Thursday 27 March 2008

The moving of my 'inner monk' at Easter

For me Easter is a season when it is time to change things. Sometimes I am a bit radical and change lots of things all at once, and it can make people feel uneasy. Myself and Gemma have been changing Lost Causes recently, and now the main site is all about food. We love food not because we are 'foodies' per se, but because food brings people together and celebrates life. I am always happy in the kitchen, and cooking with fresh ingredients reminds me of all the people I have to thank that I get well fed, every day. For me every meal time is practically a religious experience, and I don't think there is much wrong with that.

However, that is not what I am writing about. You guys, if you have arrived here are probably expecting to see the Stations of the Cross. As far as I have got, they are still here, where you left them. But, in the rush up to Easter I did not have time to fully think through the last part of this journey. Eastertide is not a time to meditate on the passion. It is a time of rejoicing in the resurrection. I will come back to the stations and travel again, but after this season of joy is over.

In the meantime, I have decided to blog about reading, poems, random thoughts and other Lost Causes whatnot here. I hope you don't mind. I like to think that it is just my 'inner monk' moving house in the ether.  It is all part of life's muddled up journey, after all.

Love E

Tuesday 18 March 2008

X. Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

I broke with tradition and used Liguori's words below, because this station leaves very little emotional space for comment. It defies words.

What to leave for reflection here then? Liguori cries out to his Heavenly mother:

Holy Mother, pierce me through
In my heart each wound renew
of my saviour crucified.

It wouldn't be unusual for a friend to share in the sufferings of their loved one. It wouldn't be strange for a loved one to make a sacrifice for a friend. We don't allow others to take on burdens for us, and then walk away. It is normal to want to share pain. Perhaps in the Stations of the Cross Christians are reaching out to try an share the pain of Jesus who took on so much to bring them salvation.

X. Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

St. Alphonsus Liguori sometimes uses words and phrases which are too crude for my airy fairy liberal spirituality; he makes me cringe. But, it is hard to imagine the indignity of being stripped in public, particularly when your body is bruised and battered.

Liguori's words are the ones which seem to fit here, even though they are brutal, even though they make me cringe. Perhaps that is the point:

Consider how Jesus was violently stripped of his clothes by his executioners. The inner garments adhered to his lacerated flesh and the soldiers tore them off so roughly that the skin came with them. Have pity for you saviour so cruelly treated and tell him:

My innocent Jesus, by the torment you suffered in being stripped of your garments, help me to strip myself of all attachment for the things on earth that I may place all my love in you who are worthy of my love. I love you Jesus with all my heart; I am sorry for ever having offended you. Never let me offend you again. Grant that I may love you always; and then do with me what you will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be)

Sunday 16 March 2008

X. Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

Precious things.....perhaps we do not understand what is truly precious in life until we have held it. Even then, once we have held what is truly precious several times it can seem like something 'normal'. I am not a mother, but perhaps the experience which has taught me most about the vulnerabilty of precious things is the birth of my nieces and nephews. I have held them as new born and they are the most delicate, beautiful, God given gifts. As they grow they remain just as precious and just as loved. As adults we forget that people are precious, and we have to remind ourselves not to take those that we love for granted.

'The vulnerability of precious things is beautiful because vulnerability is a mark of existence.' Simone Weil

When I hear this quote, and think about it in the context of the stations, I remember the celebration of the eucharist which is at the heart of the Catholic faith. Perhaps this is social conditioning, but perhaps it points towards the truth. Christianity is distinctly bodily. Liturgy is filled with bodily movements and it culminates in the reception of the body of Christ. Salvation is found within the body. All this was in contrast with other religions which developed alongside Christianity, many of which demanded that people needed to escape their mortal forms to reach salvation.

The body in Christianity is central. The eucharist, our reception of the precious body and blood of Christ is the most sacred moment of our worship.

All this being the case, to see Jesus, the Son of God stripped of his Garments is shocking. Perhaps it is because indignity is intended against his body. But, whose is the indignity? Jesus has done nothing wrong to deserve this shame. Perhaps the indignity that is suffered in this scene is upon those who stripped Jesus, forever remembered as immoral. Truth be told, our bodies are dignified;it is what is done to them which has the potential to be undignified.

Saturday 8 March 2008

X. Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

The Tenth Station

Illustration: Carolyn Gates

We adore you O Christ, and we praise you.
Because, by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world

'Then the governors soldiers took Jesus with them into the Praetorium and collected the whole cohort around him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe around him, and having twisted some thorns into a crown they put this on his head and placed a reed into his right hand. To make fun of him they knelt to him saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' And the spat on him and took the reed from his hand and struck him on the head with it."
Matthew 27 - 30

IX. Jesus falls for the third time

My outraged Jesus, by the weakness you suffered in going to Calvary give me enough strength to overcome all human respect and all my evil passions which have led me to despise your friendship.

