The Stations of the Cross: A Liturgy

I wrote this liturgy a year ago as part of a Good Friday celebration at the hospital where I work as a chaplain. Using the traditional Stations of the Cross as invitations to consider how people might experience suffering in a hospital.

Mark 15: 33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three.… 34 And at three …Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

1.) Pilate Condemns Jesus: “Your tests came back…and so has your cancer.” “…How long? How long? How long do I have doc?” “Weeks…maybe a month. I’m sorry there’s nothing more I can do.” With that, the doctor washed his hands and left the exam room. With those who receive a death sentence disguised as a diagnosis, we cry out with you, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

2.) Jesus Accepts His Cross: She hears monitors beeping. There is a din of voices talking in shorthand and letters. She sees blue and green clad men and women moving quickly. Panic sets in. She remembers the screeching brakes, the headlights coming towards her, and then everything went black. Panic and shock. She sees that she is in bandages and splints. Her breathing is fast and labored. There are tubes running in and out of her. She can feel the wires of her leads. With those who see the cross that they must bear, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

3.) Jesus Falls for the First Time: “God will not give me more than I can handle?” Brave words from a burn patient, but after weeks of wound care, physical therapy, and surgery on top of surgery…and the rest of her life awaits. Kyrie Eleison. With those who fall under the weight of their burden, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

4.) Jesus Meets His Mother, Mary: “She’s too young to be this sick.” No mother wants to outlive her son. Through long days and endless nights, she struggles to stay bedside. With those who weep like Mary and those who moan like Martha, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

5.) Simon Helps Carry the Cross: “You can’t do it all by yourself! Let me help. Just rest, I got it.” He thinks about how she keeps the house… How she manages the finances…takes care of the kids. He is troubled.  She can’t carry it all… For in the end, the heaviest load will be his alone to bear. With those who are resigned to their diagnosis, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

6.) Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus: “There is nothing else that we can do.” Still, she rounds faithfully, monitors his vitals, and answers his call bell. She keeps him clean. She safeguards his dignity. She wipes his forehead. The gauze soak up his sweat and blood. With our many St. Veronicas dressed in blue who continue to do when nothing more can be done, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

7.) Jesus Falls for the Second Time: With his illness in remission. With his injuries healing. And with that he is wheeled into rehab. Learning to walk proves hard. He stumbles often. He falls, again and again. He wonders if he will ever walk again. With those discouraged by slow progress, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

8.) Jesus Meets the Three Women of Jerusalem: He is surrounded by friends. He is surrounded by family. Each takes a turn sharing a favorite memory. A steady stream of well-wishers enters and exit, pausing only to say their goodbyes. He’s still alive. He’s alert. He’s oriented. He gets it, “I’m going to die.” With each goodbye, he becomes more overwhelmed. With those who see death coming, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

9.) Jesus Falls for the Third Time: “She’s a repeat customer…just let here to metabolize.” Three times sober. Three times relapsed. With those that know the crippling hold of addiction, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

10.) Jesus is Stripped of his Clothes: He surrendered his khaki pants, business casual shirt, and dress shoes. In their place, he gets a green gown and a pair of ill-fitting socks. His new clothes expose his vulnerability. With our brothers and sisters who must surrender their dignity by becoming a diagnosis, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

11.) Jesus is Nailed to the Cross: “Ma’am we can only manage your pain, we cannot eliminate it.” With those who are in agony we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

12.) Jesus Dies on the Cross: Death came after an hour of CPR. Death came with so many broken ribs. Death came as a soul bled out. Death came and a soul gasped for air. Death came and eyes rolled back. Death came announced by a flatline. With those who say, “it is finished,” we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

13.) Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross: “Wait in the hallway!” Nurses enter and extubate. Nurses turn off monitors. Nurses unhook leads. Nurses tidy. Nurses straighten. Nurses usher loved ones back in. Nurses say, “I’m sorry for your loss.” With those who find themselves in the wake of finality, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

14.) Jesus is Placed in the Tomb: “What remains is the difficult conversation about what to do with her remains.” Remains, but no longer a person. No longer a wife. No longer a mother. No longer a sister. No longer a daughter. With those who are people of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

15.) Resurrection: Enough of this dark Friday. Tell me, will Sunday ever come? And all of creation cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s