How do we experience the sufferings in our lives and those of whom we love? Do we understand what the Passion of Our Lord reveals to us and makes present to us now; not only Christ's suffering and love for us, but His suffering in us? These are some of the questions that Caryll Houselander, mystic and writer, puts to us in the following reflection. The Stations of the Cross are meant to be more than a pious devotion for us but rather a means through which we encounter the Beloved and are shown how our suffering has been transformed into a way of love. Daughters, Christ wants you to know His presence in your daily trials; not merely as an outside observer, albeit the most compassionate. Rather, He desires that every trial, every moment of sorrow become a point of connection, a moment of intimacy.
The Stations of the Cross are not given to us only to remind us of the historical Passion of Christ, but to show us what is happening now, and happening to each one of us. Christ did not become man or to lead His own short life on earth—unimaginable mercy though that would have been—but to live each of our lives. He did not choose His Passion only suffer it in His own human nature—tremendous though that would have been—but in order to suffer it in the suffering of each one of His members through all ages, until the end of time.
Most of Christ’s earthly life was hidden. He was hidden in His Mother’s womb, He was hidden in Egypt and in Nazareth. During His public life He was hidden often, when He fled into “a mountain to pray.” During the forty days of His risen life, again and again, He disappeared and hid Himself from men. Today He is hidden in the Blessed Sacrament, in Heaven, and in His Mystical Body on earth.
But in His Passion He was exposed, made public property to the whole of humankind. The last time He went up into a mountain to pray, it was to pray out loud in a voice that would echo down the ages, ringing in the ears of humankind forever. It was to be stripped naked before the whole world forever, not only in body but in mind and soul; to reveal not only the height and the depth and the breadth of His love for us but its intimacy, its sensitivity, its humanity.
All His secrets were out. Every detail of His Passion revealed something more of His character as man—not only His heroism and His majesty but His human necessities, and the human limitations which He deliberately adopted as part of His plan of love in order to be able to indwell us as we are, with our limitations and psychological as well as physical necessities and interdependence on one another. He was not only simulating our humanness outwardly but feeling as we feel; not only feeling His own grief, fear, compassion, need of sympathy, and so on, as man, but ours; not only knowing every nerve and fibre of His own love for us, but that of each one of us for one another.
The Passion of Christ was an experience which included in itself every experience, except sin, of every member of the human race. If one may say this with reverence, the fourteen incidents of the Stations of the Cross show not only the suffering but the psychology of Christ. Above all, they show, in detail, His way of transforming suffering by love. He shows us, step by step, how that plan of love can be carried out by men, women, and children today, both alone in the loneliness of their individual lives and together in communion with one another.
It is a showing not simply of the way of sorrows which we are all destined to walk, if we will or not, but of the way of love which heals sorrow, and which we all can take if we walk in the footsteps Christ has marked out for us, and not only imitate Him but identify ourselves with Him. The stations show us how each one can lighten the heavy cross that is laid upon the bent back of the whole human race now, how each one in the power of Christ’s love can sweeten his own suffering and that of those who are dear to him.
This is why the prayer, “We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world,” echoes down the centuries, not in tones of fear and reluctance but as a cry of welcome, a tender cry, in the tones of a lover’s greeting, to Him whom every person must meet on the way of sorrows, changed for her to the way of love.
Excerpt From: Caryll Houselander. “Way of the Cross.”
(Caryll Houselander (29 September 1901–12 October 1954) was a lay Roman Catholic ecclesiastical artist, mystic, popular religious writer and poet.)