March 23, 2017 Comments Off on The Seventh Station: Jesus Falls A Second Time
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
April 18, 2014 Comments Off on The Seventh Station: Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross
Have you ever thought about the wound on Jesus’ side? The “fifth wound” of Christ? We see it here, on James Middleton’s stunning image, as we come to the station “Jesus Dies on the Cross.” On Jesus’ right side, between a couple ribs, the wound pours blood, dripping down Jesus’ body. What do you think about this wound?
I’ve recently spent quite a lot of time thinking about it. I just finished writing my M.Div thesis about how this wound has been depicted in Medieval Art and how it can help us think about Eucharist in new ways.
One of my favorite images is this one, from a French Gothic Bible Moralisée, ca 1225
In it, we see Jesus on the cross. Out of the wound on his side, comes Ecclesia, or “the church.” She is a young woman, wearing a crown, and in her hands she holds out a chalice and delivers it into the hands of God the Father. Here, the wound is actually a birthplace. The wound makes Jesus’ capable of bearing a child, and the child he bears is the church in which we worship. The blood of this wound is actually the child-bearing blood which we drink at communion.
This Holy Week, I have been thinking about what it could mean for us to think of the blood in the chalice as this life-giving, mothering blood. On this day when we go without the mystery of celebrating Holy Eucharist, as we mourn Jesus on the cross, I am taking the time and space to imagine how the thanks I give on Easter can reflect Jesus’ gift to us, the gift of life.
– Julia Stroud
March 29, 2012 § 2 Comments
What I remember most from all those Wednesday nights twenty years ago
is a verse from a song we sang each week: “Were you there when they
nailed Him to the tree? Were you there when they nailed Him to the
tree? Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you
there when they nailed Him to the tree?”
Can I tell you that as a young teenager this song, particularly this
verse, made me laugh?
“No”, I whisper-giggled to whoever would listen to me in our pew, “I
was not there when Jesus was nailed to the tree.” I’m trying to admit
my honest childhood reaction to this sad song and wondering why this
song is my Lenten earworm now. Since I cannot get this pleading,
preposterous song out of my head, I’ve tried to turn this song into my
prayer this Lent. What I’m starting to see is that this simple song
sticks with me because it pushes my understanding of who Jesus is and
what his crucifixion means.
It can be easy to miss the passion in the Passion. Those of us who
grew up Christian have heard about Jesus’ death many times before, but
this song make me see the old story in a new way. The substitution of
the word “tree” for “cross” changes the story for me. I see soldiers
nailing Jesus to a dirty tree, rough with bark and wilting leaves.
This horrible unvarnished tree, sticky with sap and splinters, is far
different from any cross I’ve ever seen. History has smoothed out
Jesus’ story. The “tree” from “Where You There” guides me to see the
Passion in a new way. Sometimes it causes me to tremble.
“Were You There” is the first African-American spiritual I’d ever
heard. I don’t know how it landed in our Catholic hymnal in suburban
Pennsylvania, but I’m sure glad it did. This song was so entirely
different from the other music we sang in church. Part of my giggling
obsession with this hymn must come from the thrill of discovering a
new thing. This spiritual draws out tenderness and pain.
Dear Jesus, you stretched out your arms in love and were willingly
nailed to a horrible tree. Help us to understand your story. Give us
the courage to stand with you. Push us to open our arms to others,
even when we tremble. Amen.
– Chris Phillips
April 21, 2011 Comments Off on The Seventh Station: Jesus Dies On The Cross
Jesus dies on the Cross. It is done. It is finished. This sounds and feels so final… but it is not. Thy will be done on Earth as in Heaven… this is precisely what makes it not final as it used to be because Jesus defeated death on the third day.
Today, we sit with this excruciating pain; this terrible loneliness and desolation that grows deeper and heavier as the heavens are covered by darkness for three long hours. Jesus died on the cross a brutal death: alone, abandoned, betrayed, ridiculed and sold just for a few silver coins…
“Abba why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cried out. We hear him in the depth of our souls for all the times we feel and had felt forsaken, abandoned, forgotten, betrayed and laughed at.
Nevertheless, our desolation is not final either; we know so because Jesus has gone before us. Our outcry shall pass too. We take great comfort in knowing that our Lord understands our suffering as he has taken up on the cross the suffering and sins of the world so we can all be redeemed by his love, death and resurrection.
