The Way of the Cross at the Colosseum With the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, Presiding Good Friday 2004

Meditations by Abbot André Louf
INTRODUCTION As every year on the evening of Good Friday, the liturgical commemoration of the Lord's Passion, the Church of God in Rome, guided by its Pastor, the Successor of Peter, participates in the devotional practice of the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum. Pilgrims from the worldwide household of God walk with the Christian community in Rome along the fourteen stations while millions of faithful of every language, people and culture take part in the prayers and meditations through radio and television broadcasts. A felicitous coincidence of calendars this year has the Christians of East and West celebrating simultaneously the great mystery of our one Lord's Passion, Death and Resurrection. All are therefore able to take part simultaneously in the commemoration of the founding event of their faith. This year the biblical texts for the Way of the Cross are taken from the Gospel of Luke and the meditation texts and prayers were composed by Abbot André Louf, a Cistercian monk of strict observance who is now living in a hermitage after exercising his ministry as Abbot in his community of Notre-Dame of Mont-des-Cats in France for thirty-five years, guiding it in the footsteps of Jesus Christ from the years of the Second Vatican Council to the threshold of the third millennium. He is a monk steeped in the Scriptures thanks to the daily practice of the lectio divina, an avid reader of the Church Fathers of the first centuries and of the Flemish mystics, a father of monks who is able to accompany his brothers in their spiritual life and in the daily quest for that "one heart and soul" that was characteristic of the apostolic community of Jerusalem. He is, then, a cenobite monk for whom solitude and communion are in constant existential converse: solitude before God and fraternal communion, inner unification and community unity, reducing all to the simplicity of what is essential and to the opening up to the varied expressions of a living faith. This is the daily undertaking of the monk, the dynamic of his stability in a specific community reality, the "work of obedience" (Rule of St. Benedict, prol. 2) by which a return is made to God.

The texts of this Way of the Cross are filled with this liberating monastic labour, which is also the labour of every baptized member of the living community of the Church. Jesus is often found alone, sometimes by his free choice, other times because everyone has abandoned him: he is alone in the Mount of Olives, face to face with the Father; he is alone in facing the betrayal of one of his disciples and in the denial of another of their number; he faces the Sanhedrin alone, the judgment of Pilate, the scorn of the soldiers; alone he takes up the weight of the cross; alone he abandons himself totally to the arms of his Father. But Jesus' solitude is not fruitless, quite the contrary: since it arises from an intimate union with the Father and the Spirit, it in turn creates communion in those who enter into a living relationship with it. Thus in his Passion Jesus encounters the fraternal support of the Cyrenean; he recognizes the consolation of the women disciples who have come up to Jerusalem with him; he opens the doors of his Kingdom to the centurion and to the good thief, who are able to look beyond appearances; he sees the beginnings of the community taking place at the foot of the cross, being formed by his mother and the beloved disciple. Finally, the precise moment of what seems to be his greatest solitude, when he is laid in the tomb, when his body is swallowed by the earth, becomes the passage towards a renewed cosmic community: having descended to the underworld, Jesus meets all of humanity in Adam and Eve, announces salvation to "the spirits in prison" (1 Pet 3:19) and reestablishes the community of paradise. For every disciple of Jesus Christ, participating in the Way of the Cross means entering into the mystery of solitude and communion experienced by our Master and Lord, accepting the will of the Father for us all, until we are able to see, beyond the suffering and death, the life without end that bursts forth from the pierced side and the empty tomb.

OPENING PRAYER Holy Father: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. R/. Amen Brothers and Sisters, We have come together once more to follow the Lord Jesus on the way that leads to Calvary. There we shall meet people who followed him to the end - his Mother, the Beloved Disciple, the women who followed him in his preaching of the Good News and all those, moved by compassion, who sought to console him and to alleviate his pain. We shall also meet those who called for his death and whom he, in an abundance of love, forgave. Let us ask him to pour forth into our hearts the sentiments that were his (Phil 2:5) so that we may "know him, and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible [we] may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Phil 3:10-11).

