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Friday, March 30, 2012

Way of the Cross - Meditation on the Virtues

Way of the Cross - Via Crucis A Meditation on the Virtues and Gifts of the Christian Life
Excerpts from Magnificat Holy Week 2012
by Romanus Cessario, O.P.
The Way of the Cross is not only a great testimony to an inner depth and maturity, but it is in face a school for interiority and consolation…for the examination of conscience, for conversion, for inner transformation and compassion…that knocks on the door of my heart, that obliges me to know myself and to become a better person.”  Pope Benedict XVI

Human Virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith.  They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life.  The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.  The moral virtues are acquired by human effort…Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called “cardinal”; all the others are grouped around them,  They are:  prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.” (CCC #1804 – 1805)
The Theological Virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character.  They inform and give life to all the moral virtues.  They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life.  They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being.   There are three theological virtues:  faith, hope and charity. (CCC #1813)
“The moral life of Christians is sustained by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord….They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them.  They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspiration.”  (CCC #1830 -1831)

The Fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory.  The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them:  “charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.”  (#1832)
 Way of the Cross
With Meditations on the Virtues
Art and The Way of the Cross In Jerusalem

Each station begins with the following verse and response:
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
After each station say one Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be

First Station
Jesus is Condemned to Death – Faith

The Stations of the Cross trace a journey of faith.  They allow us to see the Passion through the eyes of Jesus, who “enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal” (CCC #474).  The historical fact that God allows a man to condemn Jesus to death baffles human comprehension.  Only the gift of divine faith reveals to us what it means for the drama of the world’s salvation to commence with betrayal and condemnation.  Out of love for the Father and for us, the King of Glory freely submits to human powers, and thereby destroys what is noxious in them.

Heavenly Father, your Son embraced the sentence of death out of love for you and for me.  Increase in me the virtue of divine faith, so that I may embrace the eternal plans of your saving providence, and receive the consolation of your abundant mercy.

Second Station
Jesus Takes up His Cross – Understanding
An instrument used to execute criminals stands at the center of all Catholic life and practice.  From the moment that Jesus takes up his cross, nothing that transpires in the Church of Christ makes sense apart from his cross.  The Holy Spirit’s gift of Understanding helps the Christian believer lovingly to see into the mysteries of divine faith.  Without this special assistance of the Holy Spirit, we would never possess “all the richness of fully assured understanding”  (Col 2:2)  that flows from the cross of Christ.  Priests, consecrated persons, laymen, and laywomen must beg God to understand deeply the cruciform pattern of their vocations. For no one achieves a happy life without taking up the cross and following Jesus.
Heavenly Father, your Son took up his cross and so fulfilled your will for the salvation of all.  Give me the gift of Understanding, so that I may discover each day the place that the cross holds in my life and embrace my share of Christ’s sufferings with a tranquil spirit.
 Third Station Jesus Falls the First Time – Knowledge
Jesus succumbs to the weight of the cross.  The Christian tradition
associates the falls of the sinless Christ with the failures that sinful
Christians daily commit.  The gift of Knowledge helps those who follow Christ to feel sorrow for past mistakes.  Each person must discover the place that original and personal sin holds in the providential plan for his or her salvation.  To stand up again after a fall means to unite oneself to Jesus and so find personal strength in his very person.  "Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4) 
Heavenly Father, in your plan for our salvation, you permitted your beloved Son to fall under the weight of his cross.  Grant me your Spirit's gift of Knowledge, so that I may judge my sins and the sins of the whole world in the light of Christ's redemptive suffering. 

Fourth Station
Jesus Meets His Mother - Hope

Jesus meets his Blessed Mother, the first and closest participant in his Passion.  Above every intelligent creature, Mary displays the Church in her perfection.  She, then is the Mother of Fair Hope.  The Christian virtue of hope enables us to continue a Godward journey that terminates in supreme blessedness.  Just as Jesus meets his mother on the way to Calvary, Mary’s maternal mediation enables us to meet Jesus along the way of our lives.  Living in union with Mary, we neither fear the after-effects of sins for which we are sorry nor retreat from the difficulties that we meet in life.  Invoking Mary, Mother Most Merciful, and Virgin All – Powerful, we discover a sure refuge from everything that would otherwise threaten to separate us from her Son.
Heavenly Father, you decreed that the Mother of your Son should share fully in his Passion and death, and so become the first and preeminent collaborator in his saving work.  Grant me the grace to love Mary and to consecrate myself to her, so that I may remain united fully with her Son, Jesus Christ.

Fifth Station
Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry His Cross – Fear of the Lord
“As they led him away the took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian…” (Luke 23:26).  A frightened bystander is compelled to help Jesus carry his cross.  Simon’s initial fear of the Roman soldiers’ displeasure is transformed by this forced encounter with Christ.  With God, nothing is happenstance.  Simon and his family, it is held, receive the gift of redemption in which servile fear of punishment gives way to filial fear of offending the God whom they love.  This gift of Fear of the Lord turns hesitant followers into confident sons and daughters.  Fear of punishment gives way to awe in the presence of the Gift. 
Heavenly Father, you sent Simon of Cyrene to lighten the human burden of your Son, Grant me the gift of Fear of the Lord, so that my life may witness transparently to the inexhaustibility of your divine goodness, which in Christ becomes my hoped-for possession.

