Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Thirteenth Station--Jesus Is Taken Down From the Cross

"It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, the sun being obscured, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.
  And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into thy hands I commend My spirit.' And having said this, He breathed His last."
                --Luke 23. 44-46

This may just may be the saddest station on our journey. The weight of this death slowly falls on those who loved him. Standing by this station we see the crowds have gone. Even the soldiers have left. Only a handful are there. It is so quiet you don't even hear a bird sing. The only sounds from that hill is the sobbing of women. His mother and the others. Jesus is dead. That body which healed the blind and the crippled is empty. Those arms that stretched out to the needy again and again cannot move. That voice that spoke to troubled hearts and seas and anxious friends is silent. Jesus is dead.

And Joseph of Arimathea comes to supervise the taking down of the body. He has offered his tomb--for the Lord Jesus had nowhere to lay his head. Even in death. And Nicodemus comes back on stage . We thought we'd seen the last of him. I'm glad they put these rich men in the story. For it means that everyone--even the rich and powerful--can find a place in this story. We need to remember that Jesus reached out to everyone. And he had touched something deep inside Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, too.

Tenderly they take Jesus' broken body down from the cross. Did they wince as they pulled his hands away from the nails and the feet, too? Did they pry the nails loose? No one tells us. Leonard Boff has said of Joseph and Nicodemus "their love won out over fear." They anoint the body and wrap it in a cloth of perfumed oils. And Mary comes forward. "Bring him to me,"she said.  I remember a poem, perhaps not the best, but which touches the emotion of that moment.

"Did Mary make a birthday cake 
For Christ when he was small,
And think the while she frosted it,
How quickly boys grow tall?

Oh sometimes years are very long,
And sometimes years run fast,
And when the Christ had put away 
Small, earthly things at last,

And died upon a wooden cross
One afternoon in spring,
Did Mary find the little toy, 
And sit...remembering?"
--Helen Welshimer, "The Birthday"

As we stand here pondering the sorrow of all those who have lost someone--this Station is for them. That mother in Chicago who lost her daughter in a drive-by shooting one week after her band played for the Inauguration. All those mothers that sit with heavy grief this Easter because some son or some daughter did not make it back from the war. We could go on and on. The sorrow of mothers this Easter flows like a dark river around the world. And yet--this was not the end. Even if our Lord had not come back the memories of all the good he did and the people he blessed would still remain. But this was not the end. We know it now. 

Dostoevsky reminds us: "What keeps me going is that I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that in the world's finale something so great will come to pass that it's going to suffice for all our hearts, for all the comforting of our sorrows, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity. And I want to be there when suddenly everyone understands what it has all been for."

"All those dead are to be found
in the dead Jesus.
The question of all of them rises as a cry to God:
How long, O Lord, how long?
And the Lord
who is merciful,
resurrects our hope,
transforming the question into a plea:
Thy Kingdom come...
on earth as it is in heaven!"
--Leonard Boff, Way of the Cross

(I am endebted to the African artist, Bruce Onobrakpeya for his powerful renderings of the Stations of the Cross. The beautiful sculptured piece of Mary and her Son can be found in St. Bernard Abbey, Cullman, Alabama.)

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