This year, in which the date of Easter is providentially the same in all the Churches, our thought goes to Jesus' disciples, who throughout the world commemorate on this same day his death and his being placed in the tomb. Let us pray. Brief pause in silence. Jesus, innocent victim of sin, receive us as companions on your Paschal path, which from death leads to life, and teach us to live the time that we spend on earth rooted in faith in you, who have loved us and given yourself up for us (Gal 2:20). You are the Christ, the one Lord, who live and reign for ever and ever. R/. Amen

GIOVANNI DI PAOLO (1395/1400 ca. - 1482) TEMPERA ON WOOD - Vatican Museum Picture-gallery

FIRST STATION Jesus on the Mount of Olives V/. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. R/. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world From the Gospel according to Luke 22:39-46 [Jesus] came out, and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place he said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation." And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done." And there appeared to an angel from heaven m strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, "Why do you sleep? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation." MEDITATION

Having arrived at the beginning of his Passover, Jesus is in the presence of his Father. How could it have been any different, since his secret dialogue of love with the Father had never ended? "The hour has come" (Jn 16:32), the hour foreseen from the beginning, announced to the disciples, which is unlike any other, which contains all the others and is the sum of them at the very moment that they are about to be fulfilled in the arms of the Father. And suddenly that hour is the cause of fear. Nothing is hidden from this fear. but there, in the quiet of anguish, Jesus takes refuge with his Father in prayer. In Gethsemane that evening the struggle becomes fierce hand-to-hand combat, so bitter that on Jesus' face sweat changes to blood. And Jesus dares one last time, in the presence of his Father, to give expression to the torment that seizes him: "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done" (Lk 22:42). Two wills clash for a moment, and then come together in the abandonment to love already announced by Jesus: "I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father" (Jn 14:31). PRAYER Jesus, our brother, in order to open to all people the path of Passover you chose to experience temptation and fear: teach us to take refuge with you, and to repeat your words of abandonment to and acceptance of the Father's will, which in Gethsemane obtained the salvation of the universe. Grant that the world may know through your disciples the power of your limitless love (Jn 13:1), the love that consists in giving one's life for one's friends (Jn 15:13). Jesus, on the Mount of Olives, alone, before the Father, you renewed your acceptance of his will. R/. To you be praise and glory for ever. All: Pater noster … Stabat mater …

MAESTRO DEL CROCEFISSO DI TREVI (14th century) TEMPERA ON WOOD - Vatican Museum Picture Gallery

SECOND STATION Jesus, betrayed by Judas, is arrested V/. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. R/. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world From the Gospel according to Luke 22:47-48 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, "Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?" MEDITATION From the very first time he is named, Judas is indicated as the one "who betrayed him" (Mt 10:4; Mk 3:19; Lk 6:13); the tragic name of "traitor" remains for ever linked to his memory. How could he arrive at this point, one whom Jesus had chosen to follow him so closely? Did Judas let himself get carried away by an exasperated love for Jesus, which became suspicion and resentment? The kiss would lead us to believe so, a gesture that shows love, but that became the gesture handing Jesus over to the crowd. Or perhaps he was overcome by his disappointment with a Messiah

