As a Christian Counselor regarding grief, it is not only worthwhile to have a deep knowledge of Christian traditions of grief, but also a pious form of spirituality for oneself. The following articles will look at some of the Christian traditions on grief surrounding Christ, his mother and church traditions. They should not be seen as particular to any one tradition but should be accepted and practiced universally since they all encompass core ideals of Christian theology.
Universal to all Christians is the written tradition of Scripture. Scripture is filled with lamentations, poetry, stories, and historical narratives on the nature of suffering. In the Old Testament, the Book of Job takes center place, while in the New Testament, the suffering of Christ. While the Old Testament does supply a rich theology on suffering, most of the traditions within Christianity regarding suffering stem from the New Testament with a central focus on Christ.
The passion narratives come from the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Ironically, John’s gospel contains the least information of the passion despite his presence at the cross. Many contend this was due to the grief that erupted with every sentence he wrote concerning our Lord’s passion. Yet from these narratives on Christ’s death and other oral traditions, a host of devotions have emerged that center around the suffering and grief of our Lord. Since, we have already discussed the Stations of the Cross, we will look at three other devotions to Christ that emerged from both oral and written tradition.
The first tradition is a Catholic tradition. The Rosary, a Christian prayer involving a sacramental composed of a crucifix and beads for each prayer, has a whole mystery dedicated to the Passion of Christ. This second mystery is known as the Sorrowful Mysteries. The five decades of the sorrowful mysteries focus on the following sufferings of Christ.
1.The Agony in the Garden
2.The Scourging of the Pillar
3.The Crowning of Thorns
4.The Carrying of the Cross
5.Crucifixion of Christ
These sacred mysteries give the person time to meditate and thank Christ for his ultimate sacrifice, but meditation on these mysteries go beyond the rosary but are also found in individual devotions to particular aspects of Christ’s suffering and death. A second tradition involves meditating on the final words of Christ on the cross. Derived directly from Scripture, the Christian can reflect on Christ’s final moments on the cross that share his love, compassion, and great sorrow. These final seven last words of Christ can be found in the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John, with some coinciding and some found only in John. Below are the last seven words of Christ on the cross.
1.“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”.
2.“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise”.
3.Jesus saw his own mother, and the disciple standing near whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son”. Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother”. And from that hour, he took his mother into his family.
4.Around the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, saying “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” which is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“The Five Wounds of Christ”. Within this tradition, the nail holes, the crown of thorns and the piercing of the side of Christ are meditated upon by the faithful. In particular, saints and mystics from various orders and times have established individual prayers and pious traditions for the particular wounds of Christ. In addition to this, many of these mystics have also experienced the miracle of Stigmata which in some cases has left the saint with all five or at least one of the wounds of Christ. St. Francis of Assisi is a classic example of this miracle. Some saints have also experienced other wounds of Christ that are not listed traditionally as the five wounds of Christ. Another wound of Christ is his shoulder wound. The shoulder wound of Christ has a following of Christians who meditate on the extreme pain the cross caused Christ’s shoulder as it dug deep to the bone in his shoulder. Such pious traditions are also materialized with various relics such as the true cross or the Shroud of Turin, where pilgrims can visually see the instruments of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. Such meditations within Christianity should not be seen as morbid, but instead should be seen as an act of thanksgiving and reparation for sins. The purpose of the traditions is to give the soul visual stimulation for repentance and thanksgiving for the great gift Christ gave to us.
These Christian traditions of grief are instrumental sources of spirituality for counselors and their clients. They can be instrumental in healing and help those in crisis realize that they are indeed loved by Christ. The traditions of Christianity and suffering should be seen as tools to help the soul grow and accept one’s own crosses.
Please consider becoming a certified Christian Grief Counselor