The Twelfth Station — Jesus Dies on the Cross
It was not on the day of Jesus’ death on Calvary that Saint John, who was there, wrote his Gospel. It was much later after many years of living the faith. Let us listen to a passage from this Apostle earlier in his Gospel in which Jesus himself explains the meaning of the cross. After all, as Jesus told Saint Peter at the washing of the feet during the Last Supper: You do not understand now but you will later.
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
History tells us that the Christians of the early centuries honored the cross of Jesus by placing precious jewels on it and even decorated their depictions of it in their mosaics with gold against a rich blue sky background (such as at Ravenna). This is quite a difference from the cinematic pictures of the crucifixion in the Jesus movies, where the horrible details of Jesus’ suffering and death are shown. The sad tears of Calvary have turned into the joy and hope once the eyes of faith have looked deeply into what really happened that first Good Friday — God’s love has conquered all for us through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. This is why it is our custom of kissing the feet of Jesus on the cross as we venerate the “glorious” instrument of our salvation in the Good Friday Liturgy.
So as we, too, stand beneath the cross today with Mary and John we see something more than a wounded and dying Jesus. The cruelty of the executioners gives way to the merciful covenant love of the Father and his Son who gather us into his everlasting company where there is no more death but eternal joy. This is the day of the great hope for which we yearn. Be sure to venerate the cross of Christ in your Good Friday worship, even it is at home. Embrace the crucified Lord by holding an image of the cross in your hands (perhaps the cross on your rosary) and reverently kiss his feet. His is the Cross of Glory (as Mary of Bethany reverenced him for his love and suffering by anointing his feet just prior to his death, John 21:1-7; see also Luke 7:38.)
We adore; you, O Christ, and we praise you,
because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
[Other Stations of the Cross can be found in the Archives on the Blog page.]