who rejected the political role of liberating Israel from foreign domination? It would not take long for Judas to realize that his subtle blackmail ended up in disaster. For it was not the death of the Messiah that he desired, but only that the Messiah be shaken up into taking on more resolute action. And then: the futile regret for his gesture, the refusal of the money of betrayal (Mt 27:4), the giving in to despair. when Jesus speaks to Judas as "the son of perdition", he limits himself to recalling that thus the Scriptures will be fulfilled (Jn 17:12). A mystery of iniquity that escapes us, but that cannot overcome the mystery of mercy. PRAYER Jesus, friend of men and women, you came to earth and took on our flesh, in order to offer your solidarity to your brothers and sisters in humanity. Jesus, meek and gentle of heart, you bring comfort to those who suffer under the weight of their burdens (Mt 11:29); and yet your offer of life has often been refused! Even among those who have received you there are those who deny you, who have betrayed the commitment they made. But you have never stopped loving them, to the point that you would leave all the others to go in search of them, in the hope of bringing them back to you, carrying them on your shoulders (Lk 15:5) or letting them lean on your chest (Jn 13:25). We entrust to your infinite mercy your children preyed upon by discouragement and despair. Grant that they might seek refuge with you and "not despair ever of your mercy" (Rule of St. Benedict 3, 74). Jesus, you continue to love those who refuse your love and tirelessly search out those who betray you and abandon you. R/. To you be praise and glory for ever. All: Pater noster … Cuius animam …


THIRD STATION Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin V/. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. R/. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world From the Gospel according to Luke 22:66-71 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes; and they led him away to their council, and they said, "If you are the Christ, tell us." But he said to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God." And they all said, "Are you the Son of God, then?" And he said to them, "You say that I am." And they said, "What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips." MEDITATION

Jesus is alone before the Sanhedrin. His disciples have fled, Confused by his arrest to which someone tried to react with violence. Gone too is the one who just before had exclaimed: "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (Jn 11:16). Fear has defeated them. The brutality of the event has prevailed over their fragile intentions. They have surrendered, carried away by the current of cowardice. They leave Jesus to face his fate alone. And yet they were the circle of his intimate companions, Jesus had called them "friends" (Jn 15:15). Round him now there is only a hostile crowd, of one mind in desiring his death. There were other times that the shadow of death threatened Jesus, when he alluded to his divine origin. There were other times when his listeners tried to stone him. "It is not for a good work," they say, "but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God" (Jn 10:33). Now the high priest invites him to declare before everyone whether he is the Son of God or not. Jesus does not dissimilate: he affirms as much with the same solemnity. He thus seals his death sentence. PRAYER Jesus, faithful witness (Rev 1:5), facing death you serenely proclaimed your true divine identity and announced your glorious return at the end of time in order to bring to completion the work that the Father had entrusted to you. We entrust to your mercy our doubts, our continual wavering between bursts of generosity and moments of lethargy, during which we allow "the cares of the world and the delight in riches" (Mt 13:22) to smother the spark that your glance or your word has ignited in our hardened hearts. Encourage those who have begun to follow you, lest they become frightened before the difficulties and sacrifices of which they catch sight. Remind them that you are meek and humble of heart and that your yoke is easy and your burden light. Grant that they may experience the rest that only you can offer (Mt 11:28-30). Jesus, serene before your impending death, the only just one before the injustice of the Sanhedrin. R/. To you be praise and glory for ever. All: Pater noster … O quam …

PENSIONANTE DEI SARACENI (active in Rome 1610-1620) OIL-PAINTING ON CANVAS - Vatican Museum

FOURTH STATION Peter denies Jesus V/. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. R/. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world From the Gospel according to Luke 22:54-62 Peter followed at a distance; and when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a maid, seeing him as he sat in the light and gazing at him, said, "This man also was with him." But he denied it, saying, "Woman, I do not know him." And a little later some one else saw him and said, "You also are one of them." But Peter said, "Man, I am not." And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, "Certainly this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean." But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are saying." And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, "Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly. MEDITATION Of the fleeing disciples, two come back, following at a distance the mob and its prisoner. Affection mixed with curiosity, perhaps; an unawareness of the risks. It is not long before Peter is recognized:

