March 6, 2017 Comments Off on The Second Station: Jesus Takes Up His Cross
Nobody meets the man’s eyes as he labors with faltering steps.
It’s hot as the morning wears on; most of the people are gone,
Fleeing the stench of the carcasses hanging in butchers stalls.
Each step is worse than the last, as the soldiers with swords force him on,
Bloodied and bruised and breaking, hardly recognizable,
Just another Jew the Romans have sentenced to die.
Blood and dust and sweat mixing with the smell of the meat
Give a sickening odor to the gut-wrenching spectacle.
All the bystanders hold their noses and try to look away;
Brutal execution is nothing they haven’t seen before.
But what a perverse spectacle as he collapses in front of them, and the
Maker of heaven and earth is unable to bear the weight of a tree!
© 2017 Kyle Rader. All rights reserved.
February 15, 2016 § 1 Comment
If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
I think that Jesus carrying his cross is symbolic of Jesus carrying all the sins of the world. A heavy burden.
– Alice Hattan, Age 10
February 26, 2015 Comments Off on The Second Station: Jesus Takes Up His Cross
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
This station, rather than simply being one more way-station on the road to Golgotha, seems to me to be significant in terms of our practice discipleship. Jesus is not simply suffering something that is his own to bear. Rather, he is doing something, that in its obedience and self-denial, he holds up as a model for everyone who is drawn to follow in his footsteps.
Jesus’ crucifixion seems to many observers to be a terrible tragedy, the fate of someone trapped in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I think this robs Jesus of his crucial agency in the sublime and terrible working out of salvation that took place on the cross. In every moment, Jesus chose to meet his fate, however cruel, with open eyes and an open heart. When he takes up his cross, he provides us an example of meeting the violence and hatred that prophetic actions can provoke with sober dignity, conscious choice, and forbearing love.
It is the vocation of his followers to meet hatred with love, to bear undeserved suffering with grace, with the hope that God is still working out the Divine Purpose, even when nothing makes sense.
– The Rev. Gabriel Lamazares
March 13, 2014 Comments Off on The Second Station: Jesus Takes Up His Cross
This Lent, one of the “disciplines” I have “taken on” is to read along each day with the Lenten meditation booklet from Episcopal Relief & Development. The theme this year is women’s empowerment. In his reflection this Monday, The Rev. Scott Gunn spoke to the tension between some biblical passages—particularly the third chapter of Colossians—and women’s empowerment. What do we do with injunctions which tell wives to be subject to their husbands and instruct slaves to obey their masters? Gunn’s answer is this:
“Passages such as these … invite a thoughtful reading of the wider context of the gospel message. Jesus reminds us, his followers, again and again that to find our lives, we have to lose them. We have to take up our cross and follow him. We are all servants.The underlying theme—that which undergirds the gospels—is that we must follow Jesus in all we do, that the cross alone is our focus. Whatever earthly relationships we have are governed by God’s more profound desire that we love God and our neighbors. In our various ministries, outside and inside the church, we are called to proclaim and to practice God’s love for every person. That task both invites each of us to be a servant and empowers us all.”
Today we are at the second station; “Jesus takes up his cross.” As in our image of this station, the cross is truly the center, the focal point, and the purpose of this whole journey we are on. Indeed, we may feel in our daily lives as if we have huge crosses to bear—to invoke that well-worn phrase—but this station gives us a space to reflect on what it really means to “take up our cross.” As I enter into this image, what I find most empowering is the boldness of this cross—its centrality and its force. Perhaps we can find strength in its ability to bear some of our own weight, as well. In fact, we don’t have to carry these crosses on our own.
– Julia Stroud
February 23, 2012 § 2 Comments
Author Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking captures a process of grief as it unfolded for her after her husband’s sudden and unexpected death. Grief, she says, “turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.” That place of grief for Didion included meaninglessness, derangement, and magical thinking. She describes the start of her magical thinking:
… but I needed that first night to be alone.
I needed to be alone so that he could come back.
This was the beginning of my year of magical thinking.
This borrows on anthropological thought which views magical thinking as thinking which, if someone hopes hard enough or performs some sort of right action or ritual, what is impossible will become possible. Didion had thought that first night that if she were alone she could avoid the reality of her husband’s death and wish him back into existence. Poignantly, she also narrated her inability to give away her husband’s shoes because he would need them if he were to return.
Magical thinking might alleviate the pressure points of suffering, but it does not change the reality of the suffering. A job that is lost remains lost. A confidence that is betrayed remains betrayed. A loved one who dies remains dead. Yet, Didion suggests that dealing with the starkness of the reality confronts us with abject meaninglessness, with loneliness, which offers “sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.” Our Christian faith, however, takes a different shape. We look not to avoid suffering or come to expect meaninglessness or insanity; we look to transform suffering into love.
