The Fourteenth Station: Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb / A XXI Century’s Perspective

April 14, 2017 Comments Off on The Fourteenth Station: Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb / A XXI Century’s Perspective

Artist: Cynthia Brome

As I look at the painting set before me to meditate on the Fourteenth Station, I think to myself: this is the quintessential XXI Century interpretation. We see no more the broken-bones body of Jesus, nor the rolled-in stone, we see not even the linen-cloth left behind when the angels announced, “he is not here.” We see instead the splendor of the Resurrection. The tomb emanates rays of light as glimpses of all that is to come because Christ has conquered death.

As XXI Century’s Christians we know that there is no more sorrow, no more pain. When I experienced my second conversion, I was surrounded by people who, when speaking of their own death, joyfully said: “I can’t wait: I will meet Jesus!” Hearing these words felt so right, so very perfect, and so very true because these words echoed what we profess Sunday after Sunday.

As XXI Century’s Christians we see and know of the triumph of the Resurrection over death, we know not the despair and agony of Golgotha; instead, we count our blessings, we know that Jesus’ promises are real, and we find comfort in knowing that Jesus is Lord of all. We are not left alone or dumbfounded at the garden like Mary Magdalene, nor are we oblivious to his walking on the road to Emmaus. We experience certainty when reflecting on what happened in the Upper Room, and we do not doubt of his appearance at the Sea of Galilee.

As XXI Century’s Christians, we are invited to re-visit the pain and the sorrow of Good Friday knowing that the grief, loss and bereavement are over at The Vigil. As XXI Century’s American Christians, we are afforded to envision a place of living light, where dawning prevails over a frightening night, and the stars with thousand galaxies are shining like the sun. As XXI Century’s American Christians we don’t have to be stuck in the images of mutilated bodies, dying children afar, and pestilent bodies abandoned in the night. As XXI Century’s American Christians we can still dream about an Easter filled with a bright sky and a cozy tomb that emanates rays of light. We do not have to descend to the inferno of genocide. In contrast, we delight on the glowing sky, where we rest with our dreams, meditations, and faith.

– Anahi Galante

The Thirteenth Station: Jesus Is Taken Down from the Cross

April 13, 2017 Comments Off on The Thirteenth Station: Jesus Is Taken Down from the Cross

Artist: Doug Blanchard

I’ve been staring at a photocopy of the image of this station all through Lent as part of my daily meditation, knowing that I would be writing about it during Holy Week.  The thirteenth is a station that poses some challenges, not the least of which is that it comes more from Sacred Tradition than from Scripture.  When I went to Google looking for inspiration, I found that there were at least three names for the station:  “The body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his mother;” “Jesus is taken down from the cross;” and the compromise on one Roman Catholic website “The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross and placed in the arms of his mother.”  Of course, in Scripture, when the body of Jesus is taken down from the cross, it is given into the charge of Joseph of Arimathea, at his request, for burial in his own tomb.  There is no mention of the body being laid in Mary’s arms first, though it is easy to understand why Sacred Tradition would have that happen.

Every time I looked at this station, I noticed something different. I invite you to do the same.  Perhaps you’ll focus on the figure of Jesus, larger than any of the others in the painting, and rightfully so; or on the shadowy figure off to the right—just who is that? Or you may choose the person taking down the body; or the diminutive figure of the anguished Mary on the left.  You may choose to focus on one of the inanimate elements of the station: the cross itself, the rope, the nail, the linen cloth, or something I haven’t even mentioned.  You can then write or think your own meditation on this Maundy Thursday to prepare for Good Friday.

To get you started, I’ll tell you what happened when I focused on the figure of Mary. She looks so sad and vulnerable.  Here’s what I thought of first when I looked at her. She brought to my mind the weekly Stations of the Cross that I attended during Lent at the Roman Catholic elementary school I attended from second to fifth grade.  The ritual took place on Friday afternoons and included the singing of the Stabat Mater.  While I don’t really remember any of the verses that we heard from the choir as the Communion motet on Palm Sunday, I do remember the refrain in the version of the hymn that we students sang; it has stayed with me all these years:  At the cross her station keeping, stood the mournful mother weeping, close to Jesus to the last.   Mary serves as a stand-in for all of us down the generations, weeping at the cross, helpless, despairing.  What we can’t overlook, however, is the hope of the Resurrection.  Just as Good Friday gives way to Easter, whenever we despair, we must not forget to hope.  That’s what our faith is all about.