In this station, Jesus has just died. We are overcome by grief. Our hearts and souls ache beyond any understanding. Our friend has been taken away from us. We are lost. The deserts of our souls and the dark pits of our hearts exhume all of our pains, both old and new. How could they do this to us? How can they take our Lord away from us?
This is it. This is the end… The end of Calvary at the top of Golgotha. We feel defeated, stunned, bereaved and aggrieved. How long will it last? How long can we take it? We silently ask. We know our Lord understands us. He has gone there before us and that is what makes it possible for us to journey over and over again through our own Calvaries.
Deep inside we know we are not alone, and that on the third day, night, week, month, decade or millennium we will be raised up by our Lord, Jesus Christ who in this station is dying on the Cross.
– Anahi Galante
March 31, 2010 Comments Off on The Seventh Station: What Our Lord Saw From The Cross
A wonderful artistic discovery for me lately has been the work of James Tissot, whose extensive watercolor series of events in the life of Christ was recently on exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
One of Tissot’s best-known paintings is titled “What our Lord saw from the Cross”. It is a small painting, a little over 9” x 9”, and yet a work of enormous scope and power. At the time, it caused a great stir among the art-viewing public for the audacity of imagining such a profound moment from Jesus’ own viewpoint.
And this is a “presumption” that many of us may be shy about but need to explore. We say that we believe that Christ is fully human and then may be timid about these realities. It is natural to deify Christ on the Cross – to hold the Passion at such reverent emotional and spiritual distance that we dare not think of what the human person Jesus of Nazareth might have felt. Tissot dares to envision. On the faces of those at the foot of the cross Jesus sees every passion known to humanity. He looks at the people looking up at him. Some are scornful, almost leering; a well-dressed man on horseback gazes up at Christ as someone from whom he has nothing to learn. Christ watches himself being regarded as a zero, a nothing, a person of no significance. The rider’s companion, equally well dressed on another horse behind him, gazes anxiously up at the sky, noticing the gathering clouds that will in a few hours tear the Temple veil in two. Other onlookers are curious, or disgusted, or visibly relieved that this disgrace and suffering is falling on someone other than themselves. The women and the Beloved Disciple are at the foot of the Cross: distraught, resigned, sorrowful. As we look down through Jesus own eyes, we see our own bloodied feet. This, or something like it, must have been what Jesus saw from the Cross.
By all accounts, Jesus’ own demeanor does not change. Despite the whirlwind of passions and reactions to him, his reaction towards others remains one of loving concern. His clear gaze has already taken in his persecutors and enemies, his friends who love but are vacillating, and those who are faithful to the end.
For me, Jesus’ Passion resonates with more nuance and complexity – more true to human experience – when I dare to imagine Jesus experiencing all these things as a fully human being, vulnerable not only to the physical suffering but also to the pain of betrayal, rejection, fear, abandonment by God and his friends. We honor Jesus most fully when we refuse to deify him at the expense of his full humanity.
– The Rev. Caroline Stacey
Rector, The Church of St. Luke in the Fields
March 29, 2010 Comments Off on The Seventh Station: Jesus teaches us how to live
Release. Crossing over. Passing. This is the moment when the human incarnation ceases to exist in the world. Do I believe that? Do I believe that Jesus of the flesh is less present than Jesus of the spirit? Maybe all I can say is that at the moment of death, the human voice of Jesus was silenced and humanity passed back into a world without the sound of it. We are left with his words, passed to us indirectly by reported accounts. We are left to struggle with what these words mean to us, now, the living.
Jesus says “It is finished.” Then cries in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” What is it that is finished? This is one of those deceptively simple questions. What is “finished”? Certainly not his work in the world. Certainly not his presence. Certainly not his love for us. Certainly not the work he has left for us to do. What is finished?
As Christians, we don’t believe in the finality of death. Therefore, could we say that the death of Jesus on the Cross is the last “human” death? Isn’t it the one that set us free? Death teaches us how to live in the world; it reminds us of the preciousness of life. Like all knowledge we are free to do what we will with it: to ignore it, to deny it, to try to outrun it.
Then we stand at the foot of the cross and are reminded that God came among us, and when he did, we nailed him to a tree.
Maybe I don’t mean this to sound as blunt as it does. Maybe I do. I think it is important to be aware of our capacity to do harm, even to (or especially?) to divinity itself. I think it is important to remember that God has intimate knowledge of human death, a death at our hands.
What are we capable of? What are we not capable of? What do we do about it?
– Caroline Prugh
Image: from Stations of the Cross in Lodwar Cathedral, Kenya