Sixth Station
Jesus Meets Veronica – Charity
Love makes the beloved resemble the lover.  A wearied and bloody-faced Jesus finds refreshment in the ministrations of a young woman whom we have come to honor as “Veronica” the true image.  Christ leaves his resemblance on the veil of Veronica in order to instruct us about the transformative power that divine love works in our lives .  In the Incarnation, the human body of Christ becomes an instrument of his divinity, so that now all who meet the Savior come to resemble him.  Because “God is love,” charity remains the greatest of the virtues (1 John 4:8).  Like Veronica, we should repeatedly seek out occasions to experience the transformation that the love of God accomplishes.  Why? “Love never ends.”  (1 Cor 13:8)

Heavenly Father, you ordained that every creature should share in your love, and for men and angels you raise this sharing to the level of divine friendship.  Renew in our hearts a deep appreciation for the mystery of your Son’s Incarnation, so that each day, through charity, we may grow more and more into his image. 
Seventh Station Jesus Falls a Second Time – Wisdom

The Church commemorates more than one fall of Jesus.  Christ stumbles because of a human weakness that is completely in keeping with his divine dignity. Our falls however exhibit those sinful disorders that remain even in the baptized.  The saints refer to the penalties of the present life.  No one except the Seat of Wisdom – the Immaculate Mother of God – escapes them. So we need to learn how to get up again with Jesus, and to find renewed life in him. The gift of Wisdom empowers us to evaluate everything in the world according to the folly of the cross, and so discover true spiritual peace and joy.  “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”  (1 Cor 1:25)

Heavenly Father, you have taught us to love the wood of the cross and to embrace the wisdom of Christ crucified.  Grant me the crowning gift of Wisdom that, eschewing every stumbling block and despising all human folly, I may experience in my life true spiritual peace found only in the name of Jesus, your Son and our crucified Lord.
Eighth Station
Jesus Comforts the Women of Jerusalem – Prudence

“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; but weep for yourselves and for your children…For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when the wood is dry?”  (Luke 23:28,31).  The virtue of prudence shapes the way that we think about everyday life.  The prudent person makes choices that reflect God’s knowledge of creation.  Human freedom without divine truth is like a fleet but blind race horse that moves swiftly but misses the goal.  Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem with a warning.  We need to refresh our minds by following closely the divine truths proclaimed in the Church of Christ.

Heavenly Father, your Son confided to his Church the promise of divine wisdom, which today flows from the Magisterial of the Church’s Pastors.  Grant me the virtue of prudence so that, following the Successor of Peter, I may joyfully and easily order my life according to the mind of Christ.
Ninth Station
Jesus Falls a Third Time - Counsel

Jesus falls a third time under the weight of his cross.  On his way to the summit of Calvary, Jesus teaches us that God is patient with sinners,  The gift of Counsel enables us to surpass our ordinary ways of thinking.  Repeated failures easily discourage people.  It requires a divine outlook on things to go the extra mile with ourselves and with others.  The Lord says, “If your brother sins against you seven times in the day and turns to you seven times, and says, “I repent,” you must forgive him”  (Luke 17:4).  God continually meets us where we are.  We then rise in Jesus to follow the divine plan for our salvation.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the super abundance of your mercy that is bestowed in Christ upon us poor sinners.  Grant me the gift of Counsel to follow unwaveringly the plan of your providence for my everyday life.  And when I fail, direct my steps to sweet Jesus that I might rise again.

Tenth Station
 Jesus is Stripped of His Garments – Justice

The clothes of Jesus are those of a poor man.  The soldiers confiscate them as booty to fulfill what is written in the psalms, “They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they casts lots” (Ps 22:18).  The virtue of justice strengthens the human will to give others what is their due.  Sin removes from God the honor owed him, whereas Christ’s death on the cross fulfills all righteousness.  Because of Christ’s sacrifice, the baptized person is clothed anew in the garments of salvation:  “Stand therefore, having girt your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness:  (Eph 6:14).

Heavenly Father, the death of your only and beloved Son fulfilled all justice.   Grant me a love of true righteousness so that I may always hunger and thirst after the justice of your kingdom.

Eleventh Station Jesus is Nailed to the Cross – Piety

The pierced hands and feet of the Savior are the sacred signs that proclaim our salvation.  The saints are drawn to embrace and to kiss these wounds, so much do they grasp what it means for Jesus to suffer and die for us.   The gift of Piety gives us a reverential view of the world.  The Holy Spirit disposes us to see everything as God’s possession and every person as God’s son or daughter.  Nailed to the cross, Jesus becomes the supremely just and reverent man.  His death restores to the Father the people who had been lost by Adam’s sin.  “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men”  (Eph 4:8). 