his Galilean accent traps him as does the testimony of those who saw him draw his sword on the Mount of Olives. Peter hides in a lie: he denies everything. He does not realize that in this way he is denying his Lord, he is contradicting his own forceful declarations of absolute fidelity. He does not understand that in this way he is rejecting his own identity. But a cock crows, the Lord turns, he looks squarely at Peter and the crowing takes on meaning. Peter understands and bursts out weeping. Bitter tears, but sweetened by the recollection of Jesus' words: "I did not come to judge but to save" (Jn 12:47). Now they are repeated by that glance of "mercy and grace", the same glance of the Father, "slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love", who "does not deal with according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities" (Ps 103:8,10). Peter sinks deeply into that glance. On Easter morning Peter's tears will be tears of joy. PRAYER Jesus, the only hope of those who, weak and injured, fall; you know what is in every person (Jn 2:25). Our frailty increases your love and prompts your forgiveness. Help us, in the light of your mercy, to recognize our missteps and, saved by your love, to proclaim the marvels of your grace. Grant that those who exercise authority over their brothers and sisters may take pride not in having been chosen, but rather in their weakness by reason of which your strength resides in them (2 Cor 12:9). Jesus, your turning to look at Peter causes bitter tears of repentance, a river of peace of a new baptism. R/. To you be praise and glory for ever. All: Pater noster … Quae maerebat …


FIFTH STATION Jesus is judged by Pilate V/. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. R/. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world From the Gospel according to Luke 23:13-25 Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, "You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him; neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Behold, nothing deserving death has been done by him; I will therefore chastise him and release him." But they all cried out together, "Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas" -a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city, and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus; but they shouted out, "Crucify, crucify him!" A third time he said to them, "Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no crime deserving death; I will therefore chastise him and release him." But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted.

He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will. MEDITATION A man without any guilt whatsoever stands before Pilate. Rights and the law give way to the decisions of a totalitarian power that seeks the consensus of the crowd. In an unjust world, the just can only be rejected and condemned. Hurray for murder, death to him who gives life. Let Bar-Abba be freed, the criminal called "son of the Father", let him who has revealed the Father and is true Son of the Father be crucified. Other people, not Jesus, have done what is evil in the sight of God. But power fears for its own authority, it forsakes the authoritativeness that comes from doing what is right, and it abdicates. Pilate, the authority with the power of life and death, Pilate, who did not hesitate to smother in blood the hotspots of rebellion (Lk 13:1), Pilate, who governed with an iron fist that obscure province of the Empire, dreaming of greater power, abdicates, he hands over an innocent man, and in so doing hands over his own authority, to a raucous crowd. The one who in silence had abandoned himself to the will of the Father is thus abandoned to the will of those who cry out loudest. PRAYER Jesus, innocent lamb brought to slaughter (Is 53:7) in order to take away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29), turn your tender gaze upon all the innocent who are persecuted, to prisoners who groan in horrifying jails, to victims of love for the oppressed and for justice, to those who see no end to a long punishment that is unwarranted. Your intimately perceived presence softens their bitterness and dissipates the darkness of imprisonment. Do not let us resign ourselves ever to see enchained the freedom that you have given to every person, created in your image and likeness. Jesus, humble king of a kingdom of justice and peace, you are radiant dressed in your purple mantle, your blood shed for love. R/. To you be praise and glory for ever. All: Pater noster … Quis est …

MAESTRO DELL'OSSERVANZA (15th Century) TEMPERA ON WOOD - Vatican Museum Picture Gallery

SIXTH STATION Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns V/. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. R/. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world From the Gospels according to Luke and to John Lk 22:63-65; Jn 19:2-3 Now the men who were holding Jesus mocked him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and asked him, "Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?" And they spoke many other words against him, reviling him. And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe: they came up to him, saying "Hail, King of the Jews!" MEDITATION To the unjust condemnation is added the outrage of the scourging. Handed over to men, Jesus' body is disfigured. That body received from the Virgin Mary, which made Jesus the "fairest of the sons of men",