Early Christians grappled with the problem of how to make sense of Jesus’ death — was it just Jesus’ human nature that suffered or did Jesus not really suffer at all? How could God in God’s divine nature suffer? In both the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon in the fifth century, the Church espoused the view that God was capable of suffering because of the Incarnation. Later on, St. Bonaventure, a Franciscan, described God as bent low in love for us who was reckless even to the point of death. Bonaventure started from the point of the Trinity, which he formulated as a love relationship whose self-diffusive love overflowed into creation. The force of this view on the Trinity lies in how one can then ponder why God became human. For Bonaventure, God became incarnate not because of sin but because of love. A later Franciscan, Bl. John Duns Scotus, would argue that God would become incarnate even if no human had sinned. If we press this further, the shape of the Second Station comes into view.
In “taking up our cross” or in experiencing the fullness of grief, we encounter a God bent low in love for us even to the point of death. Magical thinking robs us of this love, and it can help destroy experiential living. If we take Bonaventure’s view, we have a God who does not merely love us in our suffering, but a God who also suffers alongside us in love. In suffering, then, we participate in the life of the Trinity through love. Put another way, through “unmagical” thinking, thinking that embraces the reality of what we are suffering, God enters our broken humanity to transform us again into God’s image and likeness. In this Lenten season, may we be transformed as unmagical thinkers.
– Nicole Hanley
 Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking (New York: Vintage International, 2007), 188.
 Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking, 189.
 Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking, 27..
 “The Council of Ephesus: The Epistle of Cyril to Nestorius”, http://orthodoxchurchfathers.com/fathers/npnf214/npnf2176.htm.
 Ilia Delio, The Humility of God (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2005), 4.
March 18, 2011 Comments Off on Second Station: Jesus Takes Up His Cross
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on His head. They put a reed in His right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put His own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
Today, the Stations of the Cross are so powerful because of their symbolism, but in Christ’s time His actions were anything but symbolic. Taking up the cross was a path to certain, and certainly painful, death. Between the First Station, when Jesus is condemned to die by Pilate, and the Second, when He takes up the cross, Jesus is subjected to unspeakable beating and torture. The Second Station documents the cruelty of the scorn and humiliations heaped upon him. The physical weight of the cross itself must have been bone crushing (to say nothing of the metaphysical ‘burden’!). Yet the Bible records not a single word of protest. He allowed himself to be captured, knowing of the pain to come.
For me, the Second Station is the crux of Christ’s Passion. The later stations seem far more poignant, but the Second Station conveys the essence of Christ’s love, His sacrifice. Jesus accepted His suffering willingly. He took up the cross—a then-universal mark of condemnation that He transformed into the symbol of salvation—willingly. He led a phalanx of His enemies, and supporters, on the path to crucifixion at Calvary. Willingly. All of Christ’s teachings and lessons on how we should live that came before, everything that follows in the Passion after, are illuminated in this moment.
I can’t think about this station without thinking about Mark 8:34: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up His cross, and follow Me.” It’s easy for me to read this passage in terms of my own struggles with surrendering, and submitting to God’s plans for me. But I think it means more than that—not just accepting our trials or sufferings without complaint, but also wholly sublimating ourselves to God, and to following Jesus’ example, at every point in our life. In fact, we pray for this each day in The Lord’s Prayer: ‘Thy will be done.’ But for me, the aspirations of that daily prayer can butt up hard against my own daily willfulness.
Some days I am more willing than others to follow Christ’s example.
On my off days, I pray just for the willingness…
– Jack Murray
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.
February 25, 2010 § 2 Comments
One of the most withering responses to a burden disclosed has to be, “Well, I guess that’s just your cross to bear.” The implications are clear: we all have our troubles. You’ll have to deal with yours on your own. The first part is true; the second part completely misses the point of Jesus’ passion.
As Jesus picks up his cross, two possibilities for entering the story emerge. Will we observe, or will we join him? In observing, we say, in effect, “That’s his cross to bear.” Only it’s not. It’s not his cross at all—it is the world’s cross, a symbol of humanity’s obsession with punishment, death, and sacrifice. In bearing it, he lightens our load, taking our heaviest burden for himself. It makes the second possibility, the possibility of entering the story, more manageable. For Jesus has been clear: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Taking up our own crosses is not really a choice. We are already saddled with the burdens that weigh us down. If we could have laid them down, we would have done so a long time ago. This is the moment to feel that burden on our shoulders and to carry it willingly with Jesus, knowing that we are not alone. We do not have to deal with our burdens on our own. We can do this with glad hearts because, finally, we can know that our own suffering has a direction to it—it is headed somewhere. Our savior is with us completely in the moment, shouldering the greatest weight himself as he leads us to the place where God will triumph over all that afflicts us.
The Rev. Hugh M. Grant
Curate, The Church of St. Luke in the Fields