April 13, 2017 Comments Off on The Thirteenth Station: Jesus Is Taken Down from the Cross
I’ve been staring at a photocopy of the image of this station all through Lent as part of my daily meditation, knowing that I would be writing about it during Holy Week. The thirteenth is a station that poses some challenges, not the least of which is that it comes more from Sacred Tradition than from Scripture. When I went to Google looking for inspiration, I found that there were at least three names for the station: “The body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his mother;” “Jesus is taken down from the cross;” and the compromise on one Roman Catholic website “The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross and placed in the arms of his mother.” Of course, in Scripture, when the body of Jesus is taken down from the cross, it is given into the charge of Joseph of Arimathea, at his request, for burial in his own tomb. There is no mention of the body being laid in Mary’s arms first, though it is easy to understand why Sacred Tradition would have that happen.
Every time I looked at this station, I noticed something different. I invite you to do the same. Perhaps you’ll focus on the figure of Jesus, larger than any of the others in the painting, and rightfully so; or on the shadowy figure off to the right—just who is that? Or you may choose the person taking down the body; or the diminutive figure of the anguished Mary on the left. You may choose to focus on one of the inanimate elements of the station: the cross itself, the rope, the nail, the linen cloth, or something I haven’t even mentioned. You can then write or think your own meditation on this Maundy Thursday to prepare for Good Friday.
To get you started, I’ll tell you what happened when I focused on the figure of Mary. She looks so sad and vulnerable. Here’s what I thought of first when I looked at her. She brought to my mind the weekly Stations of the Cross that I attended during Lent at the Roman Catholic elementary school I attended from second to fifth grade. The ritual took place on Friday afternoons and included the singing of the Stabat Mater. While I don’t really remember any of the verses that we heard from the choir as the Communion motet on Palm Sunday, I do remember the refrain in the version of the hymn that we students sang; it has stayed with me all these years: At the cross her station keeping, stood the mournful mother weeping, close to Jesus to the last. Mary serves as a stand-in for all of us down the generations, weeping at the cross, helpless, despairing. What we can’t overlook, however, is the hope of the Resurrection. Just as Good Friday gives way to Easter, whenever we despair, we must not forget to hope. That’s what our faith is all about.
– Julia Alberino