"Though we stumble,
we shall not fall headlong,
for the Lord holds us by the hand."
In the traditional Stations of the Cross--Jesus falls three times. There is no mention of Jesus falling in the Scriptures even though after the first fall--the next Station shows Simon picking up Jesus' cross after he falls. And yet--pilgrims though the years have stood by these three sad Stations, often moved to tears. Jesus fell. Jesus fell. Jesus fell. The cross was far too heavy. The burden was just too much. In his exhausted wounded station--Jesus could go no further. Jesus fell again and again.
As pilgrims look up at this Station some hold back that lump in their throats or wipe away a tear. Where do these tears come from? The old counselor used to say: "Follow the tears--they will have something important to tell you." Follow the tears.
Why did they brush away those trickles that coursed down their faces? Where did those lumps in their throats come from? Surely they were touched as Jesus fell on the broken cobblestone streets. Surely they must have heard the laughter and derision from the crowd.
But looking up at the falling Jesus--I think many of them--and us--are moved by our own fallings. God knows they hurt. I have little scars and nicks from the falls I have taken as a runner. They will be with me as long as I live. Looking up at the falling Jesus we remember those times when we stumbled and fell. Sometimes it was over a job, often over a personal failure we thought we had conquered years ago. Sometimes the tears come from our failure to reach a child we love with all our hearts. Or it could be that marriage that left us broken and wounded in the dust. Why the tears? Someone reminded us that if we live long enough we will fail--fall. Deep in our hearts we know this is true. And so we carry nicks and scars until the very end.
The artist, Cecile Martin has captured Jesus' falls in our picture. I think this rendering reminds us of our own falls and the heartbreak in our world. We nod our heads at these three separate falls because looking up--we know. Oh, we know.
These three falls are not the end--we are not even half way through the journey. But at almost mid-point I remember the story of the medieval farmer who asked a monk one day what the holy fathers did behind the walls of the monastery. In his eyes just praying and following God must have been as close to heaven as one could get. "What do you do behind those walls?" the old farmer asked. The monk replied, "We fall down and we get up; we fall down and we get up; we fall down and we get up."
"Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father,
you have brought us in safety to this new day:
Preserve us with your mighty power,
that we may not fall into sin,
nor be overcome by adversity;
and in all we do,
direct us to the filling of your purpose;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. "
--The Book of Common Prayer
The contemporary portrayals of the Stations of the Cross found here are by Cecile L. K. Martin. The original pictures hang in the St. Paul the Apostle Church in Seneca, South Carolina. Ms. Martin can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org