Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Station to Station by Gary Jansen

Though traditionally considered a meditation on suffering, the Stations of the Cross is more than a simple, ancient act of piety. It is a portrait of grace under pressure, a collection of specific reactions from Jesus during times of crisis. In our current age of global terrorism, economic uncertainty, widespread and severe depression and anxiety, and environmental devastation, the Stations offer us an opportunity to strengthen our souls and grow the mystical muscles of our hearts. Using the basics of Ignatian prayer, in particular imaginative prayer, we can hop aboard a time machine that takes us back to the final moments in Christ's life. Here, we can not only meditate on sorrow, but also ask two essential questions: how did Jesus respond to suffering, and how do we?
If Catholics think about the Stations of the Cross, it is most likely associated with Lent and the familiar stations in every Catholic church.

Gary Jansen breaks out of that mold by meditating on the stations against the backdrop of our own everyday lives. Using imaginative prayer, the stations can become the stepping stones of a path to spiritual awakening. To do this Jansen first gives a brief history of the stations of the cross, discusses imaginative (Ignatian prayer) and tells how praying the stations changed his life.

The second half of the book takes us through each of the stations one by one. Jansen is using the scriptural stations introduced by Pope John Paul II in 1991. I discovered these when poking around the Vatican website one day and was immediately captured by them. So I was delighted to see that the  author was using them as the focal point for prayer.

Each station gives us the appropriate scripture, Jesus's response, a way to encounter Jesus, a bit of scripture as a prayer guide, and a guide to reviewing and imagining the station. These, of course, are flavored with Jansen's own experiences and realizations which help to see the ways that God uses the meditations to speak to your own life. I was struck, for example, by Jansen's own reflection on Judas's betrayal that we are not emptied when we are betrayed but rather bloated with paralyzing inner talk about it.

This would be a great Lenten book, of course — hey, it's the stations! More importantly it is a book to use daily so that the stations become not a "special occasion" prayer but one that enriches us always.

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