which dispensed the anointing of the Word - "grace is poured upon your lips" (Ps 45:2) is now cruelly torn by the whip. The face transfigured on Mount Tabor is disfigured in the praetorium: the face of the one who, insulted, responds not, of the one who, made a nameless slave, frees those who languish in slavery. Jesus advances resolutely on the path of pain, fulfilling in his own living flesh, having now become the living voice, the prophecy of Isaiah: "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting" (Is 50:6). The prophecy that opens to a new future of transfiguration. PRAYER Jesus, reflection of the glory of God and bearer of the very stamp of his nature (Heb 1:3), you have accepted being reduced to a broken figure of a man, one condemned to torture, who moves to pity. You carried our sufferings, you took on our pain, you were crushed for our iniquities (Is 53:5). By your wounds, you healed the wounds of our sins. Grant that those who are unjustly despised or emarginated, those who have been disfigured by torture or illness, may understand that, with you and like you crucified to the world (Gal 2:19), they make up what is lacking in your Passion, for the salvation of mankind (Col 1:24). Jesus, the brokenness of a profaned humanity, in you is revealed the sacredness of man: trove of love that returns good for evil. R/. To you be praise and glory for ever. All: Pater noster … Pro peccatis …


SEVENTH STATION Jesus takes up the cross V/. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. R/. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world From the Gospel according to Mark 15:20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, and put his own clothes on him. and they led him out to crucify him. MEDITATION Outside. The just man unjustly condemned to die outside: outside the camp, outside the holy city, outside human society. The soldiers strip him and put his clothes back on him. They place the beam on his shoulders, the heavy price of the gallows,

sign of contradiction and instrument of capital execution. Wood of ignominy, that weighs, like an extreme burden, on the wounded shoulders of Jesus. The hatred permeating it makes its weight unbearable. And yet that wood of the cross is redeemed by Jesus, it becomes the sign of a life lived and offered out of love for men and women. According to tradition, Jesus staggers, three times he falls under that weight. Jesus has placed no limit on his love, "having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (Jn 13:1). Obedient to the Father's word - you shall love the Lord you God with all your might (Deut 6:5) he loved God and fulfilled his will to the end. PRAYER Jesus, king of glory, crowned with thorns, bowed under the weight of the cross that the hands of men prepared for you, impress upon our hearts the image of your face covered with blood, so that it may remind us that you loved us to the point of giving yourself up for us (Gal 2:20). May our gaze never move from the sign of our salvation, raised up on the heart of the world, for, contemplating it and believing in you, we do not become lost, but have eternal life (Jn 3:14-16). Jesus, on your lacerated shoulders lies the weight of the shameful gibbet: by your gift the cross becomes a constellation of jewels and the tree of Paradise becomes once more the tree of life. R/. To you be praise and glory for ever. All: Pater noster … Quis non …


EIGHTH STATION Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross V/. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. R/. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. From the Gospel according to Luke. 23:26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. MEDITATION The first stars that hail the Sabbath have not begun to shine in the sky, and yet Simon makes his way home from his work in the fields. Pagan soldiers, who know nothing of the Sabbath rest, stop him. They place upon his sturdy shoulders the cross that others promised to carry every day behind Jesus. Simon does not choose; he receives an order, and as yet does not realize that he is accepting a gift. The lot of the poor is not being able to choose anything,

not even the weight of their own sufferings. But it is also the lot of the poor to help others who are poor, and there is one poorer than Simon: even his very life is to be taken from him. To help without asking why: the weight is too heavy for the other but my shoulders can still take it. And that is sufficient. The day will come when the poorer one will say to his companion: "Come, blessed of my Father, enter into my joy: I was crushed under the weight of the cross and you raised me up." PRAYER Jesus, you walked, resolutely, on the way that leads to Jerusalem (Lk 9:51) your sufferings have made you mankind's guide on the way of salvation (Heb 2:10). You are our precursor on the road of your Passover (Heb 6:20). Come and help all who, knowingly or obliged by dark events, walk in your footsteps, you who said: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Mt 5:4). Jesus, Raised up from under the weight of the cross by Simon of Cyrene, so that he, unknowing companion on the way of sorrow, might become your friend and guest in the abode of eternal glory. R/. To you be praise and glory for ever. All: Pater noster … Tui nati …


