March 20, 2017 Comments Off on Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
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
February 29, 2016 § 3 Comments
Learning How To Wipe
As new dads, my husband and I are becoming expert wipers. Our son is four months old and has just discovered that he likes to look at the world sitting up. The more his sits up, the more he drools. We wipe his face over and over with special little muslin cloths, some speckled with gray stars and some trimmed with little boy blue which always reminds me of the Virgin Mary. We didn’t know babies needed these special cloths until just before he was born; terry cloth is too abrasive for infants.
My husband and I now order baby wipes by the case (We tested the One and Done wipes and – spoiler alert – some messes will always need more than one wipe!). We wipe our son’s fingers. When he was first born his fingers were so tiny, they were almost transparent. We wipe his drooly face and the spot under his neck where some formula dribbles. Of course we wipe his butt, though it turns out that so far the diaper changes are not nearly as bad as I’d expected.
All this wiping brings me to the Sixth Station: Veronica meets Jesus on the road to the cross. Veronica wipes Jesus’ face and an image of Jesus’ face is transferred on to the cloth.
I grew up reflecting on the magic of this stop in the middle of the Stations of the Cross. I was dazzled by the image transferring to Veronica’s veil. As a new parent, this station speaks to me in a new way. I think less about the miracle on the cloth and more about the service.
Veronica reminds us today that our smallest every day gestures bring us closer to Jesus. Even if we can’t fix everything, even when we know we can’t change the end result, we can bring each other small comforts.
Of course it is easy and beautiful to wipe my son. How can I leave my self-centerendness and bring someone else comfort on their way? Did you know that Chinese food is the favorite food for the homeless youth we serve at our Outreach program? Feeding them, sitting to speak with them, and yes then wiping up after them is a small way that we can create comfort in our world.
– Chris Phillips
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
April 10, 2014 § 1 Comment
Jesus is nailed to the cross, and if we are living Lent faithfully we cannot look away. We must watch as soldiers pierce our Lord. How can we take in this terrible reality?
I’m reflecting on nails. Nails are the smallest part in this horrible scene.
We know Jesus must have worked with nails. He was a carpenter, just like his father. Millay’s painting Christ In The House of His Parents, helps us to see a young Jesus starting to learn his trade. In 1850’s London, the painting was called ugly. Critics like Charles Dickens did not want to see this image of Jesus: a vulnerable child in a dirty workshop, bleeding from a hand nicked on an exposed nail.
When I first read their criticism of this painting, I dismissed Dickens and the rest of these critics as old-fashioned and ridiculous. I didn’t understand their outrage. With more reflection, I’ve started to see how hard it is to have your personal vision of Jesus challenged or changed.
That’s why I’m stuck thinking about nails.
Most of us are not carpenters, but we know that nails finish things off. Nails close boxes. Nails hold the roof on tight and nails secure the doorjamb.
The nails in Jesus’ hands are different. These nails didn’t close anything. The nails don’t end the story. Instead the nails open Jesus’ arms in a loving embrace.
As Easter gets closer, the nails and Millay’s painting can remind us to re-consider how we see Jesus. Looking at the nails can lead us to his open arms.
May the wounded hands of Jesus shape us and hold us, guiding us toward the glory that will come. Amen.
– Chris Phillips
April 10, 2014 Comments Off on The Sixth Station: Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross
James Middleton’s Sixth Station shows a hammer mid-air after striking a nail through Jesus’ right wrist, blood spurting, while the left hand of the soldier is blood stained. As I reflect on contemporary ways of how we participate in nailing others to the cross, I am reminded of Countee Cullen’s Christ Recrucified:
by Countee Cullen
The South is crucifying Christ again
By all the laws of ancient rote and rule:
The ribald cries of ‘ ‘Save yourself” and “fool”
Din in his ear, the thorns grope for his brain,
And where they bite, swift springing rivers stain
His gaudy, purple robe of ridicule
With sullen red; and acid wine to cool
His thirst is thrust at him, with lurking pain.
Christ’s awful wrong is that he’s dark of hue,
The sin for which no blamelessness atones;
But lest the sameness of the cross should tire,
They kill him now with famished tongues of fire,
And while he burns, good men, and women too,
Shout, battling for black and brittle bones.
Where do we see Christ nailed to the cross today? How are our hands blood stained in cooperation?
– Nicole Hanley
March 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
Every Friday night in the Taizé Community, a more or less life-sized iconic cross is removed from its stand and laid parallel to the ground upon a few cinder blocks. During the Community’s evening prayer, the brothers and any guests who are present (sometimes as many as 5000 people) gather around the cross in a shared gesture of remembrance and devotion. All are invited to approach the cross, kneel by it, and rest their forehead upon the painted wood for a moment of prayer. Unlike any Veneration of the Cross that I have experienced elsewhere, prayer around the cross in Taizé is unique in that it is inescapably communal: the iconic cross is large enough for up to eight people to gather around it at a time. To approach the cross is, quite literally, to approach others.
