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ESM Reenact Way of the Cross on St Peter’s Square

Via Crucis Centro San Lorenzo – en

© Sabrina Fusco / ALETEIA

Carly Andrews - published on 04/19/14

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

The Emmanuel School of Mission youth reenact the Via Crucis – The Way of the Cross – on St Peter’s Square this Holy Friday. 

The sky is a spectacular blue over the cobbled stones of the great old piazza, but a solemn and reverent tone sweeps the place.

Today Our Lord has been Crucified. The crowd has spoken, pilate dismissed, guards scourged, onlookers mocked.

Our Christ has been crucified. Beaten, stripped, scorned and nailed to a cross. The earth has trembled. The temple has cracked.

The ESM youth live these very last steps – of the passion of Jesus – in a piercingly real way. They take up the characters of the Via themselves, bearing witness of the Ultimate Sacrifice to all passers by.

Jesus is condemned to death by Pilate.
Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting: “Crucify him, crucify him!” ….So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted.” (Lk 23:21-25).

People passing pause in horror to see the violence of these young guards whipping the humiliated Christ on his knees.

He is scourged and beaten and a crown of thorns is thrust upon His head. 

The feet that accuse: they keep their distance from their Christ, denying Him into their lives; they mock and scorn and do not believe, remaining in emptyness and fear.

Jesus takes up his cross

The wood of the cross is heavy, for on it Jesus bears the sins of us all. He staggers under that burden, too great for one man alone (Jn 19:17).

On His whipped and flesh-torn back, Christ hoists the heavy wooden cross, laden with our sins, in a love that neaver ceases.

Christ falls for the first time

He has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole. (Is 53:4-5)

Jesus meets His mother
Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary: “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed – and a sword will pierce your own soul also” (Lk 2:34-35)

She tenderly kisses the hand of her beloved child, this purest and most humble of servants, of women, of mothers; this Queen in heaven. She willingly gave up her Son, even though the cost was the piercing of her own heart. 

Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross
They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mk 15:21).

The feet that willingly help Christ bear the cross: so starkly contrasted from the feet that condemned and scorned him. They embrace the Lord in His suffering and join Him in it. 

Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
“Come”, my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face; Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help (Ps 27:8-9).

Jesus falls for the second time
They surrounded me … They surrounded me like bees, they blazed like a fire of thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. The Lord has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death (Ps 118:11,12-13,18).

Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children” (Lk23:28).

Suffering silently with their Christ, the women accompanied Jesus all the way to the Cross, and stayed at his feet, never abandoning Him, never looking away; their faith and love uniting them in His Sacred Heart. 

Jesus falls for the third time
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us!” (Rom 8:35,37).

Jesus is stripped of his garments
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another: “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it”. This was to fulfil what the Scripture says: “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my tunic they cast lots”. And that is what the soldiers did (Jn 19:23-24).

Jesus is crucified
And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read: “The King of the Jews”. And with him they crucified two thieves, one on his right and one on his left. And the Scripture was fulfilled that says: “And he was counted among the lawless” (Mk 15:24-28).

​A harrowing scene on the sunlit piazza, Jesus’ screams pierced every ear and heart as that gruesome hammer forced the nails into His hands, spilling His precious blood.

"My God My God, why have you forsaken me?"

Jesus dies on the cross

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the Scripture): “I am thirsty”. A jar full of vinegar was standing there. So they put a sponge full of wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said: “It is finished”. Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn 19:28-30).

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46).

The bells of St Peter’s strike. The deed is done. Our Lord has died. 

Jesus is taken down from the cross
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him” (Mt 27:57-58).

This truly is the Son of God. 
At our hands, His blood has been spilled, and from it flows the water of life.

There is silence in the piazza as Mary tenderly caresses the face of her Son. Tears gently stream down her sorrowfilled gaze. Her pain is reflected in the faces of all those present in the prayer; all hearts crying out for mercy to their crucified Christ. 

Jesus is laid in the tomb

Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. They laid Jesus there (Jn 19:41-42).

Jenny, playing Mary, described how "powerful" the experience was for her. She recalls, "really personally I had to try and be humble in my performance, in my crying; it was an internal struggle, and I lifted up my tears for the Lord and for whoever was watching. And it was actually a really true emotion I was showing in my crying."

She pauses, eyes still filled with tears, "it wasn’t just for the performance, but I was truly seeing my Saviour being killed, and also being alongside the other girls, and knowing that they were crying and knowing that their hearts were hurting like mine…”

Chaplain Father Arthur Wallaert from France expressed that he was particularly touched by
 "the crying of the women, especially Mary and her attitude of following Christ, and feeling this compassion of Mary for her Son."

"There is a place for sorrow and crying in our faith" he reflected, "and for suffering." He described how moved he was to "see

 how Jesus can assume human suffering." 

He explained that "through the Cross, the true God is shown, that is, a God who is not far from us, but who is a
suffering God."

"It is really a very deep mystery" he concluded, "and it has touched me very much."

Photos by © Sabrina Fusco

Scripture references are the ones used by Pope Francis in the Via Crucis at the Colosseum

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