Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


What is this all about? A Meditation on the First Station

March 27th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris
2014 3rd Q Archive 069

Pilate Washing His Hands
Divine Mercy Center, Stockbridge MA

      In Matthew 27:24 we read:

“So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

Meditation on the First Station of the Cross

One way to ‘do’ the Stations of the Cross is to pray up, into and through them, one at a time, during Lent.  It might take all 40 days to just go through the Stations once this way, but with many insights and spiritual uplifting from the Holy Spirit.  In the first station, Christ comes back to Pilate, after the scourging, and one senses from the reading that Pilate is looking for some way to release Jesus, some way around the “problem”.  He offers to release Him or Barabbas, but the crowd chooses Barabbas.  What to do with Christ? The crowd shouts “Crucify Him!”  Pilate dramatically tries to wash his hands of the blood of his own Redeemer.

For many years I felt a real distaste when the Passion is read, whether on Palm Sunday or Good Friday, especially when the assembly is given a few meager lines, the most memorable of which is “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”  There have been years I just couldn’t bring myself to say the words at all, other years in which I muttered them quietly, anxious to get on with the reading.  But never did I utter those words with any enthusiasm, feeling it was a pretty poor part to give to the congregation.  But, one time, meditating on the first Station of the Cross, changed that perception forever .

That time, I could imagine Christ, returning all bloodied from the scourging, and standing before Pilate, waiting for an earthly decision that Pilate could not have made were he not empowered to do so by our Heavenly Father.  I could imagine that if I were there, with Christ’s followers, that the choice of Christ or Barabbas might have for an instant given me hope that Jesus would be spared.  I could imagine that I would be praying/hoping for His release.

But suppose Pilate had turned to me — or to you — and said “What would YOU have me do?  Should I crucify Jesus or Barabbas?”  If I knew everything I now know in faith, that without Christ’s crucifixion I am damned for all eternity, yet I had the love for Christ that comes through His Grace now abundantly poured out, what would I have said?  It is a vital question with which to struggle.  If I could fully realize that one of us had to die for my sins, Him agonizingly on the Cross or me in an eternity of death, what would I have said?  Knowing what I now know, I would have said “Crucify Him.”  And I would have looked away, too ashamed to look in Christ’s eyes.

After spending time ‘in’ the first Station (as opposed to ‘at’ the first Station) I realized that my distaste for the line “Crucify Him” from the Passion Reading is because of my reluctance to admit that I am the one who put Christ on the Cross.  But now I think the line “Crucify Him! Crucify Him” is one of the best lines in the Passion Reading, one of the purest, and a privilege to say.  Because not only do I own up to the fact that I put Christ on the Cross but, perhaps even more important, I open myself to accept more fully the fruits of that crucifixion.  Yes, God chose to sacrifice Himself for our sins, no matter what I would have decided but, when I say “Crucify Him,” in a sense I say “Amen” to God’s decision.  And in that “Amen” I say that I am willing to accept the Cross that Christ has for me too.  I say that I am grateful for God’s atonement for what I never could have reconciled.  By saying “Crucify Him” I am giving up forever the right to wash my hands of Christ’s Blood, as Pilate tried to do.  By saying “Crucify Him” I accept His washing me clean of my guilt for saying “Crucify Him.”  By saying “Crucify Him” I acknowledge that my love for Him, even now, is not so great that I would have been willing to sacrifice my eternity to save Christ from the Cross.  When I say “Crucify Him” I also admit how poor and weak my own love is, for His is the far greater Love, to lay down His Life for me.

Now it is a kind of joy to say those words: “Crucify Him; Crucify Him.”  Words I had long refused to utter. Perhaps we should, in the reading of the Passion, dwell upon those words longer and deeper, with individual emphasis.  Now, what would you have said, if Pilate had asked you “And what should I do with Jesus?”

This post began by showing the image of the hand washing, and asking: “What is this picture all about?  Who? What? When? Where? Why?”  There were 3 guesses (one came by email suggesting the Washing of the Feet at the Last Supper).  And Bernie got it right — it is a sculpture of Pilate washing his hands regarding sentencing Jesus to Crucifixion.