NINTH STATION Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem V/. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. R/. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. From the Gospel according to Luke 23:27-31 And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us', and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?" MEDITATION

The condemned man's retinue moves ahead. His escort, soldiers and some weeping women, women who have come up to the holy city with him and his disciples. They know this man. They have heard his word of life, they love him as teacher and prophet. Did they hope that he would free Israel? (Lk 24:21) We do not know, but now they weep for this man as for a loved one, as he had wept for Lazarus. He unites them to his suffering, a new light illuminates their sorrow. The voice of Jesus speaks of judgement, but calls to conversion; announces sufferings, but as a woman's birth-pains. Green wood will have life again and dry wood will partake of it. PRAYER Jesus, King of glory, crowned with thorns, your face covered in blood and spittle, teach us to seek unceasingly your face (Ps 27:8-9) so that its splendour will enlighten our way (Ps 89:15); teach us to discover it under the appearance of men marked by sickness, prostrated by discouragement, debased by injustice. Leave imprinted in our eyes the features of your beloved face; of which the "least of your brothers" (Mt 25:40) are a bright reflection, a sacrament of your presence among us. Jesus, accompanied to the hill of the Skull by a retinue of weeping women: they have discovered your face of light, your word of grace. R/ To you be praise and glory for ever. All: Pater noster … Eia mater …


TENTH STATION Jesus is crucified V/. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. R/. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. From the Gospel according to Luke 23:33, 47 And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. The Centurion glorified God: "Certainly this man was innocent!" MEDITATION A hill outside the city, an abyss of sorrow and humiliation. Suspended between heaven and earth is a man: nailed to the cross, a torment reserved for those cursed by God and by men. Near him other condemned men who are no longer worthy of the name of man. And yet Jesus, who feels his spirit abandoning him,

does not abandon his fellow men, he stretches out his arms to receive them, he whom no one wishes to receive. Disfigured by pain, marked by abuse, the face of this man speaks to man of another justice. Defeated, ridiculed, defamed this condemned man gives back dignity to all men: love can lead to so much, from so much love the ransom of every pain. "Certainly this man was innocent!" (Lk 23:47). PRAYER Jesus from among your people, only a little flock, to whom it was the Father's good pleasure to give his Kingdom (Lk 12:32), recognized you as Lord and Saviour but your Spirit will soon raise witnesses to this "in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Grant to those who proclaim your Word throughout the world glorious boldness (Phil 1:14) and freedom (Philem 8), through which your Spirit breaks in with the power of Easter and the language of the cross, a scandal to the eyes of the world, becomes divine wisdom for those who believe (1 Cor 1:17ff). Jesus, your death, a pure offering so that all might have life, revealed your identity as Son of God and Son of man. V/. To you be praise and glory for ever. All: Pater noster … Fac ut …


ELEVENTH STATION Jesus promises his Kingdom to the good thief V/. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. R/. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. From the Gospel according to Luke 23:33-34,39-43 And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebukes him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." MEDITATION

The place of the Skull, the sepulchre of Adam, the first man, the scaffold of Jesus, the new man. The wood of the cross, an instrument of exposed death, a coffer of generous forgiveness. Beside Jesus, who lived among people doing good, two men condemned for doing evil. Two others, one who asked to be at the right side of Jesus and the other at his left, declared that they were ready to undergo the same baptism, and to drink the same cup (Mk 10:38-39). But in this hour they are not here, others have gone before them to the place of the Skull. One of them invokes a Messiah, calling upon him to save himself and both of them, right then and there. The other appeals to Jesus, to remember him when he enters into his Kingdom. He who shares the insults of the crowd gets no reply, he who recognizes the innocence of a man condemned to death receives an immediate promise of life. PRAYER Jesus, friend of sinners and tax collectors (Mt 9:11; 11:19: Lk 15:1-2), you have come to save not the just, but sinners (Mt 9:13) and wished to give us a proof of your great love (Eph 2:4) and of the abundance of your mercy, by accepting to die for us while we were yet sinners (Rom 5:8). Look upon us with your kindness and after we have tasted the purifying bitterness of humiliation, take us into your arms, strong with fatherly mercy, and transform with your forgiveness the mud of sin into a garment of glory. Jesus, proclaimed innocent by a criminal, your companion in punishment for you and for your companion, the time has come to enter into the Kingdom. R/. To you praise and glory for ever. All: Pater noster … Sancta mater …


