Our Stations of the Cross in Emery Down Church
Pilate washes his hands of the guilt of Christ’s execution.
In the corner is one of the thirty pieces of silver, the blood-money given to Judas for betraying Jesus.
Matthew 27: 24 – When Pilate saw that it was no use to go on, but that a riot might break out, he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd, and said, “I am not responsible for the death of this man! This is your doing!”
The corner symbol is of wood and nails.
John 19: 17 – He went out, carrying his cross, and came to “The Place of the Skull”, as it is called. (In Hebrew it is called “Golgotha”.)
The Gospel accounts do not refer to the three falls, but it is a perfectly credible tradition: based on Jesus asking three times for the cup of suffering to be taken from him – Matthew 26: 42 “My Father, if this cup of suffering cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done”. Each time Jesus falls the weight of suffering increases.
The symbol here is of the thorns of the mocking crown forced on Jesus by the soldiers.
Again, this is not scriptural. We know that Mary was there, however, for she stood, with the disciple John, at the foot of the cross (see Station 12).
A miniature of the ancient icon ‘The Virgin of the Sign’ here signifies her rôle in the Christian story.
Simon was compelled by the soldiers to help Jesus carry the cross. We guess that the experience converted Simon, for the Gospel mentions his sons as though they were familiar friends to the readers. Cyrene is in modern day eastern Libya, making Simon the earliest known African follower of Jesus.
The symbol is of the integration of light and shadow.
Mark 15: 21 – On the way they met a man named Simon, who was coming into the city from the country, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was from Cyrene and was the father of Alexander and Rufus.)
This incident is legendary, but quite feasible as Jesus had many women followers. It may be based on early accounts of the shroud of Jesus. ‘Veronica’ means ‘true likeness’. In the legend a woman who pities Jesus wipes the blood and sweat from his face with her veil, and finds his image imprinted upon it. So compassion results in becoming Christ-like.
The symbol of a mirror reminds us that we too are to be ‘icons of Christ’.
The token chalice reminds us of Jesus in Gethsemane.
Luke: 22: 42 – “Father,” he said, “if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me. Not my will, however, but your will be done.”
The women weep for Jesus, but he warns them to beware of sufferings ahead of them. “If this happens to the green wood, what will happen to the dry?”
The token is of the split wood – a visible parable.
Luke 23: 27-28 – A large crowd of people followed him; among them were some women who were weeping and wailing for him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Women of Jerusalem! Don’t cry for me, but for yourselves and your children.”
He is bound by the fate of a fearsome death.
The corner symbol is of a knotted rope.
Matthew 27: 26 – Then Pilate set Barabbas free for them; and after he had Jesus whipped, he handed him over to be crucified.
The soldiers dice to see who takes the seamless robe as his prerequisite. The two figures who strip him seem like acolytes stripping the altar for Good Friday.
John 19: 23-24 – After the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier. They also took the robe, which was made of one piece of woven cloth without any seams in it. The soldiers said to one another, “Let’s not tear it; let’s throw dice to see who will get it.” This happened in order to make the scripture come true: “They divided my clothes among themselves and gambled for my robe.” And this is what the soldiers did.
Although nailing was a common form of crucifixion, we know about Jesus’ nails from John’s account of Jesus’ resurrection appearance to ‘doubting’ Thomas: John 20: 25.
A real nail reminds us of his “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing”.
Luke 23: 33-34a – When they came to the place called “The Skull”, they crucified Jesus there, and the two criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. Jesus said, “Forgive them, Father! They don’t know what they are doing.”
Here the cross is seen as the Tree of Life, and it is rooted in mystery, signified by the spiral. The witnesses above are sun and moon, and below are Mary and the disciple John.
John 19: 28-30 – Jesus knew that by now everything had been completed; and in order to make the scripture come true, he said, “I am thirsty”. A bowl was there, full of cheap wine; so a sponge was soaked in the wine, put on a stalk of hyssop, and lifted up to his lips. Jesus drank the wine and said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, two members of the Jewish leadership, asked to prepare the body of Jesus for burial.
At the side is the mystic fish, the letters of whose name in Greek spell the initials ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour’ [ΙΧΘΥС].
John 19: 38-39 – After this, Joseph, who was from the town of Arimathea, asked Pilate if he could take Jesus’ body. (Joseph was a follower of Jesus, but in secret, because he was afraid of the Jewish authorities.) Pilate told him he could have the body, so Joseph went and took it away. Nicodemus, who at first had gone to see Jesus at night, went with Joseph, taking with him about one hundred pounds of spices, a mixture of myrrh and aloes.
The women say their ‘Farewell’ – or so they think – and the great stone is rolled across to seal the tomb.
Matthew 27: 59-61 – So Joseph took it [Jesus’ body], wrapped it in a new linen sheet, and placed it in his own tomb, which he had just recently dug out of solid rock. Then he rolled a large stone across the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there, facing the tomb.
The deepest point is the moment of victory. Symbolically Jesus grasps Adam and Eve and rises with them, and with them all of us, their descendants, who have trusted Christ, into resurrection life.
No symbol is needed here, instead the gold that surrounds Jesus continues over the edge and down the back of the panel, as out of sight as is the life beyond death to us now.
Acts 1: 9-11 – After saying this, he was taken up to heaven as they watched him, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They still had their eyes fixed on the sky as he went away, when two men dressed in white suddenly stood beside them and said, “Galileans, why are you standing there looking up at the sky? This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw him go to heaven.”
Scripture extracts are taken from the Good News Bible published by The Bible Society/Collins © American Bible Society.