Monday, January 24, 2005

A new "New Tract for the Times"

just in time for Lent! This is the next-to-last draft; I'll take corrections, comments, and bright ideas (like alternative graphics, maybe?) here for a few days, then finalize it and put it in the other website. Please feel free to comment either in the comment box or by email --- be sure to put an appropriate subject line on so it doesn't get weeded with the spam! With no further ado, I present for your kind consideration ----

Stations of the Cross: a New Tract for the Times

the only crown, the only sceptre.....

I. Jesus, true and total Innocent, you were condemned and sentenced to death, though You had committed no crime, by a cynical politician who simultaneously denied all responsibility for the decision. Oh, how often do I do what is expedient instead of what is best or most just? How often do I go along to get along?

II. Your cross, Your instrument of execution, is brought to You. You are not bound to it struggling and unwilling, but You take it up of Your own will. Lord, I know that for every one of us, not having a cross is not one of the options, yet how consistently I set out to avoid bearing it. I could bear it with You and offer it as gift, but so often I fight and struggle and am bound and dragged, crushed and broken by it.

III. Yet, You are very weak. Up all night, marched all over town then scourged until nearly dead, the cross is heavier than Your body can carry, and You fall down. Yet You got back up, picked up the fallen cross, and went on. How often do I fall down and just give up and stay there?

IV. You meet Your mother along the road. She shares one of God the Father's attributes --- You are her only-begotten Son. She loves You, and witnesses Your suffering, and can hardly help but suffer with You; yet she consents to this, and continues to follow You, all the way to the end and beyond.

V. Even the guards can see Your bodily weakness, and they want to get You to the execution grounds still alive so You can be crucified. So they grab a guy off of the street and force him to carry Your cross, so You only have to carry Yourself. The evangelist identifies this guy, Simon the Cyrenean, as "Alexander's and Rufus' father," a sign that the people the evangelist were writing for knew Alex and Rufus as fellow believers. Was this where Alex and Rufus first encountered Christ, coming in from the fields with their dad?

VI. A lady in the street, bold in her mercy, performs an alms-deed for You. Seeing You nearly blinded by sweat and blood, she of her own volition wiped Your face with one of her veils. Am I ever bold in mercy, or am I chickenhearted, only being merciful to the respectable and deserving, when it's easy and without risk?

VII. Even with help from Alex's and Rufus' dad, this journey is more than Your bodily strength can endure, and You fall down again. You do not stay down though, and the guards do not force You up by Your bindings; You get up Yourself, and continue on. How often am I not persistent in going towards the good, and I give up and wallow in my woes?

VIII. A group of women were touched by Your suffering and Your sentence, and they mourn for You. And You, who so loved all humankind, pitied them, and gave them a prophetic warning of the days to come for them. Not good tidings. But a true warning.

IX. Nearly there, the grade changes --- execution sites are up on hills to better make an example of what happens to those who breach the Pax Romana --- and You fall yet again. And You still do not give up, but rise and continue. No matter how many times I fail and falter and fall, I must continue to get up and go on. Do I?

X. You have finally arrived at the execution grounds. Your last few possessions are now taken from You, including Your clothes. The guards are none too gentle, and the forming clots and scabs from Your scourging come off with Your undertunic, opening all those wounds again. You are totally dispossessed, without even the dignity of being allowed to cover Your nakedness, absolutely exposed. When the day comes when I am Called, I must go to God empty in order to be filled totally with Himself; yet do I cling tightly to physical or psychic "stuff": money, houses, toys, honor, respectability, dignity? You were entirely disdignified; why would I be more deserving of dignity than You?

XI. And then You were crucified. You stretched out Your arms and the guards nailed then securely to the crossbeam. They took Your feet and nailed them also, and they raised You up from the earth. Not far, not nearly to the skies, let alone the heavens. They posted your name and crime above Your head: King of the Jews. And they left You there to die. You are all-good and deserving of all my love, and yet I have given You this.

...if I be lifted up, I will draw all people to Myself

XII. After between three and six hours of humiliating and shameful exposure and slow suffocation on the cross, having fulfilled all Your Father's will and having seen to the future care of Your mother, You handed over Your spirit to Your Father and died. Because it was the afternoon before Sabbath, there were orders to break the legs of the condemned so they would suffocate fast and not be left hanging there on Sabbath. Because You had already died, though, they did not break Your legs, only assured themselves of Your death by driving a spear through Your heart. Water and blood flowed out, the spring of salvation that I so often take for granted and fail to appreciate and give thanks for.

XIII. A wealthy and well-placed follower, Joseph of Arimathea, asked for and received permission to take down Your body and give it burial. Your mother, and John, and the other Marys, were already there at the cross, had been there the whole while. Joseph and Nicodemus came, and took Your body down from the cross, and laid it, for the last time, in the arms of Your mother, and she clung to it; but it was very near to sundown and Sabbath, so Joseph and Nicodemus had to take the body from her. Am I always as loath to let go of You?

Pieta by John Carroll Collier

XIV. Joseph and Nicodemus hurriedly wrapped Your body in linens and put it in Joseph's own tomb, not yet used for any burials, since it was not far away and Sabbath was very near. After Sabbath they would return and finish the rites and practices of burial, for there was no more time now, Sabbath was upon them.

And so we entered the one day in all of history when it can be said with any truth at all that God is dead.......

Light in All Darkness icon.  One of the special treasures of Cathedral Parish, Milwaukee.

To all human appearances this day, hope has been crushed, the light extinguished, darkness is triumphant. But, this is only an appearance.

There is one who has guarded the light with her whole life, who knows that even this cannot be the end, and continues to guard and cherish the light in her heart as she always has. She waits, and gathers in the crushed and hopeless disciples and encourages them to wait with her and not despair; and so they wait.

Mother of God, Light in all darkness,
intercede for us.
Be a companion to us,
and bring to our confusion and darkness
the Light you bore,
the Light you guard and cherish.
Although we do not yet see light,
do not let us fall into the abyss,
and assure us that there is still light
until such time as the Light shall return.

1 comment:

Julie D. said...

I wish I had some constructive criticism to offer ... but I love it! I would gladly make a copy now... thanks for doing this. It will enrich my Lenten meditations.