And Jesus said to them, 'Therefore every scribe (teacher of the Law) who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.' -- Matthew 13:52
OVER THE PAST TWO MONTHS, Mel Gibson's controversial new movie The Passion had been the talk of the town among Jewish, Catholic and Protestant groups worldwide. It has been accused of being anti-semitic. It has also been acclaimed to be a very bloody, as well as moving and faithful, reproduction of the last 12 hours of Jesus' life in the gospels. Within a few weeks of its premiere on Ash Wednesday (February 25th), it had grossed close to US$300 million in box office takings in USA alone.
The latest controversy, however, is a burning question: Is Gibson a member of Society of St Pius X (SSPX), an ultra-traditionalist group that has been ex-communicated by the Catholic Church for, among other things, rejecting the pope's authority to institute reformative changes through the Vatican II council around 1965? The verdict, it seems, is not out. Yet, many have already pronounced him 'guilty'.
Personally, i'm more inclined to believe that he is just a traditional Catholic who still accepts the authority of the Holy See. Otherwise, why would he arrange for a preview by the Pope a few months before the movie's release? Why would the local diocese organize a charity premiere on a large scale? And why would the local Catholic News report so extensively on the making of the movie, its actors, premiere, and so on, while carrying a report that all Catholics are to avoid attending any activities of the SSPX?
"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them... Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." -- Matthew 5:17,19
RECENTLY, AT THE INVITATION OF a Catholic colleague, i've started joining a Christian (inter-denominational) fellowship group on campus during lunchtime two Thursdays ago. At the suggestion of another Catholic colleague who retired about a year ago, i've also started joining a Catholic fellowship group last Thursday evening. Couldn't help but marvel at the unique beauty of both types of sessions.
At my parish two Sundays ago, chanced to find and buy a book published in 2003 by Dr Megan Mckenna entitled The New Stations of the Cross. When i shared it with a Passion Narratives LRSS group at St Ignatius, someone questioned the authenticity of the NEW stations -- wondering aloud why he and others have not heard about it at all through the official channels. My curiosity was really piqued when i could not find any "Imprimatur" statement in the book. The following day, did a Google search. Found some affirmative information on the new stations in the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website. So, the new stations of the cross are "... based on those celebrated by Pope John Paul II on Good Friday 1991. They are presented here as an alternative to the traditional stations and as a way of reflecting more deeply on the Scriptural accounts of Christ's passion."
Upon reading Dr Mckenna's introduction to the book more carefully, found the following passage: "Over a decade ago, Pope John Paul II decided to alter the traditional fourteen stations, dropping out the ones that were not in the Scriptures and adding other portions from the gospel accounts. Part of the simple introduction stated, 'The following stations of the cross are based on those celebrated by Pope John Paul II on Good Friday 1991. They are presented here as an alternative to the traditional stations and as a way of reflecting more deeply on the Scriptural accounts of Christ's passion.' (Same intro in the USCCB site above.) Since then, on Good Friday, the Pope has sometimes selected alternative accounts from other gospels. These choices are what this book and its reflections are based upon.
"This past year, 2002, the Pope requested that eleven reporters write portions of the reflections because he wanted to emphasize and highlight the extreme importance of the media and show how the stations were not just about the Way of the Cross that Jesus trod in
his passion, but about the Way of the Cross that all believers, especially those who suffer violently, innocently, needlessly, and in the cause of justice, still walk in their passion in contemporary society. This devotion is not so much about the past as about the present reality of the Crucified One in our midst still suffering and dying at our hands."
