|Photo by Steve Snodgrass / flickr|
--Tradition of the Jerusalem Church.
The Priest says, “We must move on—have a long way to go. We’ve only covered five of the Stations—we have nine more places to stop.” And so we look up at the sixth Station. The Priest says that this is the only Station not found in the Scriptures. Only a legend, he says. “But look close.”
From out of the crowd that terrible day a woman squeezes her way through the onlookers. Women were not supposed to shove or stand in front. They were to be found always at the back of the line or the bus or even the pay scale.
Not Veronica. She sees Jesus passing by. “Bearing our grief’s,” the book says, “carrying our sorrows.” Bloody, cross-eyed with pain, almost naked—Jesus carries his cross. She did something unheard of that day. She took from her head her scarf. Her covering. Breaking all the rules—she took her head wrap and touched tenderly the wounded face of Jesus.
Jesus moved on. The guards made sure of that. And Veronica weaved her way back through the crowd. As she started to cover her head—she noticed something embedded in her cloth. Blood? Sweat? Tears? Dirt? Maybe pain itself. None of these. On her scarf she saw again the face of Jesus beaten and pain-filled as she had seen him that day.
This Station has been called: vera ikon. True nature. True image. I think the Church kept this Station to remind us of who God truly is: “A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”
But more—I think also the Church must have known that in reaching out and touching Jesus’ face—Veronica herself was changed. God—this God—was human and real and as close as the faces in that crowd.
Somewhere Buechner tells of a short story where a man did terrible, abusive things to his wife. She left him finally—broken and scarred. The man moved away to another place. He assumed a different identity. He wore a mask that covered who he truly was. Those in the new place loved him. They found him to be kind and generous. Years later the ex-wife saw him. All the old pain surged again. She confronted him in a crowd. “They don’t know who you are. Take off that mask and let them see your real face!” Slowly the man peeled away his facade. The woman was dumbfounded. This was not the same man. He had worn the mask so long that he had become what he wore. Looking up at this Station, I remembered this story too.
Veronica and her scarf bore the suffering face of Jesus. I think that moment changed her forever. And us? If we, too, move close and see who he truly is—will we ever be the same again? No wonder the Church took a legend and gave us a parable.
--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com