Wednesday 22 February 2023

The Way of the Cross - Archbishop Georg Gänswein

The Way of the Cross
Archbishop Georg Gänswein
Michael J. Miller (Translator) 
ISBN 9781644133088
eISBN 9781644133095

I picked this up because I am almost always willing to give another Stations of the Cross a try. I have a few that I return to frequently. I try and pray a Way each Friday during the year, and each day through Lent. I have not read anything else by Archbishop Georg Gänswein prior to this and believe he currently only has one other volume available in English. There are very different descriptions for the print and eBook edition of this volume, they are:

“Countless holy men and women have obtained great benefit from accompanying Our Lord on his Way to Calvary, including the Foundress of EWTN Global Catholic Network, Mother Angelica.Indeed, the Stations were Mother's constant companions through the joys and struggles of her vocations as abbess and media maven. For Mother, the Stations were not some kind of dismal ritual or dark obsession, but a regular opportunity to lay down before Our Lord her pains, struggles, and fears with the faith-infused knowledge that Christ's sufferings have redeemed us.For the first time, EWTN Publishing has compiled and made available to you the beautiful meditations on the Stations of the Cross, collected and edited by Fr. Joseph Mary Wolfe - longtime chaplain at EWTN.Each meditation is accompanied by beautiful images of the Stations of the Cross that Mother Angelica prayed before in her home parish in Canton, OH. It was in this Church that Mother Angelica approached the altar of our Lord and entrusted her religious vocation to Our Lady.We invite you to join Mother Angelica in praying the Stations every day so they can become a part of your personal spirituality, just as they were a part of Mother Angelica's community and of EWTN.”


“For centuries, the Church has encouraged us to pray the Stations of the Cross as a way to draw closer to Christ and gain the strength to carry our own crosses by meditating on His Passion. Yet even while doing so, many of us have had trouble imagining and contextualizing the sorrowful events of that day and even the horrid details of the Crucifixion.

In these prayerful pages, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, longtime secretary to Pope Benedict XVI, remedies that failure of our imaginations. Here he vividly depicts Jesus’ final, slow, sorrowful passage through the narrow, dusty streets of Jerusalem, out the gate in the city’s wall, and unto Golgotha, where our Lord is crucified.

With the help of these powerful meditations, you’ll come to feel as if you’ve been transported all the way back to Jerusalem, to that grim day in A.D. 33, and stand there now, a direct witness to it.

Archbishop Gänswein’s stunning reflections on the Stations of the Cross will give life to your own Stations of the Cross devotions and awaken in you a love and sympathy for our Lord greater than any you have felt before.”

I very much enjoyed the reflections on the stations my first time through this volume. A sample station is:

Jesus is condemned to death 

V: We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You, 
R: Because by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world. 

Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, 
released for them Barabbas; 
and having scourged Jesus, 
he delivered Him to be crucified. 
Mark 15:15 

During the night, all of Jesus’ apostles abandoned Him. His closest friends had fallen asleep as the fear of death overcame them. He was betrayed, though, with a kiss, the most intimate sign of love. He was condemned to death that same night by the tribunal of the high priest, with a judgment that had long since been passed. He was also beaten then, right before the eyes of the judge. Now, though, He stands before the highest secular authority of Jerusalem, the representative of the mighty emperor in Rome. In this trial He has no advocate. Nevertheless Pilate hesitates for a long time with the sentence, because he can find no guilt in Him.
“What is truth?” the governor asks Him, when the Truth is standing before him in the flesh. Then he has Him scourged, crowned by his soldiers with a cap of thorns and mocked, and he himself speaks a truth until the end of days when he presents Him to the furious crowd that is demanding His death. 

“Behold the man,” he exclaims as he shows them the Man of all men, the “Son of man,” the first and last Image of all the images of God. Then he has a servant bring a bowl of water and washes his hands in innocence. Seconds before that, he delivers the accused man over to his persecutors with the words: “Take Him and crucify Him.” 

R: Our Father…, Hail Mary…, Glory be… 
R: At the Cross, her station keeping, 
    stood the mournful Mother weeping, 
    close to Jesus to the last. 
V: Crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, 
R: Have mercy on us and on the whole world."

Unlike many stations the images are in the middle of the reflection, not at the beginning or end. The images used for the stations are frescos by Frescos by Martin Feuerstein, we are informed that:

“These beautiful frescos, which were painted in 1898 in the Saint Anna Church, in Munich, Germany, have since been painted over. Color images nave been preserved of only thirteen of the fourteen Stations. We have added some color to the surviving monocrome image of the 6th Station for these meditations.”

In the forward by Baroness Nina Sophie Heereman von Zuydtwyck we are reminded that:

Jesus on His final path through the Holy Land
Accompanying a dying person on his final path is one of the noblest works of Christian mercy. Never is a human being so lonely as in the final hours of his life, since he must walk through the gate of death alone. Although we cannot spare one another this path through the darkness, we can nevertheless accompany the dying person lovingly up to the gate of death, in the firm hope that the merciful Lord will welcome him into the hereafter. 

With Jesus it was different. For Him the path led not only to His cruel death on the Cross, which is bad enough, but into the darkest cavities of the underworld. Not only that: on His final path, He was abandoned by everyone, even His closest confidants. Only His Mother, a few women who had followed Him from Galilee, and John — the only one of the twelve apostles — stood beneath Him in His final hours and watched His eyes glaze over. The Son of God felt abandoned even by His Father, having taken upon Himself vicariously the unfathomable abandonment of the sinner, in order to admit us all again into communion with the Father through His death. No one, not even the worst sinner, will ever have to endure again that kind of abandonment in the hour of his death. 

Have you ever wondered where you would have been in those hours? Don’t we all wish secretly that we had the courage of those women, whose love had led them there beneath the Cross, or the love of John, who was faithful to the Friend “whom he loved” even into the jet-black night of death? 

Well, it is not true that we can no longer perform this loving service for the Lord. On the contrary, in prayerful remembrance of His Passion, we can go beyond the boundaries of space and time and, by dint of our faith, walk beside Jesus on His final path through the Holy Land, consoling Him with our love. In this way, we can be like Mary: a pious tradition in Jerusalem relates to this day that after the Ascension of the Lord she returned every day to the stations of His Passion in order to meditate lovingly in her heart on what He suffered for us and on the great love with which He loved us.”

I stumbled upon this volume while looking for his new volume on being Pope Benedict XVI’s personal secretary, that volume does not appear to be available yet in English. I am thankful I picked this up. I prayed through it the first Friday after purchasing it, and know it will be a version I use often going forward. It is an excellent Way of the Cross. It is a great devotion for personal or corporate use. I can easily recommend this version of this devotion.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan

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

Books by Archbishop Georg Ganswein in English:
How the Catholic Church Can Restore Our Culture

Note he has several other volumes available in German, and a few in Spanish. 

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