Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

"We have had names for you:
The Thunderer, the Almighty
Hunter, Lord of the snowflake
and the sabre-toothed tiger.
One name we have held back
unable to reconcile it
with the mosquito, the tidal-wave,
the black hole into which
time will fall. You have answered
us with the image of yourself
on a hewn tree, suffering
injustice, pardoning it;
pointing as though in either
direction; horrifying us
with the possibily of dislocation.
Ah, love, with your arms out
wide, tell us how much more
they must still be stretched
to embrace a universe drawing
away from us at the speed of light."
--from Tell Us , by  R.S. Thomas

As we stand here before the Twelfth Station of the Cross we don’t know what to say or what to think. The old priest who has led our little cluster from station to station on this hard journey says it for us: “It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the curtain of the temple was torn in the middle. Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘It is finished, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Then, bowing his head, he died.’”

A.E. Hotchner in his biography of Ernest Hemingway called Papa tells that toward the end of Hemingway’s life he was very sick and depressed. He was in the hospital when his old friend, Hotchner came to see him. Toward the end of their visit Hemingway told his friend he wanted to tell him something. It was hard to hear the old writer because his voice was low and gravelly. Hotchner bent low to hear Hemingway. “Remember.” he said, “me telling you about that time I got scared and got baptized. I have laughed about it hundred times. What a joke: me, baptized.” Hemingway looked at the bedside table and reached over and took a tiny crucifix and held it tight. “What I want to say, Hotchner, that was the best thing I ever did.” And he kissed the little cross.

Days later still depressed Hemingway would take a gun and kill himself in Idaho. Did those outstretched arms on that cross reach down even to an old depressed man who could stand it no longer? And do those arms still reach out to whomever it is that hurts, is broke, addicted or overwhelmed.

There isn’t much to say, really standing here looking up at this station. We grow silent. Some in our group wipe the tears from their eyes. We know that cross beam comes all the way down to where we are. Not only the whole world in his hands, but you and me brother and sister in his hands. Thanks be to God.

(The fourteenth century Coventry Cathedral was reduced to ruins by fire bombs during the night in November, 1940.  This was the night when Coventry suffered the longest air raid of any one night on any British city during World War II. It seemed to be the end of a great church building which had been a citadel for the worship of God.

After the bombing, large fourteenth century hand-forged nails which had fasterned together the ceiling beams littered the ruined floor of the sanctuary. These nails were formed into a cross of nails which since have been a silent statement that God forgives. The church was rebuilt--and the cross of nails stands as a witness that Christ lives--in the now.)

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