After sharing my findings with a group of online friends, the trail got hotter: Someone responded yesterday with an alternative version (ALT) which he had prayed over during a Way of the Cross session in Manila in 1995. He also opened up a new perspective, "All the versions have their merits. The new version will lead us to meditate on the passion accounts more... Personally, from the old version, I would miss the Jesus-falling stations. How many times when we feel discouraged and burdened have we not gotten strength from Christ as He falls and gets up again? I would also miss the station on Jesus being taken down from the cross and placed in the arms of His Mother. The Pieta is such a powerful and familiar image in Christian art, a source of holy contemplation for centuries. It would be a shame to lose it."
i agree absolutely. i also empathise with Jesus' falls and Mary's bittersweet sorrow. The latter can even make me weep. This probably explains why the Pope has not instituted the new scriptural stations of the cross. Instead, he seems to be leaving it to the discretion of individual parishes worldwide. Heard from a neighbour that the Church of the Holy Cross has been running different versions of the stations on different Fridays so far. Not sure what the versions are because ironically, for various reasons, i've been attending stations at St Mary's, then the Cathedral, at work, and so on. Can't wait to see how the Holy Cross version will be like this Friday evening!
This morning, another member of the online group replied to affirm that as a children's catechist, she had been aware of the old (traditional) and the new (also known as scriptural) versions for some time. It's apparently on page 222 in one of the catechist manuals for Primary Four! She added, "What also interests us is the desire of many to include a fifteenth station for the resurrection of our Lord." This reminded me of someone's response last Saturday to the fifteenth station in Mckenna's book, "It shouldn't be there because right up to Good Friday, when the final stations of the cross are being prayed, the resurrection has not happened yet."
However, the stations are visible in the church throughout the year. So, beyond the Lenten period, wouldn't the stations be more complete to include one on the resurrection? Was really stumped last Christmas when my non-Christian sister asked me to explain the stations at St Mary's -- why did the 'story' end with Jesus being laid in the tomb? What about resurrection? Now, i remember the reason.
Meanwhile, i think triangulation (and more) has been achieved. These new stations are for real! And here they are, for easier reference -- the OLD (traditional), the NEW (scriptural) and the ALT (also scriptural) versions side by side:
1. OLD: Jesus is Condemned to Death; JP2: Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane; ALT: The Last Supper
2. OLD: Jesus Carries His Cross; JP2: Jesus, Betrayed by Judas, is Arrested; ALT: The Agony in the Garden
3. OLD: Jesus Falls the First Time; JP2: Jesus is Condemned by the Sanhedrin; ALT: Jesus Before the Sanhedrin
4. OLD: Jesus Meets His Mother; JP2: Jesus is Denied by Peter; ALT: Jesus before Pilate
5. OLD: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry His Cross; JP2: Jesus is Judged by Pilate; ALT: The Scourging of Jesus
6. OLD: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus; JP2: Jesus is Scourged and Crowned with Thorns; ALT: Jesus Bears His Cross
7. OLD: Jesus Falls the Second Time; JP2: Jesus Bears the Cross; ALT: Simon of Cyrene Takes Up the Cross
8. OLD: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem; JP2: Jesus is Helped by Simon the Cyrenian to Carry the Cross; ALT: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
9. OLD: Jesus Falls the Third Time; JP2: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem; ALT: Jesus is Stripped and Crucified
10. OLD: Jesus Clothes Are Taken Away; JP2: Jesus is Crucified; ALT: The Repentant Thief
11. OLD: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross; JP2: Jesus Promises His Kingdom to the Good Thief; ALT: The Blessed Mother and St John
12. OLD: Jesus Dies on the Cross; JP2: Jesus Speaks to His Mother and the Disciple; ALT: The Death of Jesus
13. OLD: The Body of Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross; JP2: Jesus Dies on the Cross; ALT: The Burial of Jesus
14. OLD: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb; JP2: Jesus is Placed in the Tomb; ALT: The Resurrection
15. MM*: Holy Saturday and Easter Resurrection
Notes: (1) The OLD stations are extracted from Catholic.org website. (2) * marks a station which is included in Megan Mckenna's book, The New Stations of the Cross, but not in the US Conference of Catholic Bishops website.
(See also Ascertaining Truth and Ascertaining Truth II.)