TWELFTH STATION Jesus on the cross, his mother and his disciple V/. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. R/. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. From the Gospel according to John 19:25-27 But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near. He said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. MEDITATION Around the cross, cries of hatred, at the foot of the cross, the presence of love. There she is, steadfast, the mother of Jesus. With her, other women,

united in love around the dying man. Beside them, the beloved disciple, no one else. Only love has been able to overcome all obstacles, only love has persevered until the end, only love generates love in others. And there, at the foot of the cross, a new community is born, there, in the place of death, emerges a new space of life. Mary receives the disciple as a son, the beloved disciple receives Mary as a mother. He took into his own home (Jn 19:27), an inalienable treasure of which he has become the guardian. Only love can guard love, only love is stronger than death (Song 8:6). PRAYER Jesus, beloved Son of the Father, to the sufferings endured on the cross is added the pain of seeing beside you your mother afflicted with sorrow. We entrust to you the desolation and rebellion of parents bewildered in the face of pain or the death of a child; we entrust to you the dejection of so many orphans, of solitary or abandoned children. You are present in their sufferings as you were on the cross, near to the Virgin Mary. May the day of meeting come when all tears will be wiped away, and joy will be without end. Jesus, dying on the cross you entrust your mother to the beloved one, the virgin Apostle to the pure Virgin who carried you in her womb. R/. To you be praise and glory for ever. All: Pater noster … Fac me ...


THIRTEENTH STATION Jesus dies on the cross V/. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. R/. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. From the Gospel according to Luke 23:44-46 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." And having said this he breathed his last. MEDITATION After the agony in Gethsemane, Jesus, on the cross, is once again face to face with his Father. At the height of indescribable sufferings, Jesus turns to him and prays to him. His prayer is above all an invocation of mercy for his torturers. Then an application to himself of the prophetic words of the psalm:

the sign of a feeling of lacerating abandonment, which reaches at its crucial moment an experience in his whole being of what kind of despair sin leads to in its separation from God. Jesus has drunk to the dregs the cup of bitterness. But from that abyss of suffering, comes a cry that breaks the desolation: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Lk 23:46). And the feeling of abandonment becomes entrustment into the arms of the Father; the last breath of the dying man has become a cry of victory, Mankind, which had strayed far away in the vertigo of self-sufficiency, is once again received by the Father. PRAYER Jesus, our brother, by your death you have reopened for us the way blocked by the sin of Adam. You have gone before us on the road that leads from death to life (Heb 6:20). You have taken upon yourself the fear and the torments of death, changing radically their meaning: you have turned around the despair that they provoke, changing death into an encounter of love. Comfort those who today are setting out on your same road. Reassure those who strive to divert their minds from the thought of death. And when for us that dramatic and blessed hour should come, receive us into your eternal joy, non because of our merits, but in virtue of the marvellous things your grace works in us. Jesus, exhaling your last breath you entrust your life into the hands of the Father and you pour out on the Spouse the vivifying gift of the Spirit. R/. To you praise and glory for ever. All: Pater noster … Vidit suum …


FOURTEENTH STATION Jesus is placed in the tomb V/. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. R/. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. From the Gospel according to Luke 23:50-54 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the council, a good and righteous man who had not consented to their purpose and deed. He was from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation and the Sabbath was beginning. MEDITATION The first light of the sabbath. He who was the light of the world descends into the realm of darkness.

