Prayer Before the Cross

This Sunday all the statutes and crosses in our church are covered in purple. This veiling is hard to miss and serves as a reminder to us, to get ready. The veiled images build within us a longing for Easter Sunday.

It can seem strange that the Crucifix is covered up during these two weeks of Passiontide. The veils seem out of place and even counterintuitive. But through this absence of images, our senses are heightened and we become more aware of what is missing. Similarly, the suppression of the Alleluia during Lent effectively demonstrates that we are in exile from our true Home, where the angels sing ‘Alleluia’ without ceasing.

We might veil the statues and Crucifix — but not the Stations of the Cross. Jesus, in today’s Gospel, says: And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself. By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die. Jesus is talking about the cross, on which he will be lifted up before the eyes of all the world. He does not force a response from us, but draws us to himself. Down the ages people have been drawn into the love of Christ through prayer before the cross. Francis of Assisi spoke of the cross as a book.

Can I suggest that you set before yourself an image of Jesus on the cross, and pray (I have been helped here by the thoughts and words of Sylvester O’Flynn, a Capuchin friar):-

Lord Jesus, I see you lifted before my eyes. You have totally given yourself to the Father’s will. You have totally given yourself up for love of me. You open your arms on the cross in a worldwide invitation and embrace. I ponder now your total love. In your wounds I see the ugly consequences of sin. In your outstretched arms I see the embrace of your love. Draw me through your open side, that I may ever reside in your heart of love. As your cross is the greatest manifestation of love, then the greatest contradiction of the cross is my selfishness. If I am truly to love as you love, Lord, then let me see the crucifixion of my selfishness, that I may be raised up to let you love others through me. Lift me up, draw me out of my fallen, wounded condition. Raise me up in hope when darkness and fear surround me. Strengthen me to live with virtues that reflect the beauty of your love in the world. Help me let go of all that I hold onto. Empty my hands so that they can receive from you. Draw me into your heart, so that my heart may lose its selfishness and be absorbed in your union with the Father. May I know what it is to abandon myself, as you did, to the glory of the Father.

Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest