Sunday 6 March 2022

Pocket Guide to the Stations of the Cross - Edward Sri - Ascension Press Pocket Guide Series

Pocket Guide to the Stations of the Cross 
The Pocket Guide Series
Edward Sri
ISBN 9781950784684
eISBN 9781954881334

I picked up this and the other three volumes in the Pocket Guide Series from Ascension at the same time. I had planned to read this book over three days, 1 for the history, the second for the historic stations, and the third for the scriptural stations. But I was enjoying the writing so much I could not put it down and devoured it in a single sitting. I prayed both stations on Ash Wednesday and know I will return to the two versions in this volume often. But back to this volume. The description of this book is:

“The Pocket Guide to the Stations of the Cross invites Catholics to discover the depths of Christ’s love shown to us by his passion and death. In this beautiful book, readers will find a guide to accompany them and help them meditate on Christ’s Passion.
Edward Sri, author and presenter of the popular Ascension studies No Greater Love and A Biblical Walk Through the Mass, explains the origins of this ancient devotion and gives powerful original meditations for each station.

Within this small but impactful book, Catholics will encounter:
Gorgeous, classic artwork for every station to help meditate on the passion of Christ
New reflections on the scriptural Stations of the Cross
New reflections on the traditional Stations of the Cross
The origins of the Stations of the Cross
Why the Stations of the Cross are not just for Lent

Its small size, place-marking ribbon, and durable Alpha Cowhide cover make the Pocket Guide to the Stations of the Cross perfect to bring with you during Lent, on Fridays, or anytime you want to pray this age-old devotion.”

I have seen one of the physical volumes in this set and they are beautifully made. But I prefer eBook editions and can always have them on me. For as Mike Aquilina stated:

“Now we can travel with more books stored in our telephones than the ancient Egyptians kept in their vast library at Alexandria.”

The eBook formatting is excellent. And it is wonderful as a devotional for personal, family or corporate use. The chapters in the volume are:

Stations of the Cross: A Miniature Pilgrimage
Part One
Chapter One – The Divine Fire of Love
Chapter Two – History: How Did This Devotion Arise?
Part Two
The Fourteen Traditional Stations of the Cross
Part Three
The Fourteen Scriptural Stations of the Cross

I recently heard Edward Sri speak at the Bible in a Year Retreat, he and his wife Beth lead a Scriptural Rosary taken from one of his other books. I would love if next year they lead a Stations of the Cross, or even both versions in this book on different days. It was at that retreat I found out about this volume. I am very thankful that I did. I am also thankful that the eBook and physical volumes released on the same day. I prefer the eBook because of ease of access, and because I have a dual form of dyslexia and can change the page colour, font, and font colour to make it more accessible. But again back to this excellent volume. I highlighted two passages my first time through this book, they are:

“But the Stations of the Cross are not just windows. They are not meant to be something we passively look at from the outside. They are more like doorways, through which we are called to enter. Jesus does not want us standing on the outside of each station, merely admiring what he did for us. He does not want our applause. He wants our hearts. He wants us to step inside each station and enter the mystery of his love so that he can reproduce that love in us. While this devotion certainly inspires us to grieve our sins and praise and thank Jesus for all he did for us, it also summons us to live the Stations of the Cross in our own daily lives. After all, this is the essence of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).”

“The Stations of the Cross devotion is also a mental exercise: Our mind reflects on what Jesus reveals in each station. We see an image related to each station in a book or on the church walls. We hear the leader read a reflection on the scene. All this helps fill our minds with the truth of what Jesus did for us on this day, and we penetrate more deeply the mystery of his love that each mystery unveils.”

Sri does an excellent job in the first part of this book in helping us understand the why of praying this devotion; and I in a broad overview of the history and development of the devotion. I will share a sample station from each version in this volume. 

The Fourteen Traditional Stations of the Cross

The Fourth Station
Jesus Meets His Mother
V/. We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
R/. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

About thirty-three years before Good Friday, the angel told Mary that her child would be the long-awaited messiah-king who would rescue God’s people and establish the kingdom of God (see Luke 1:32-33). Now she sees her son mocked, scourged, condemned to death, and forced to carry this heavy Cross on his way to being executed. From a human perspective, the events of Good Friday seem to be the exact opposite of what God’s messenger told her at the Annunciation. What happened? Why did things turn out this way? Where is God in the midst of all this? From a human standpoint, these would be reasonable questions to ask.

But as Mary meets her Son one last time before he reaches Calvary, she already faces her own kind of spiritual crucifixion. The words of Simeon echo in her heart: “A sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2:35). She is being invited to trust that the horrific murder of her own flesh and blood is somehow a part of God’s plan. She is being invited to renew her fiat—her complete surrender—by consenting even to his cruel death on a cross.

Amid the darkness surrounding Mary at this moment, the light of faith still shines in her soul. She clings to faith in her Son’s words that he “must go to Jerusalem … and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matthew 16:21). As St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) once wrote, “At the foot of the Cross, Our Lady saw only pain and suffering—and when they closed the tomb, she could not even see the Body of Jesus. But it was then that Our Lady’s faith, her Loving Trust and Total Surrender were greatest.”6

Dear Mary, as you walk closely with your son on the Way of the Cross, you draw even closer to us. We see your sorrowful heart. We see how much is being asked of you. We see your total trust and surrender. When we face our own trials, may we remember yours. When we are called to sacrifice and abandon ourselves to the Father’s will, may we also give our fiat. When we stand in the darkness and wonder where God is leading us, may we cling to the truth of his love, even though we may not feel it. You, who are so beautiful and so perfect, still remain human, one of us, sharing in our sufferings. Pray for us, Mary, that we may always say yes to God’s will, now and all the way up to the hour of our death.

Stabat Mater
Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying, glorious Son.”

And also:

The Fourteen Scriptural Stations of the Cross

The 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.

Scripture Reading: Luke 23:39-43
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked 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 in your kingly power.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The “good thief” was not always so good—even on Good Friday. The Bible reveals that when he first got to Calvary, he joined the chief priests and others in ridiculing Jesus (see Matthew 27:44). But something in his heart changed, and he repented. Perhaps it was the witness of Jesus forgiving his executioners. Maybe it was him knowing the end was near and wanting to set things right before he died.

He humbly acknowledges his sinfulness and then turns to the Lord, saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingly power.” What humble confidence and trust! What closeness he longs to have with our Lord! He is the first person in all the Gospels who dares to call Jesus solely by his name. Other people address Christ as “Jesus, son of David” (Mark 10:47; Luke 18:38) or “Jesus, Master” (Luke 17:13). But this violent criminal, who only a few hours earlier had been mocking Christ on the Cross, now comes to believe Jesus is the true king and becomes the first person in the Gospels to call Jesus simply by name.

In response to this extraordinary faith and love, Jesus says to him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” What Jesus offered the good thief in the last moments of his life, he offers to us today—to be with him. For wherever Jesus is, there is the kingdom.

Lord, no matter what I have done, no matter how incapable I feel of changing, your mercy is always within my reach. Never let me be discouraged by my weakness. Grant me the grace of the good thief—the grace to acknowledge my sins and repent and the grace to call on your name. Jesus, I trust in you.

Hail Mary …”

This is an excellent resource for your spiritual life. Well written, engaging. And a wonderful devotion. Each year I try and pick up a new Way of the Cross or 2 to pray during Lend. Over the last few years I have tried to pray the stations each day through lend and at least weekly through the rest of the church year. I have used many over the years. Some I only use once or twice, others I have prayed countless times. The two offerings in this volume will be used often. And excellent book I challenge you to pick it up and make it part of your Lent or for use throughout the year.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan

For all other reviews of Stations of the Cross click here.

The Pocket Guide Series from Ascension Press:
Pocket Guide to the Sacrament of Reconciliation - Fr. Mike Schmitz and Fr. Josh Johnson
Pocket Guide to the Rosary – Matt Fradd
Pocket Guide to Adoration - Fr. Josh Johnson

Books by Edward Sri:
Mystery of the Kingdom: On the Gospel of Matthew
Follow Me: Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John
Queen Mother: A Biblical Theology of Mary's Queenship
Dawn of the Messiah: The Coming of Christ in Scripture
A Biblical Walk Through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do In The Liturgy
Men, Women and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from John Paul II's Love and Responsibility
Walking with Mary: A Biblical Journey from Nazareth to the Cross
The Bible Compass: A Catholic's Guide to Navigating the Scriptures
The New Rosary in Scripture: Biblical Insights for Praying the 20 Mysteries
The Real Story: Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible
Who Am I to Judge? Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love
Dawn of the Messiah: The Coming of Christ in Scripture
Love Unveiled: The Catholic Faith Explained
The Advent of Christ: Scripture Reflections to Prepare for Christmas
Pope Francis and the Joy of the Gospel: Rediscovering the Heart of a Disciple
A Guide to the New Translation of the Mass
Praying the Rosary Like Never Before: Encounter the Wonder of Heaven and Earth
The Da Vinci Code and the Bible: Separating Fact from Fiction
The Da Vinci Deception: 100 Questions about the Facts and Fiction of the Da Vinci Code

Contributed to:
Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God
Catholic for a Reason II: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mother of God
Catholic for a Reason III: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mass
Scripture & the Mystery of the Mass
Letter & Spirit, Volume 8: Promise and Fulfillment: The Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments

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