Lent is coming close to an end. In the coming weeks, the Church enters the final part of Lent: Passiontide. Next week…until the Vigil of the Resurrection in the night of Holy Saturday – crosses and statues are veiled and the Mass of each day takes us more deeply into the heart of the Paschal Mystery, as the Church cries out in faith: “Save us, Savior of the world, for by Your Cross and Resurrection You have set us free.”
The veiling of sacred images during Passiontide is a custom with roots in Christian antiquity, and it prepares us for the great sundering of Christ’s atoning death. But even in Passiontide, stained glass windows and the Stations of the Cross remain visible, and these artistic catechisms can teach us a great deal about the dignity and difficulty of being disciples of the Lord Jesus. This is true in any Catholic church, but it is most especially true in St. Anthony and St. Augustine, where we are blessed with sacred art of great beauty and power.
Running through the nave are the Fourteen Stations of the Cross, a devotion made popular by St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century. (Interestingly enough, St. Francis made popular the tradition making of the Nativity Scene at Christmas too.) At a time when Christians could not travel safely to Jerusalem because the Holy City was under Islamic rule, St. Francis devised a simple method for Christians to follow the Lord Jesus in the Way of the Cross in their own churches. The fourteen traditional stops or stations on the Via Dolorosa are depicted in works of art that invite pilgrims to pause and pray while meditating on Christ’s passion and atoning death on the Cross.
We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You…because by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world!