The body of Jesus is swallowed up by the earth, and with it all hope is swallowed up. But his descent into the abode of death is not for death but for life. It is to reduce to powerlessness him who held the power of death, that is the devil (Heb 2:14) to destroy the last enemy of man, death itself (1 Cor 15:26), to bring life and immortality to light ( 2 Tim 1:10), to preach the good news to the spirits in prison (1 Pet 3:19). Jesus lowers himself and reaches the first human couple, Adam and Eve, bowed under the burden of their guilt. Jesus stretches out his hand to them, and their faces light up with the glory of the resurrection. The first Adam and the last are similar and recognize one another; the first finds his likeness in him who was to come one day to free him together with all his other children (Gen 1:26). That day has finally come. Now in Jesus, every death, from that moment on, can flow into life. PRAYER Jesus, Lord rich in mercy, you were made man so as to become our brother, and by your death conquer death. You descended into Hades so as to free mankind, to make us live again with you, we are risen and called to sit with you in the heavenly places ( cf. Eph 2:4-6) Good Shepherd who leads us to restful waters, take us in your hand when we cross the valley of darkness (ps 23:2-4), so that we may stay with you and contemplate for ever your glory (Jn 17:24). Jesus, Wrapped in a shroud and placed in the tomb, you await, after the stone has been rolled over, for the silence of the night to be broken by the jubilee of an everlasting alleluia. R/. To you be praise and glory for ever. All: Pater noster … Quando corpus … The Holy Father addresses those present. At the end of his address the Holy Father imparts the Apostolic Blessing. V/. Dominus vobiscum ...



Jacques Louf nasce a Lovanio (Belgio) il 29 dicembre 1929, terzo e ultimo figlio, unico maschio, di una famiglia molto religiosa. Studia al collegio cattolico “Saint Louis” di Bruges e partecipa attivamente alla vita dell’Azione Cattolica Studentesca di quella città. Nel maggio del 1945, subito dopo la fine della guerra, sta organizzando un campeggio di coetanei quando scopre, appena al di là di una frontiera allora ancora ermetica, il monastero trappista di Notre-Dame di Mont-des-Cats. Affascinato, lo visita: quattro anni dopo vi entrerà come novizio. Assunto il nome di fr. André e divenuto professo solenne, è inviato a Roma per compiere gli studi biblici. Tornato in monastero, viene ordinato presbitero e successivamente, a soli trentatre anni, è eletto abate: sono gli anni del concilio e del profondo rinnovamento della vita religiosa e monastica. Nel 1967, assieme a dom Poiron, procuratore generale dei Certosini, e al suo confratello trappista Thomas Merton, invia al Sinodo dei Vescovi a Roma un messaggio su “I contemplativi e la crisi di fede”. Con il suo sapiente discernimento diviene non solo uno dei protagonisti dell’aggiornamento conciliare nel monastero e nell’ordine trappista, ma una delle figure spirituali di maggiore autorevolezza nella Chiesa dei nostri giorni. I suoi testi, tradotti anche in italiano, abbracciano tematiche essenziali per il vissuto della fede nel mondo contemporaneo: accanto ai commenti in più volumi al Vangelo della domenica (Beata debolezza), troviamo testi sull’esistenza cristiana (Sotto la guida dello Spirito), sulla preghiera (Lo Spirito prega in noi), sulla paternità spirituale (Generati dallo Spirito), sull’interiorità e la vita di comunione (La vita spirituale), su L’umiltà. E’ recentemente uscito anche in italiano un libro-intervista dal significativo titolo Cantare la vita. Curatore di preziose edizioni degli scritti dei mistici fiamminghi, p. André Louf svolge per trentacinque anni il suo ministero di abate di Mont-des-Cats, poi lascia l’incarico e si ritira in un eremo nel sud della Francia, dove vive tuttora nella preghiera e nello studio degli amati padri della chiesa.