– Julia Alberino

Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

April 10, 2017 Comments Off on Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

Artist: Thomas Wharton

Jesus, already-always-blossoming,
Jesus going
out into that darkness, Death.
Leaving us to a different
darkness, Absence.

He is going where his beloveds have gone and are going
He is going to where there is no home and is making one.
He is going ahead to
light the lamps and
open the windows and
make the beds and
lay the breakfast table
He’s going to open the garden
gate to hell, to dig in his trowel and
make it bloom children.

He is lonely.

He is leaving us home
to speak ill of him and of each other
He is leaving us home
to no home at all.

But before we betray him, he wants to feed us.

He is a rising moon of bread saying eat
and let me stay at home
in you even when
I go

We call out:
we would never leave you

He says:
That is not the point

– Elisabeth Watson

The Eleventh Station: Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross

April 6, 2017 Comments Off on The Eleventh Station: Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross

This blog post appeared in Lent 2016. It was so good that we decided to bring it back this year.

– Blog Editor

Jesus is nailed to the Cross

Artist: Caroline Borderies

Of all the stations, this one is the hardest to take in, the most violent and gruesome. Soldiers nail Jesus to the Cross, through his hands and feet. Even though it feels as if Jesus should be the subject of that sentence somehow, in order to tell the truth, it seems important that we realize that this was no “mistakes were made” passive voice act. People nailed Jesus to the cross. Whether they were following orders or took some perverse pleasure in the pain they were causing is beyond our scope to know.

There are many things in our lives that are bad luck or misfortune, a bad roll of the dice. Violence is not one of them. At Calvary as today, violence is always the work of our own hands. Extenuating circumstances notwithstanding, with or without the consent of the state, it is we who commit acts of violence. It is one of the indelible marks of our evolutionary heritage, one of the ubiquitous handmaidens of our society. The propensity to violence lurks just beneath the surface wherever there is fear or the desire to control or annihilate.
Yet there is no part of our humanity that Christ was not willing to assume, to enfold, to embrace, to endure in order to redeem us. Even this, the monster within. Nothing human lies outside his loving embrace. He turns even our cruelest impulses into the means of grace. In being loved by him and returning his love, we begin to lose our appetite for violence because we cannot hep but see him in every victim.
– The Rev. Gabriel Lamazares

The Tenth Station: Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

April 3, 2017 Comments Off on The Tenth Station: Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

Artist: Simon Carr

Matthew Chapter 27 Verse 28: They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him,

There was little dignity in Jesus’s death.  He was at the mercy (or lack) of others.  The agents of his death were cruel.  He had no control.  His very clothes were taken from him.  He was made to wear a strange garment.

This was like almost all deaths I have seen.  As a person dies they lose the various outer layers of their lives, self-reliance, deciding when to eat, deciding what to eat, deciding what to wear, control of bodily functions and cognition.  It is not pretty.  It is not dignified.

But there also can be grace in dying.  That grace does not emanate solely from the dying person but in large part from those around her.  The gathering of love around the dying is a breath of the eternal, because it echoes back the love that the person shared with others in their life, and the love around the dying also echoes into the future as a bright coal of memory of those who were there.

While Jesus had cruelty in his death, he also had loved ones there.  He also expressed the ultimate love in his very act of dying and his resurrection.

So, don’t expect much dignity in death.  But there can be love, grace and hope.

– Bruce Goerlich

The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls for the Third Time

March 30, 2017 Comments Off on The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls for the Third Time

Artist: Gus Moody

How are we measuring our Lent so far? How are we measuring ourselves and others and by what measure?  The lyrics of Seasons of Love haunt me when I think of this question.

How do you measure – measure a year?
In daylights – in sunsets
In midnights – in cups of coffee
In inches – in miles
In laughter – in strife

At times we have a tendency to record days and years in just the strife. We live in a culture of scarcity that tells us there isn’t enough riches, resources, love, and all that’s good to go around. It tells us to take what we can grab by the fist and pocket it away before someone else does. Every failure or disappointment is just more of the pie slipping away from us. Shame is what keeps the machine running by whispering in our ear that we aren’t worthy of love and belonging anyway, that we were never going to be as good as everyone else, and that there is little point to taking risks or even bothering to try when it will all just suck anyway. We will get nothing and we are nothing.

