Monday, 2 June 2008

XI. Jesus is nailed to the Cross

I have been avoiding this. When I started this journey through the stations of the cross I thought it would be easy. A mental pilgrimage would have to be easier than treking through the mountains and mesetas of Spain on route to Santiago de Compostela, and surely it would be less tiring than the Lourdes prayer, procession, play, prayer, procession, play. The trouble is, a mental pilgrimage occupies your thought space. The reality of the stations of the cross is that they are haunting. On a physical journey you stop, contemplate, get up and move on. This is significantly more challenging mentally. The protagonist, Elaine, in Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye describes time 'like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of another.' If time were linear her childhood would drift out of sight, but instead she finds that 'sometimes this comes to the surface, sometimes that, sometimes nothing. Nothing goes away.' This seems to me to be an accurate description of my own relationship to the Stations. In an ordinary journey I would have to physically get up and move, but in my mind I can look through the stations 'like water', and gleam from them a complexity of meanings - some common to others, some more personal.

'Nailed' seems to me similar to 'trapped'. It is a painful loss of freedom. It has to be imposed. People get trapped through a loss of freedom by all sorts of things. They get 'nailed' by life. I am not quite sure what this has to do with the crucifixion of Christ. But, somehow there is a connection. In a dialogue with his sufi Muslim neighbour Christian de Cherge has clarified for him the three crosses present in the crucifixion.

'Which one comes from God?' Christian asked him
'The one behind'
'Which is the oldest?'
'The one in front...God had to create the first one before man could make the second one'
'What is the meaning of the cross in front,
of the man with his arms extended?'
'When I extend my arms', he said, 'its for embracing, for loving.'
'And the other?' I asked?
' The other cross is an instrument of hatred, for disfiguring love.'

The third cross, the conversation goes on to clarify, is the journey that people make to separate themselves from the cross of evil behind them to bind themselves to the cross of love in front. It was love that bound Jesus to the cross. It is love which frees people from entrapment. It is love which draws people through the stations of the cross - otherwise, what would be the point?

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