Leonard Cohen’s song Show Me The Place, a meditation on Christ’s willingness to surrender to Compassion and to suffer because of that surrender (and NOT because of a so-called necessity of suffering itself), inspired me to make a new Via Crucis – I also made one last year, click here to watch it.

Whatever some people might think of Mother Teresa’s choice to live amidst the sick and the poor, I believe she was genuinely touched by their humanity. I think she recognized the people she lived with in Calcutta as human beings, first and foremost, and that she did not want to reduce them to their sickness, their poverty and their suffering. She wanted to be a human being among other human beings. Her life is an inspiring example, following Christ’s footsteps, and that’s why my meditation starts off with her.

The Life of Christ testifies to a Love which “doesn’t want sacrifice nor suffering”. Sometimes we try to justify evil by saying it belongs to some “higher, even divine plan” which would in some ways be “rewarding”. Sometimes we make bad choices and identify them as “necessary evil” to achieve some ultimate goal – like studying something we really don’t like because of a so-called magical diploma which we believe will function as a key to open doors to a “happy, fulfilled life”. Opiate for the masses?

Christ’s God of Love reveals how suffering is not necessary, that it indeed is “evil” and not something we should easily justify. We should instead try to oppose it! Human beings are worth more than whatever plan we might come up with. They should not be means to another end, but ends in themselves. The story of the resurrection indeed reveals how Christ’s God of Love refuses the sacrifice of his Son, and that Christ gave his life because of Love – to let others come alive…

Christ’s Love is a Love which desires LIFE, liberating us to do everything we can to make life worth living, opposing the easy cynicism that “there are far worse things than never being born”.

Can we listen to the Voice of Love and experience (from within our natural, bodily conditions) that the suffering of fellow human beings is unjust? Or do we surrender to the silence of the stars, which, although they brightly shine, don’t give a damn about our trials and tribulations – even if we look for “reasons” and “necessities of fate” in our horoscope? Can we believe that Compassion is our deepest human faculty? Bruce Springsteen says it well (click to watch my post Bruce Springsteen’s Passion): “When we let our compassion go, we let go of what little claim we have to the divine…”

Besides music by Leonard Cohen, I used music by Linkin Park (an alternative version of their hit song Crawling) and Thomas Newman (Any Other Name, from the movie American Beauty). Images of the Way of the Cross are primarily by Jon Reischl and Nigel Groom. The final image is a painting by Fritz von Uhde (1848-1911), Das Tischgebet (Komm, Herr Jesu, sei unser Gast).


Last year I made a video for our school, allowing pupils as well as colleagues to contemplate the Stations of the Cross. Originally this video used Dutch translations of the biblical texts, but for this blog I replaced them by English ones, so the video can be understood by a wider audience.

My interpretation of the Via Crucis is based on the so-called biblical Way of the Cross, which is a variation on the more traditional forms from the Middle Ages.

The music and paintings I used are mainly from 20th century and contemporary artists. Even the excerpt from Allegri’s Miserere is presented in a modern arrangement. I explicitly and consciously chose certain music to accompany the images and texts of the Via Crucis. If you’re interested, and want to contemplate even more intensely, click here to read the lyrics from the music. The prayer at the ending is ascribed to Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226).

CLICK TO WATCH the video right here:

Archbishop Piero Marini writes the following on the biblical Way of the Cross (text from the ‘Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff’):

  Compared with the traditional text, the biblical Way of the Cross celebrated by the Holy Father at the Colosseum for the first time in 1991 presented certain variants in the «subjects» of the stations. In the light of history, these variants, rather than new, are – if anything – simply rediscovered.The biblical Way of the Cross omits stations which lack precise biblical reference such as the Lord’s three falls (III, V, VII), Jesus’ encounter with his Mother (IV) and with Veronica (VI). Instead we have stations such as Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Olives (I), the unjust sentence passed by Pilate (V), the promise of paradise to the Good Thief (XI), the presence of the Mother and the Disciple at the foot of the Cross (XIII). Clearly these episodes are of great salvific import and theological significance for the drama of Christ’s passion: an ever-present drama in which every man and woman, knowingly or unknowingly, plays a part.

[…] The Congregation for Divine Worship on various occasions in recent years authorised the use of formulas alternative to the traditional text of the Way of the Cross.

With the biblical Way of the Cross the intention was not to change the traditional text, which remains fully valid, but quite simply to highlight a few «important stations» which in the textus receptus are either absent or in the background. And indeed this only emphasises the extraordinary richness of the Way of the Cross which no schema can ever fully express.

The biblical Way of the Cross sheds light on the tragic role of the various characters involved, and the struggle between light and darkness, between truth and falsehood, which they embody. They all participate in the mystery of the Passion, taking a stance for or against Jesus, the «sign of contradiction» (Lk 2,34), and thus revealing their hidden thoughts with regard to Christ.

Making the Way of the Cross, we, the followers of Jesus, must declare once more our discipleship: weeping like Peter for sins committed; opening our hearts to faith in Jesus the suffering Messiah, like the Good Thief; remaining there at the foot of the Cross of Christ like the Mother and the Disciple, and there with them receiving the Word which redeems, the Blood which purifies, the Spirit which gives life.

(Piero Marini is Titular Archbishop of Martirano and Master of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff).