XIII

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    The Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem - Reflection
    The 13th Station: HERE Jesus is taken down from the Cross

    Time passed by and a soldier came to check on the crucified ones. He looked at them and realized that the two thieves were still alive while Jesus seemed dead. He asked for instructions from his superiors. He had to come and break the legs of the living and with a spear pierced open Jesus' side.

    Cruelty building upon cruelty. All this for the sanctity of the feast. The soldiers had received orders to get rid of the dead bodies before sunset because "the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath and they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down" (Jn 19,31).

    Everyone started to leave. They had to hurry to get back to their homes before the beginning of the Sabbath, otherwise they were not allowed to celebrate it.

    At the foot of the cross, Mary and those accompanying her stood in complete silence.

    Two men were seen coming up to Calvary. They went to the soldiers and presented them with a written permission. The soldiers did not hesitate. It was Pilate's order. They had to bring down the body of Jesus and hand him over to these two persons.

    One was "Joseph of Arimathea ...a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews..." the other "Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.

    Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs" (Jn 19,38-40). They took Jesus from the cross and laid him on the bare ground.

    His mother could see again her son. She could hug him for the last time. She could cry aloud and pray. She whispered softly "Why did they do this to you? Why had they taken you away from me?" She saw the bloodstained body and could not believe this was the same infant to whom she gave birth in the grotto and laid in a manger. She wanted to hear him scream again the scream of life, she wanted to understand fully the Mystery she had carried in her womb and who now laid there lifeless in her arms. Tears were streaming down her cheeks.

    Those standing by looked over to the horizon and realized they had to hurry to bury him before the sun sets in the west. They took away the lifeless body from his mother and wrapping him in white linen cloth carried him to the tomb.

    A Prayer

    Dear Jesus, they brought you down from the cross a lifeless body. You could not react, you could not feel when they tore the nails from your body, when they carried you down and laid you on the ground. You could not see the red weeping eyes of the faithful few who remained at your cross. You could not see your mother's expression and her composed presence next to you.

    You could not see but you knew! Yes Lord, seing your caring mother weeping soundlessly make me shiver, Lord. She was the "Blessed amongst women" whom you offered to us as mother.

    And I cannot but repeat again and again the words of the prayer: "Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death". Thank you dear Jesus for giving us such a caring Heavenly Mother!

    The Site


    A view of the altar of Our Lady of Sorrows

    The Thirteenth Station is commemorated at the Latin altar of Our Lady of Sorrows (Stabat Mater). This altar is placed between the two preceeding stations and is decorated with a wooden bust of Our Lady of Sorrows from the 16-17th century. This statue was offered by Portugal in 1778.
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    Another view of the "Stabat Mater"

    The slope of the rock, visible under the altar, shows that the nave on the right side of Calvary, unlike that of the left, does not rest directly on the rock. The scene of the taking down from the cross appears fairly early in Christian iconography. But the experts make a distinction between the lowering from the cross, where the body of Christ is suspended vertically, the deposition, where he is stretched out on the ground and the lamentation which preceded the burial in the tomb, and which shows the influence of the Oriental custom of funeral lamentations.
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    The Stone of the Unction

    Coming down from Calvary, on the way to the Holy Sepulchre, in front of the main entrance of the Church, lies what has become known as the Stone of the Unction. In Jerusalem the scene of the taking down from the Cross was usually linked to that of he anointing, and located to the west of Calvary on the spot where, before the Crusaders, stood the Chapel of Saint Mary.
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    Another view of the site of the Anointing

    The spot of the Anointing has been venerated since the end of the 13th century. The stone covers the rock on which the body of Jesus would have rested. Early pilgrims described this stone as black, green or white. Today it consists of a red polished block.
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    Reflections and Prayers by John Abela ofm
    Descriptive text by John Abela, ofm and Michael Olteanu based on research by Albert Storm (SBF - Jerusalem)
    Hi-Res pictures prepared by Michael Olteanu
    Display pictures prepared by John Abela ofm

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