My Jesus, I love you more than I love myself. I am sorry that I have offended you. Never allow me to offend you again. Grant that I may love you always and then do with me what you will.

(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be...)

Make me feel as you have felt
Make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ, my Lord.

IX. Jesus falls for the third time

Looking at the ninth station of the cross Edward Schillebeeckx OP would surely have to comment that 'God, in some sense, has got a struggle on God's hands.' Schillebeeckx addressed human suffering beginning with his understanding that it could never be understood. Suffering could not be argued against, or explained, it could only be shared; in fact, it demanded to be shared and that is why those in pain are often in such desperate need of someone who will listen to them tell their story. Theological explanations and theories are not enough to explain to the mystery of evil in this world, they never add up.

The Stations of the Cross are another example of 'telling the story' of suffering. Schillebeeckx understood the ministry of Jesus as a protest against suffering. Where he saw Jesus ministering to the sick, he saw a protest against evil and the relief of suffering. For Christians today suffering demands that we take example from this ministry, listening to the suppressed stories of people in their pain, and actively ministering to ensure the prevention and the relief of suffering. In the suffering of the Passion Schillebeeckx refuses to talk about the 'abandonment' of Jesus. Instead he argues that we should understand that God was silently present throughout this terrifying ordeal: 'God nevertheless remains near at hand...salvation consists in the fact that man still holds fast to God's invisible hand in this dark night of faith.' God waits to bring resurrection from death. Schillebeeckx is clear that evil is not 'allowed' or 'permitted' by God for a 'greater good'. This language, so often used to express confusion in the mystery of suffering is unhelpful. "God, who according to Leviticus, 'abominates human sacrifices' (Lev 18: 21 - 30; 20: 1 - 5), did not put Jesus in the cross. Human beings did that. The Kingdom of God comes despite of, not because of, the human misuse of power and the rejection of the message if the King of Peace.
'The story of Jesus assures us that entering into communion with suffering people and acting to bring life out of death is what God does for a living. This memory is not the same as an explanation, for suffering remains a mystery."

This post has used extensively the thoughts and words of Robin Ryan CP who published Holding onto the Hand of God: Edward Schilllebeeckx on the Mystery of Suffering in New Blackfriars Vol 89 NO 1019 January 2008, Pages 114 - 126.

Sunday 2 March 2008

IX. Jesus falls for the third time

'Third time lucky' is what we sometimes say when we have experienced things that go wrong. I cannot imagine that this was the experience here. I thought for a little while today about what it feels like when you cannot imagine the future. 'Darkness' is the adjective that comes to mind. When we fail it is almost instinctive to curl up into a tiny ball and return to the fetal comfort of the womb, not daring to look out. Coincidentally, today it "Laetare" Sunday, when the Church calls its people to hope during the long season of abstinence, fasting and prayer that is Lent, preparation for Easter. No one likes to be in the dark. Actually, that is not quite true. I quite Like it, but that is only because of the uncertainty it makes me feel, the danger. Darkness, quite naturally makes us feel uneasy. For some people, it makes them frightened. I imagine that for Jesus, this third fall made his feel desperate, afraid and abandoned. There is nothing to do when that happens, but hold on, wait.

Sometimes people think that religious people should always be happy, but that is unrealistic. Life is a chequerboard of good and bad. 'Shit happens', and sometimes it isn't even our fault. In the Gospel today the Church listened to the story of the man born blind in John 9. It is a striking story for many reasons, but there are two in particular which enabled me to think about this station. Firstly, this man has always been in darkness - he has never known 'the good times' which have been accorded to people able to earn a living of their own accord, and he has been reliant on the kindness and cruelty of others all his life. Secondly, when he has been healed and the Pharisees are questioning him about Jesus he is honest and forthright. He does not know exactly who Jesus is, but he knows that a good thing has come to him, and that good things come from God: ' 'Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. All I know is that I was blind and now I see.'

That Jesus falls for a third time on the road adds to the darkness and the cruelty of the passion. Disasters crueler than can be imagined happen to innocent people. But, none of this takes away from the light of the resurrection. The presence of God amongst suffering. When we fall and fall again in our lives, when everything is dark around us, it is not because Christ is not there. It because we have folded up into a ball and our eyes have been hidden from the light. In this station Jesus shows that he has experienced how this feels. But, as the blind man teaches the Pharisees: 'Everything in the darkness is the same as it is in the light.' God is never that far away.