The Second Station: A View from the Last Pew

February 26, 2010 § 4 Comments

We step from the street into the narthex with an opportunity to stamp off the cares and soils of the outside world, we take a cooling, cleansing dip in the pool of holy water, walk down one of the aisles and seat ourselves in one of the pews to still our minds and kindle our affections.  After our worship is complete, we’re called back to the aisles and out on to the street as we go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

On my first visit to St. Luke’s seven years ago, my girlfriends and I seated ourselves in the last pew just off the right of the main aisle.  We hoped, that far in the back, we wouldn’t be sitting in anyone’s seat and, as one of us had never experienced a “rich Anglo-Catholic liturgical tradition” being raised Methodist, there was a small escape plan in the arrangement in case it was all too-too.  Well we found a home but after two years God took my girlfriends to other parts of the globe for their ministries and I remain in the last pew just off the right of the main aisle.  I love that spot for so many reasons.  I feel I can be of help to the ushers should any emergency arise or should they need a hearty congregant to bring up a generously filled basket of gifts to the altar.  I also love having a ring-side seat for all the seasonal stations in the rear, especially Baptisms and especially when there’s a sprinkling scheduled.  I always get a good dousing as the aspergillum comes out of the aspersorium AND on its way down for the blessing … it’s quite a vivid reminder of my Baptismal covenants (“I saw water proceeding out of the temple” indeed!).  I especially love the vista of each season’s sunshine streaming through the windows during the daytime services and the precious illumination of the entire church during nighttime services.

Sounds like I’m a little angel having quite a little party back there in the last row, right?  Guess what … sometimes I don’t feel like being in church because I’m tired and I’d rather be in bed.  Sometimes I’m so mad at someone at church I can’t even stand to look at them and have to keep myself from throwing a BCP at the back of their head.  Sometimes I have so much to do at work that it’s all I can do to keep myself from pulling out a notepad and working while church is going on.

The second station of The Way of the Cross is “Jesus takes up his Cross” and the collect begs God to give us the courage to “take up our cross and follow him”.  The Synoptic Gospels have Jesus demanding that we deny ourselves before taking up our cross and following him.  When I was younger I imagined all kinds of very pious ways to deny myself all kinds of deep and important things so that I could pass through the eye of the needle.  As I get older, I realize it just may be my big fat head which is going to keep me from getting through that slim gateway.

Pride, I think, is the root of so many of my problems.  Perhaps the true cross I am to pick up, perhaps the only Way of the Cross, is to lay down the importance of self so that my hands are empty which will enable me to pick up the cross of selflessness and service.  Perhaps we are to concentrate on resisting giving in to one’s self, one’s pity parties, one’s self-aggrandizing, one’s need to be right, one’s thoughts that without me nothing could get done. I find that by emptying myself, stilling my mind and plugging into the liturgies of the Episcopal tradition, I am guided and transitioned beautifully and gracefully from a weary, burdened person into a rejuvenated spirit ready to go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.

– dasch

Images: St. Luke in the Fields photo album

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§ 4 Responses to The Second Station: A View from the Last Pew

  • gochrisgo75 says:

    David, thanks for posting this. Your reflection made me realize how special the back of our church — and all churches, really — are to me too. The last pew in the back is a fascinating in-between place with a great connection to the second station. Many tentative, new visitors who are grappling with how to “take up their cross” land in the back row.

    I’m praying for all the people who sit in the back row.

  • Anahi Galante says:

    David,

    Your story reminds me of my first Lent discipline ever: In my first Episcopal parish I seated on the front pew and I connected this with my tendency of always speaking first in group processes.

    I find that the discipline of the body and the space are good tools to support the discipline of the mind and the spirit. So, that first Lenten discipline of mine in 1997 included to let others speak first and to learn how to seat towards the back of the church.

    As you might have noticed we have been pew neighbors on several occasions. Though I am still working on not speaking first, I was forever changed in the experience of seating towards the back: in addition to the possibility of noticing who is there and who needs something, it allows me to also partake with the entire architectural frame of our sanctuary, both experiences truly humbling.

    Thank you for reminding us that we are not alone in the struggle and need to crush our egos. Thank you for candidly sharing the things that most of us continue to hide.

    Anahi

  • Julia Stroud says:

    I love this reflection. Where to sit in church has always been a running debate in my family — Mom likes the front, Dad likes the back. We always sat in the first pew when I was young, and I definitely did have a feeling, walking down the aisle on Sunday mornings, like “Step aside! Here come the Strouds!”

    I like to sit with people I know, so I’ve floated around at St. Luke’s and enjoyed getting the different perspectives. One seat might have a great view of the pulpit but not of the altar; one seat might be great for hearing the choir but not for seeing the font; etc. (There’s a lot going on!) I’m finding that I like to be in the back so I can see the whole congregation ahead of me; sometimes from the front it can feel like I’m the only one there.

  • Paul Lane says:

    What a wonderful reflection. Many of us do have our “favorite” pew, which of course makes it easier for the MC to come out ten minutes before Mass to make up the numbers in the altar party should their be any last minute absences. They always know right where to look.

    When I first came to St. Luke’s about eight years ago, I too started out in the back, on the right. I have gradually migrated to the left side, third or fourth pew by the window. The exact pew is not as important as the view from that area. The streams of light coming through the window and shining on the incense can be breath-taking during the Sanctus, both figuratively and literally, when, if the thurifer is really swinging, one can hardly see the altar. But that is not the reason why I sit there, although I do not believe that there can be too much incense. Above the door to the Sacristy there is a small icon of Christ. Many St. Lukers have probably never even noticed it. Ever since my days in the Eglise Orthodoxe de France I have been drawn to icons, both large and small. Many of the members of my orthodox parish would station themselves near the icon of a favorite saint during the Liturgy, sort of like sitting with a friend at Mass. This icon is a wonderful focal point when there is not too much going on at the altar, during the singing of the Credo, for example, I can sing to my heart’s content, all the while focusing on that icon, or while saying pre or post-communion private prayers.

    St. Luke’s is such a wonderful place, giving to all of us in ways both great and small, both wonderfully communal and deeply personal at the same time.

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