Christianity but they come at an enormous cost: the passion and death of Jesus of Nazareth.

God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, the Gospel of John tells us, and the obedience of this Son gave the world its Saviour. His obedience brought him through death to a fullness of life in resurrection and it is from this that true joy and gladness were born.

Lent is the season when Christians reflect on this marvellous mystery through a devotion known as the Stations of the Cross. It is among the earliest devotions recognised by the Church.

Tradition has it that as long as she was in Jerusalem, Mary, the mother of Jesus, visited daily the scenes of his passion. In the third century, after Christianity was legalised, the pathway Jesus trod to Calvary was marked out and pilgrims would come from many regions to pray, to remember and to give thanks.

From the fifth century the ‘Way of the Cross’ was replicated in many other places so that not everyone had to travel to Jerusalem.

The devotion has evolved over the centuries to its present format of 14 ‘Stations’, or stopping places, that depict the final journey of Jesus from his condemnation by Pontius Pilate to his crucifixion and burial.

A contemporary trend has been to reconstruct the ‘Stations’ in line with the scriptural presentation. This is because some of the events, such as the Veronica wiping the face of Jesus and the number of times he fell are not recorded in the gospel accounts. The new approach also includes ‘the empty tomb’, indicating the story did not end with the burial of Jesus.

Another form growing in popularity is to explore the characters within each scene, for instance, Pilate, Simon of Cyrene, the Centurion, and consider their motivations or reactions.

There are many traditional and modern depictions of the Stations’ in our churches and chapels, adding to the emotion and power of this devotion.

How can joy and gladness be found in scenes of suffering and sadness? An apparent impossibility can undergo remarkable transformation when you step into the ‘Stations’ and let them impact on your feelings and on your faith. You can quickly realise the power of love to bring hope to the arena of pain, deep peace to a broken heart.

Joy and gladness are gifts from sacrifice. They are offered from one whose love has been totally for others. They become real and lasting when we understand the love that has given them birth. Making them active in our own lives is the way we give thanks,

They are held in loving memory especially through the Stations of the Cross.

Windows of Wonder

These Stations of the Cross images are stained-glass windows in the Chapel at Our Lady’s Home of Compassion, Island Bay, Wellington. They were designed by the late John Drawbridge, an internationally acclaimed New Zealand artist, of Island Bay. The glass work is by Peter Kirkland of Paraparaumu. This Lenten journey connects us with Venerable Suzanne Aubert who rests in the chapel crypt just metres from these Stations.

Jesus Is condemned to death. Innocence betrayed; the guilty redeemed.

Jesus takes up his cross. Take up your cross each day, and follow me!

Jesus falls the first time. Heaviness crushes, abuse humiliates.

Jesus meets his Sorrowful mother. A glimpse of love through the haze of hate.

Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross. Reluctant bystander becomes a privileged servant.

Veronica wipes the face of Jesus. Compassion imprints companionship.

Jesus falls a Second Time. There is no dishonour in falling, only in staying down.

Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem. Blessed are those who weep…

Jesus falls the third Time. Grieving the limitations of weakness.

Jesus is stripped of his garments. You can strip me of everything except myself.

Jesus is nailed to the cross. Pierced and hung, immobile yet eternal sign.

Jesus dies on the cross. The end, and the beginning.

Jesus Is taken down from the cross. Gathered once more in the arms of love.

Jesus Is laid in the tomb. The tomb, a place of rest – for now.

Lent offers a window to look through the wonder of your life

There is much more to Lent than ‘going without’, like giving up sugar or ice-cream.

The six-week season, beginning with Ash Wednesday – this year 6 March – offers a window to look through at the wonder of your life.

The window opens with the receiving of ashes – smeared over the forehead in the form of a cross.

These two symbols are significant: the ash a reminder of our inherent weakness; the cross, giving hope and encouragement.

By accepting that every life is a gift from a God who is Love, we can work on our weaknesses to uncover and develop the goodness that God sees in each of us.

Any sacrifice we might make in Lent is not meant to lessen joy or stifle happiness, but to deepen our appreciation of those life-giving qualities that define us.

Supporting the annual Caritas appeal, perhaps enrolling in a faith-education programme, contributing to a Food Bank or to the Compassion Soup Kitchen, are among the many ways of making Lent real and worthwhile for you.

Published in WelCom Feb 2019

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