Jesus falling for the third time epitomizes how this kind of shame can manifest and how we can respond to others, too. Sometimes we don’t know quite what to say when someone is struggling so we are quick to say something like this to a Jesus falling again moment: “Wow, Jesus, you fell again huh? It’s no biggie. But let me tell you what happened to ME the other day! Way worse!” Or we think, “I’m so much stronger as a fisherman so I’d only fall twice max.” Or better yet, “Poor Jesus, bless his heart.” We tend to focus on the falling with ourselves and others as if that’s the point.

What if the point was more about the resilience to get back up? Or the bravery to carry an impossible weight and keep going anyway? Or the very love that keeps us showing up not in spite of the cost and falls and shame but because of it? One of my Lenten practices this year was to try meditation as a new way of praying. I thought I was just particularly bad at it because I had a million thoughts racing and it seemed as though the whole point was not to have thoughts. It really isn’t actually about not having thoughts, as many of you are aware. The point is to touch the thought. let it go, and come back to the present moment. I think this is instructive as we think about the ways we think about falling down in a year, in a lifetime even. The point isn’t that we try to eliminate falling, because falling will happen. The point is to touch our wounds, failures, and hurts, let them go, and come back to our authentic, true selves.

So indeed how will we measure this Lent, this year, ourselves? Will it be how many times we’ve fallen or failed? Seasons of Love gives us a clue in how we might measure  — “measure in love”. When we do find ourselves falling again like Jesus, we might remember to touch it, let it go, and come back to ourselves knowing we are worthy of love and belonging. When we see others fall, we might just stand with them in solidarity. These are our seasons of love.

– Nicole Hanley

The Eighth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

March 27, 2017 Comments Off on The Eighth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

Artist: Rev. Posey Krakowsky

At first glance this seems to be a “Fear not” moment.  Jesus says to the weeping women “Do not weep for me” But instead of continuing, as Luke does in the telling of his birth, with angels assuring shepherds of wonder – here Jesus turns the lens of grief back upon the women.  “Weep for yourselves and for your children.”

God manifested in human form in order to deliver a message of love and radical inclusion and rather than being universally embraced, Divinity walks up a dusty mountain road carrying a cross on which to die.

This is not so much a moment of judgment, but of clarity.  A reminder of the work left to be done in order to bring the world closer to that heavenly country.  That the tragedy the women see unfolding before them – innocence heading to crucifixion – won’t end with a single man on a single day.

“Do not weep for me Daughters of Jerusalem, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”

– Caroline Prugh

The Seventh Station: Jesus Falls A Second Time

March 23, 2017 Comments Off on The Seventh Station: Jesus Falls A Second Time

Artist: Linda Mason

How very human it is for the Son of God to fall—not just once, but twice. Twice, Jesus falls, brought down by the weight of His cross, His pain and suffering.

And if Jesus can be brought so literally low, if God can allow Godself in the person of Jesus to be brought down, to suffer, then perhaps we ought to reexamine our own views on suffering, pain, and hardship.

Christianity writ large has a bad habit of trying to justify suffering. Women suffer in childbirth and from patriarchal inequality because of Original Sin, from domestic violence because of poor interpretation of Ephesians 5. People with disabilities suffer because they haven’t been healed by God yet—and obviously are doing something wrong, or are sinful in some way. The poor are poor by their own fault—or are meant to learn something from the experience of being “the least of these.”

“But I would never think that way—about others or myself!” you may be thinking. It’s an insidious practice of self-hatred; our entire theology of redemption through the Christ event is centered on the need for a humanity that deserved to suffer because of its actions and, essentially, got lucky that the God of Israel happened to like humans and wanted some company and felt like grace was a good idea. So even when we don’t think we think like this, we do—about something. And justify it with religion more often than not.

I for one don’t think suffering is good or bad. I think trying to assign a moral weight to suffering and pain is destined for disaster. Call it good and you glorify the suffering of people who do not deserve it, abandoning them to their suffering without trying to do our Christian duty of spreading agape love in the world in the inbreaking of the kingdom of God. Naming suffering an outright bad is just as dicey; condemning suffering leads to heresy almost any way you slice it. And on the more human level, condemning suffering as a moral evil leaves us unprepared to handle the trials and travails of human life.