What particularly drew me to take that picture was how, right after a light rain, the droplets still clung to the hands, adding even more reality. (Click to enlarge to see the droplets.)  The next question was where is this life-sized sculpture located? The pictures below show the setting of Christ standing before Pilate as the Roman washes his hands, and other Stations of the Cross at The Divine Mercy Center in Stockbridge, MA — which Christian correctly identified!

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14 Responses to “What is this all about? A Meditation on the First Station”

  1. avatar Bernie says:

    Not sure what we’re doing but with this, but… “Pilate Washing His Hands”.

  2. avatar Choir says:

    I was going to say “Veronica Wiping the face of Jesus”?

  3. avatar christian says:

    Is it – the Shrine of Sainte Anne de Beaupre in Quebec, Canada?

  4. avatar Diane Harris says:

    No, but it is in North America.

  5. avatar christian says:

    Is it in the Garden of Gethsemane at the Holy Family Shrine, Gretna, Nebraska?

  6. avatar christian says:

    Wait a minute … Could it be at the the Cross of the Woods Shrine, a national shrine in Michigan?

  7. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Sorry, none of the above. We had a right answer at coffee hour after The Latin Mass today, but she isn’t registered on CF, so there is still a chance to get the right answer here. I’ll now add several additional pictures.

  8. avatar Choir says:

    The Shrine of the North American Martyrs?

  9. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Nooo….but geographically you are getting closer. Here’s a FINAL clue — it relates to a Novena which starts during Holy Week.

  10. avatar christian says:

    Is it at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts run by the Marians of the Immaculate Conception? And are the photos taken at The Way of the Cross?

  11. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Yes, indeed, Christian … exactly so! More here:
    and there is a short, interesting video of the construction. It’s a very moving on-site, life-sized display, and they expect 20,000 visitors on Divine Mercy Sunday. One thing left to do — I’ll drop most of the pictures to a second page and share a “First Station” meditation, for Holy Week. May we all have a Holy, Holy Week.

  12. avatar Bernie says:

    The clue that gave away the “story” were the “rails” of the seat partially shown in the sculpture. It is a type of “sella curulis”, the official seat of the Roman Emperor. The actual sella curulis of the emperor (Pontius Pilate was not an emperor but was the symbol of Roman power) was a plainer affair, without the curved, more ornamental “rails”. These types of stools are folding seats with S-curved legs made of wood or bronze. The Romans believed that this type of seat was used by their legendary king, Romulus. founder of Rome. In contrast, Christ, in early Christian art was depicted seated on a large and elaborate throne more like what we think of as a throne.

  13. avatar christian says:

    Diane – Your Meditation on the First Station has transfigured my Holy Week. It brings me to a deeper humility to how much I am reliant on Jesus’ crucifixion, and a suffering which transcends all time and contemplation, so I could be freed from an Eternal Hell. I am dependent on His grace and it is only out of His bountiful and everlasting love that He has called me to share the mystery of His cross and resurrection. Have a very blessed holy week!

    I think you should be leading a tour to some of these North American Shrines, Diane.

    Bernie – Thank you for sharing that information about “sella curulis” as the official seat of Roman Power. I always find your contributions interesting and enlightening. May you have a very blessed holy week also!

    How I made an educated guess to the name and location of the shrine was due to Diane’s last clue -the Novena which starts in Holy Week. The novena is Divine Mercy. So I googled Divine Mercy Shrine and the National Shrine for Divine Mercy came up along with the address. On the page, I saw inside a church. I then wondered if they had an outside area, so I clicked on a map of Eden Hill and saw within it, The Way of the Cross. I then made my educated guess.

    Everyone have a very blessed Holy Week!

  14. avatar JLo says:

    What a great idea, christian… Cleansingfire-led pilgrimages!
    Hope you administrators will think on and perhaps explore that idea. +JMJ

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