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.