In the many Friday nights that I have shared in this incredible ritual, it is always the gritty, physical, human aspects of prayer around the cross that strike me most deeply. It is one thing to make a tidy genuflection before a far-away crucifix, and quite another to wait in a throng of thousands for the chance to wedge yourself, shoulder to shoulder, into a circle of eight strangers, elbowing your way forward to find a spare corner of cross upon which to lay your head. Tears flow freely, murmured prayers in dozens of different languages are audible to all; to venerate the cross in Taizé is hardly a private devotional practice. I have often been struck by the impression that the wood of the iconic cross serves as a conduit, binding together all those gathered around it, uniting them not only in physical presence, but also in an invisible bond of prayer. Although it has been four years since I was last in Taizé, the memories of those Friday nights remain burned into my consciousness. I cannot think of Good Friday without thinking of the fleeting but profound community created around that cross or the explanatory words of one of the brothers: “the closer we come to Christ, the closer we come to one another.”
Death, as horrific as it can be, has extraordinary power to bring people together. It is by no means inevitable that the tragic rupture of death creates and builds up community, but the opportunity is always there, even if it is not always lived out. We can see it, perhaps, in our own encounters with death, in the gatherings of family, friends, and sometimes strangers around sickbeds and at memorial services. We can see it, too in the story of Christ’s Passion, where the birthing of community happens even at the foot of the cross:
“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.” (John 19:26-27)
As we move closer and closer to Holy Week, may we find ourselves swept up – together – in the great mystery of life and death. May we be given hearts wide enough and imaginations broad enough to fathom the community into which we are being called as we approach the Cross, and may we strive to welcome each other with delight and with awe.
– Kristin Saylor
April 22, 2011 Comments Off on The Sixth Station: The Students’ Perspective
Rev. Mary Foulke worked with students from St. Luke’s School to create a Stations of the Cross chapel service. We’d like to share their reflection about the ways crucifixion continues this afternoon:
When they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him; and with him they crucified two criminals, one on the right, the other on the left, and Jesus between them.
We know that people continue to be crucified; we see it around us… People who are killed for no reason, people who die in war, civilians dying in Libya, people who are given the death penalty, people who are killed for who they are, people who are killed because of their religion, people who are killed because of natural disasters, people who are in gangs.
April 20, 2011 § 1 Comment
Somehow I always forget that the stations of the cross are almost all difficult things to think about—oppression, torture, and capital punishment. When I was given choices on which station to write, all I could think was “Wow. Not exactly bedtime stories.”
Up to this point in the stations, Jesus has had the chance (theoretically) to change his mind. He could have decided that he’d had enough, and this wasn’t really the direction he wanted to go with his ministry. Anyone could understand the choice to avoid crucifixion. But he didn’t make that choice. Being nailed to the cross is the beginning of a long, slow, public death.
But he is not dead yet. He is nailed to the cross. This is where he has made his decision to commit to his message. This station speaks about commitment and the choices we make and the actions we take to support those choices, even when those actions mean discomfort, difficulty, or in Jesus’ case death.
Athletes know this kind of commitment of course, but so do many other people: those who are in school, those who are in relationships, single mothers or fathers. In fact, all of us have probably had times in our lives where we had to choose to line our actions up with our intentions for our own good and the good of those we love.
I think the power of the story here is that it captures my difficult struggles in a way that honors their difficulty. I stand at this point in the stations of the cross with my own feet nailed to this spot, as I am invited to consider the consequences for those who dare to make their actions line up with their message and commit to the difficulties that may come.
– Lee Heeter
Image: Famous Ankles
March 26, 2010 § 1 Comment
This image of Jesus’ Crucifixion is the first thing my visitors see at my home. There is a bronze Christ nailed to my wall straight across from the entrance door: the cross is missing along with half of one of Jesus’ arms. While some may think that this borders on sacrilege, I find that it intensifies the image of complete brokenness.
I often wonder if the intensity and tragedy of my own life story, marked by political persecution in my native country and followed by exclusion and discrimination in my new homeland, draws me to this depiction of deep pain.
Every time I feel betrayed, abandoned, forgotten, excluded, pushed around or lied to I think of Golgotha. However, it is not only the powerful image of the nails and blood. It is the noise of hammering that sounds in my heart. That loud pounding forces me to accept my own capacity to inflict pain to others.
Every time we hurt someone else we pound all over again with the hammer, nailing our bloody greed in someone’s heart, mind or spirit. So, for me the issue is to identify who were “they” who nailed him to the Cross. Were they those of us who hurt one another? Were they those who deny us dignity or who threaten our well beings? Who are they in today’s social dynamics? Are they you and me?
– Anahi Galante