It’s only when Lent and Holy Week come around again that I realise how valuable I find the Stations of the Cross. Although I always look at the Stations images whenever I visit a church, I tend to overlook the practice until the week before Easter.
And yet they are such a powerful reminder not just of Christ’s Passion, but of a journey that faces us all.
I’m a somewhat discontented person by nature, and prone to envying others. Why can’t I go off to the south of France for three months like a neighbour I know? Why can’t I have a brand-new kitchen costing £5,000, as a pal is having? Why can’t I have as robust health as some of those hardier folk of my age? Why do I have to wake at 3am, brooding on my problems?
Discontentment is not an entirely negative force, because it can nudge you to be more ambitious, to improve and do better. But it is toxic when it’s disproportionate or narcissistic. And strange as it seems, a contemplation of the Stations of the Cross is a very grounding experience in reminding me that however glossy a life appears on the outside, everyone has their troubles and worries: everyone has a cross to bear, and everyone encounters suffering. Even if you don’t see what that cross is, it’s there somewhere.
The person with the gleaming new bathroom may have private afflictions and even depressions that you don’t know about. Those who can fly off to exotic locations may have had difficulties that you can’t even guess at. And if there are people who have the gift of good health in old age, there are many others who have not had the privilege of surviving into the senior years.
And, as the first Station of the Cross reminds us – “Jesus is condemned to death” – we are all on a journey towards death, and contemplating this is a fine spiritual exercise.
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