Instead, I meditate on the suffering of Jesus and try to cultivate compassion rather than trying to theologically justify it or glorifying it. I mediate on Jesus falling twice—showing Himself to be so very human and so far from perfect and God-like—and find peace within myself as I navigate my own sufferings and hardships as I live a very human life, graced with the Holy Spirit and love of God, given hope through the life of Christ.

– Madeline Pantalena

Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

March 20, 2017 Comments Off on Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Artist: Sylvia Duff

What I love about this Veronica, apart from the fact that she was painted by a young person, is that she herself looks young and approachable.  It is also notable that the artist chose to depict Veronica in the manner of many Greek Orthodox icons of Veronica, after she had already wiped the face of Jesus and, I’m sure unexpectedly for her, gotten her reward in the imprint of Jesus’s face on the cloth she used.  Since she looks so approachable, I can imagine asking her “Were you frightened, Veronica, when you stepped out from the protective anonymity of the crowd to perform an act of such compassion?”  How might she answer?  In my imagination, she is modest and matter-of–fact, replying that she did nothing special, only what needed to be done.  Moved by the blood and sweat of a very human Jesus, Veronica recognized that he might appreciate having his face wiped and did it.  She wasn’t expecting any lasting result.   What she got was proof that Jesus was not only man, but also God, as the image of his face remained on her cloth.  In traditional Western depictions of this station, we see Veronica doing the wiping of the human face of Jesus; in this one we see the divinity of Jesus.  It’s worth noting that Veronica is not named in Scripture and nothing is known about her life and death.  Her existence is preserved in sacred tradition.

What is the message of Veronica for twenty-first century Christians today?  Consider this:  Perhaps the message is that sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and do what needs to be done, if you even remotely think whatever needs doing is in your power to do.  Think about what the implications might be, well beyond what you may at first imagine.  Does the legend of Veronica challenge you?  How might you respond to the challenge?  These are some of the questions that praying before this station raised for me.  What questions occur to you as you look at the image? The answers will be as varied as the people looking at Veronica as she is seen here.  That’s one of the wonderful things about art; it affects each person differently and individually.  May you each find your own message as you pray the Stations of the Cross this Lent.

– Julia Alberino

Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

March 16, 2017 Comments Off on Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

Artists: Jacqui Taylor Basker and Ihsan Bandak

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” These famous words from Matthew 16:24-25 have become a kind of summary in the gospel. Jesus utters them in the gospel of John to a wide audience of followers, before the reality of Jesus’ own crucifixion has become clear to them.

It seems natural to think of this verse in connection to the fifth station of the cross: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross. Yet there a few important differences. First, this is not a matter of everyone taking up the cross; the burden in this scene is Simon’s to carry alone. Second, Simon is not carrying his own cross. He is carrying the cross of Jesus, which begs the question of whether Simon agreed to do this in the first place. Was this an act of charity? Of compulsion? The narratives in the synoptic gospels don’t give us these specifics.

There is a huge difference between taking up your own cross and taking on the cross of another. This is a central concern in the work of womanist theologian Delores Williams. In her book Sisters in the Wilderness, Williams highlights the dangerous implications embedded in our beliefs about the crucifixion of Jesus. If Jesus’ salvation operates through his suffering on the cross, what does that say about suffering? Do we run the risk of glorifying suffering when we celebrate the death of Jesus? And most importantly, what does this mean when certain people are made to bear sufferings in society more than others? For Williams, the weight of this burden falls most heavily on women of color, the perpetual surrogate mothers of American history.

Lent is a time when many Christians respond to Jesus’ exhortation to “take up your cross and follow me” with embodied action—giving up a beloved food, or taking on a practice that may seem initially like a burden. As we take on these extra burdens, I hope that we will remember those people who are carrying a heavy load this season, and not by choice. I hope we will remember the mother who stays late at work to pay for her apartment in a neighborhood where rents are steadily rising. I hope we will remember the refugees who have “given up” their homes because of the threat of violence.

For Delores Williams, the most important thing about Jesus’ life was not his death and suffering—it was his life. The same thing ought to be true for all of us as we take up our crosses during this season of Lent. Too often we fixate on stage of losing our lives and forget that the purpose of the cross is to find life. May we look for life this season, not only for ourselves but also for everyone who is carrying a heavy burden.

– Heidi Thorsen Oxford

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