Heavenly Father, you allowed your only Son to mount the wood of the cross for our salvation.  Grant me the gift of Piety so that I may always embrace every  human being as your child, and show proper reverence to them and to those things that serve their eternal salvation. 
Twelfth Station
Jesus Dies on the Cross – Fortitude

On the cross, Christ remains the supremely brave man.  He is the King of Martyrs.  The Church reminds us that, by undergoing his Passion and death, Christ gives new meaning to the virtue of patience.  Christians are asked to sustain the burdens of sin that remain in the world.  Whereas those who know not the Crucified One find nothing to commend in sufferings, the one who learns the lesson of Christ’s cross discovers the victory that belong to those who wait upon the Lord.  The virtue of fortitude strengthens us against succumbing to the blackmail of evil and sin in the world and in ourselves.

Heavenly Father, the death of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross opens for sinful mankind the way to salvation.  Christ your Son became obedient unto death, so much did he love us.  Grant me the grace to sustain whatever burdens this life on earth imposes so that nothing will separate me from the love that never ends.

Thirteenth Station
Jesus is Taken down from the Cross – Fortitude

Nothing can destroy the work of God.  The dead body of Jesus is still a sacred body.  The work of salvation continues.  As we profess in the Creed, “He descended into hell.”  A new vision of fortitude comes to birth in the world.  The courage of the Christian martyrs enables them to die rather than to deny what is held by Catholic and divine faith.  Martyrs, of yesteryear and today, exhibit the Holy Spirit’s Fortitude in its most exquisite form. By their own courageous deaths, they remind us of the true hierarchy of values in life.  God is worth a life.  Others who do not receive the gift of martyrdom must still imitate the spiritual fortitude of the martyrs.
Heavenly Father, your Son’s body was laid in the arms of this sorrowing Mother to teach us not to dread natural death.  Grant me the gift of Fortitude so that I may not shrink from the difficulties that my Christian vocation imposes, and may find comfort at last in the arms of my Mother, Mary.

 Fourteenth Station
Jesus is Laid in the Tomb – Temperance
The garden tomb is the place where the disciples of Jesus placed the dead body of Jesus.  We enter into the mystery of the Triduum, the three days that Christ’s body remains buried in the earth.  The silence of these days prepares us for the life of Christian recollection.  The virtue of temperance governs the right use of those good things that are required to sustain human nature.  Christian temperance ensures that our pleasures remain proportionate to the good they accompany,  The mysteries of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection appear more brightly to the one who is not unduly distracted, even by the necessities of life. 
Heavenly Father, the burial of Christ transforms every earthly sepulcher into a place of waiting and expectation.  Grant me the grace to prepare for a happy death so that having been buried once with Christ in Baptism, I may expect to receive from you the gift of everlasting life.
Pray the Stations of the Cross meditating on Religious Art accompanied to the Chant of the Stabat Mater
Pray the Stations of the Cross with meditations
Via Dolorosa Sign in Jerusalem
Virtue & Vice - Paolo Veronese
Triumph of Virtue over Vice - Paolo Veronese
Charity - William Adolphe Bouguereau
Crucifixion - Hans Menling
Jesus Taken Down From the Cross - Peter Paul Rubens
Pieta - Michelangelo - St. Peter's Basilica
Streets of Jerusalem - Via Dolorosa

Station One - Courtyard of al-Omariyah Madrasah (School for Islamic Studies) - traditional location of Antonia Fortress the designated Jerusalem residence of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate (destroyed by Titus in 70AD)
Station Two - The Church of the Flagellation, Catholic Franciscan Monastery in the eastern section of Jerusalem near Saint Stephen's Gate - traditional location of the Condemnation and the Imposition of the Cross.
Station Two - Stained Glass Detail behind altar - Jesus being flogged.
Station Three - Tradition holds this to be at the site of the Armenian Catholic Church built in the 15th Century.
Station Three - Altar in the Chapel of the Armenian Catholic Church.
Station Four - Tradition holds this to be at the site of the Armenian Chruch of Our Lady of the Spasm.
Station Four - Jesus Takes Up His Cross with Virgin and St. Dominic - Beato Angelico
Station Five - Franciscan Chapel established in 1229 dedicated to Simon the Cyrenian
Station Five - Inside Franciscan Chapel
Station Six - Greek Catholic Chapel is located behind the blue door it is named "The Holy Face."
Station Six - Inside The Holy Face Chapel
Station Seven - According to tradition, the 7th station would be where Jesus passed through the Gate of Judgment in Jerusalem. The station is marked by this door.
Station Seven - Behind the door is a small chapel run by the Franciscans since 1875.  Above the altar is a picture of Jesus falling under the weight of his cross.
Station Eight - The 8th station is close to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre .
Station Eight - The marker at the 8th station "IC-XC  NI-KA"  Jesus Christ Conquers.
Station Nine - Alley leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Station Nine - Entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Tradition holds that it was here that Jesus fell for the third time.
Station Ten - Tradition holds that Jesus was stripped of his garments near the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  The place is now the Chapel of the Franks.  This is the entrance to the Chapel of the Franks. 
Station Eleven - Fourteen - The traditional site of Golgotha, where Jesus was Crucified and buried are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Station Fourteen - Overlay of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher over the site of Golgotha and the Holy Sepulchre.

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