Since I didn’t get pictures t post, I’m going to provide one last Caryll Houselander way of the cross station. What could be more fitting for today, than the twelfth station.
Christ Dies on the Cross
To His enemies this seems to be the hour of their triumph and Christ’s defeat, but in fact it is the supreme hour of His triumph. Now when He seems to be more helpless than He has ever been before, He is in fact more powerful. When He seems to be more limited, more restricted, His love is boundless, His reach across the world to the hearts of men in all ages is infinite.
But to those who look on, how different what appears to be happening seems to what is really happening. How certain it seems that Christ has been overcome, that His plan of love for the world has failed utterly, that He Himself is a failure, His “kingdom” a pitiful delusion.
Can this be the same Christ who only three short years ago went up into another mountain and spoke to the multitudes, filling the heart of each individually with secret joy and hope?—teaching the poor their own glory, revealing the secret of his personal beatitude to each one who suffered, to each who was downtrodden or unjustly treated, showing them each the reality of the poetry of life, the inwardness of the kingdom which was already theirs if they could receive it with simplicity and the values of unspoilt children?
Did he not tell them, and did they not believe, that their very poverty clothed them, not in drab, worn garments, but in those that, seen by the true vision, are richer than Solomon’s robes, lovelier than the iridescent lilies growing in the fields of Palestine?
Did he not convince them that if their hearts were pure, the kingdom of heaven was already theirs—and he himself, who strewed the wild flowers under their feet and gave them the morning star, their king?
But now on this other mountainside how different everything seems to be. What hope is there now for them? Their king is poorer than any of them. He is stripped of all that he has; his crown is a ridiculous crown of thorns; he has nothing left of his own, not even a grave to receive his dead body. Far from being clothed in splendour that rivals the glory of Solomon, or beauty that rivals the wild flowers, his own natural beauty is hidden under wounds and bruises.
“He has no comeliness whereby men shall know him.”
He has never seemed so helpless as He seems now, not even as a little infant in Bethlehem.
The hands that could raise the dead to life with a touch, could heal the sick and give sight to the blind, are nailed to the hard wood: unforgettable, stiffening in death. The feet that blessed the delicate grass by their touch, that walked on the swiftly moving waves of the storm at sea, are fastened down to the rough trunk and held still. The eyes that could see into the depths of the soul are darkening with the blindness of death. The tongue that spoke the words of eternal love is swollen with thirst, and stiffened in death. The heart of the man who is love is turning to a small, hard stone that a man could hold in his hand!
More bitter than all His other suffering is the desolation of His soul, His own unutterable loneliness, the sense of being wholly unsupported by any love, emptied out, forsaken even by God: “. . . and at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’” (Mark xv. 34).
He seemed to be quite alone, quite defeated, dying a useless death at the end of a useless life, the tragic life of a poor deluded dreamer who, because of his fondest delusion that his love for the world could save it, had come to a still more tragic death, to die alone, an object only of scorn or pity—not even hated now, since now he is powerless—beaten. Men hate only when they fear.
“The passers-by blasphemed against him, tossing their heads. ‘Come now,’ they said, ‘thou who wouldst destroy the temple and build it up in three days, rescue thyself; come down from that cross, if thou art the Son of God.’”
But Christ would not come down from the cross—“I, if I be lifted up,” He said, “will draw all men to me.” Now He had done just that, He had drawn all men to Him because He was dying all of their deaths for them; He was giving Himself to them in death, so that in their turn they would die His death, with His courage, His love, His power to redeem.
From that moment when He bowed His head, crying out: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” and died, everyone indwelt by Him to the end of time would die His death, with His power to heal and strengthen and redeem themselves and other men by their dying.
He came to the tremendous mystery of His death alone, He felt forsaken even by God; but from that moment until the end of time, no Christian man or woman or child will die alone. Each one will die Christ’s death, their hands in His hands, their feet folded upon His feet, the last beat of their hearts the beat of His heart; and because He has made their deaths His own, theirs too will have the power of His to save themselves and those whom they love.
Houselander, Caryll. The Way of the Cross (pp. 79-82). Angelico Press. Kindle Edition.
Let me leave you with this glorious hymn that is so fitting for today, “What Wondrous Love is This.”
WE ADORE YOU, O CHRIST, AND WE PRAISE YOU, BECAUSE BY YOUR HOLY CROSS YOU HAVE REDEEMED THE WORLD.