Thursday, February 07, 2008

not by bread alone

I've been reading up on the Stations of the Cross. It's one of the optional observances our community utilizes during Lent. There are lots of versions of this form of meditation; we use the standard Anglican form.

I have also been wanting to create my own set of abstract images for each of the fourteen stations for some time... (years actually) It's a project I've worked on, but never finished. While I've done a few, coming up with 14 has not been easy.

I was first introduced to the Way of the Cross way back in third grade, when I attended a parochial school for half a year. In addition to our daily memorization of the catechism, we trooped across the street to church once a week to walk the stations. Each was a large bas-relief niche set up high into the wall, and I was both fascinated and grossed out by the graphic rendering of Christ's passion. I remember the sister lifting us up to touch the crown of thorns on Jesus' head. The stone had been sharpened to such tiny points we could prick our fingers. It left an impression, even on those of us who didn't push hard enough to bleed. I also distinctly remember the smell of incense, and will associate that smell with Catholic churches for the rest of my life.

In the little book I'm currently reading, it states that the "Way of the Cross is a form of meditation which has been sanctified by the devotion of centuries." Now that's a scary thought. Something is sanctified by usage? Or by devotion? I don't think so. The Nazis were devoted to killing Jews... there was no sanctification there. We have been reciting the blood and guts war psalms for centuries too. War has never been sanctified.

I'm not even sure that this meditation will lead me (as the booklet suggests) "into a deeper union with Christ in his suffering". It might, but my suspicion is that only suffering does that. I think it is Christ's suffering that we should be looking to relieve, not redeem. And, since we live two thousand years too late to relieve his, we can only relieve it by relieving the suffering of each other.

Jesus said to Peter, "If you love me... Feed my sheep. Tend my lambs. Feed my sheep." Relief of hunger, one of the basic instincts of all life. That's what my deacon friend does at St. Bart's every day... he "just feeds people."

But hunger can be more than physical. It can be mental and/or spiritual. I remember when my kids were little and I stayed home every day, I definitely hungered for adult conversation. That was mental hunger.

Jesus spoke about being fed... not by bread alone... but by the food that would fill the spiritual emptiness. Lent seems to be a journey to find that kind of food.


Haus said...

I appreciate your comments about spiritual hunger versus physical hunger.
I understand completely. I feel a spiritual hunger I haven't felt in a while. I've been waiting for Lent, hoping for it almost. It gives me a chance to delve deeper into myself.
Anyways, blessings on your journey this season.

Beth_nc said...

Yes, the Stations invite us into a deeper union with Christ in his suffering (physical and mental), but to me this practice invites us to ponder our relationships, our behavior.

For example, Jesus is condemned to death. Have you ever been unfairly blamed for something? When this happens to me, I can become quite indignant! (Not the response Jesus had.)

Peter denies Christ three times. Have I ever failed to stand up for my beliefs?
But yet even so, Peter subsequently becomes a brave spiritual leader, a foundation of the new church. . . Perhaps there's hope for all of us to find courage to live out our beliefs.

Best wishes,

HeyJules said...

I'd really love to see you finish that project.

Take your time...but I'll be waiting. ;-)