The Sixth Station: Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross
March 26, 2015 Comments Off on The Sixth Station: Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross
The year is approximately 665. Wandering the English countryside outside the Abbey of Whitby, we find the Anglo Saxon poet, Caedmon. Although at this time, he is not yet a poet. Caedmon is an iterant and illiterate herdsman. He has been hired by the local abbey to take care of the animals. As he curls up in the hay to sleep one evening, Caedmon has the most remarkable dream. A dream in which God calls him to leave his flocks and praise God by composing Christian verses. He has a vision of the Holy Cross of Christ and writes the first ever hymns and poems in the Old English.
The Dream of the Rood, as it is known, recalls that vision and poignantly captures the moment of our 6th Station of the Cross, Jesus is nailed to the Cross. In section one of the poem, the narrator has a vision of the mighty Cross. When the narrator first encounters the Cross, he noticed that it is covered with gold and precious stones. He laments his sinful state and says that he is unworthy to stand in the presence of the tree. However, as he studies the Cross more closely, he notices that amid the beautiful stones and jewels, it is stained with blood.
In section two, the Cross shares its account of Jesus’ death. The crucifixion story is told from the perspective of the Cross. It begins with an unnamed enemy coming to cut the tree down and carrying it away. The tree laments that it is going to be used for a criminal but then is joyful to learn that it is not to be the bearer of a common criminal, but instead Christ crucified. Jesus and the Cross are joined and they stand together triumphantly refusing to fall. Together they take on terrible pain for the sake of mankind. In this brutal telling, it is not just Christ, but also the personified Cross that is pierced through with nails. The cross is depicted as a loyal follower of Jesus, constant to the very end. The Cross and Christ are one in this portrayal of the passion narrative—they are both pierced with nails, scorned and tortured. Here is that moment, taken from a modern English translation.
Then saw I mankind’s Lord come with great courage when he would mount on me.
Then dared I not against the Lord’s word bend or break, when I saw earth’s fields shake.
All fiends I could have felled,
but I stood fast.
The young hero stripped himself–he,
God Almighty– strong and stout-minded.
He mounted high gallows,
bold before many,
when he would loose mankind.
I shook when that Man clasped me.
I dared, still, not bow to earth,
fall to earth’s fields,
but had to stand fast.
Rood was I reared.
I lifted a mighty King, Lord of the heavens,
dared not to bend.
With dark nails they drove me through:
on me those sores are seen, open malice-wounds.
I dared not scathe anyone.
They mocked us both,
we two together.
All wet with blood I was,
poured out from that Man’s side,
after ghost he gave up.
Dream of the Rood
For me, the 6th Station of the Cross is always the hardest. I think it is the raw pain of the moment. There is absolutely no turning back now. What I find so touching about the Dream of the Rood, is the personified Cross’s commitment to being with Christ throughout his final ordeal. The Cross never abandons him and is there until the end. At the heart of this narrative is an important reminder that stretches beyond this moment of horrible pain. We are called to bear each other’s burdens and support each other in the unspeakably difficult moment of life. For me, this year, the 6th Station of the Cross and the Dream of the Rood, are a call to discipleship and renewed commitment to care for others in moments of hardship and trauma.
– Rev. Emily Lloyd