The second hour…


Grunewald Crucifixion 1523

Grunewald, Crucifixion

Twisted on the cross
twisted and broken
bloody and bruised
it must be over soon.

For a moment his eyes flickered open
and he looked down
not quite focusing
but you could see he was trying,
trying to do something
trying to say something.

We waited for his words.
My life has never been the same since I met him
my friend, my master
this man who changed my world
changed the way I see things.

Last night I sat beside him
at the table.
It was Passover and it should have been a celebration
but it all got weird
and then things happened
and somehow …
I can’t believe it has come to this.

And Mary stands there
and I can’t imagine what’s going through her mind
and just when I’m thinking of her
he speaks to me…

“Look after her for me, John.
Look after her, friend.
She’s your mother now.”

Of course I said yes,
yes with my whole heart
I’d say yes to anything he asked

Grunewald Crucifixion detail  Grunewald Crucifixion foot detail

Grunewald, Crucifixion (details)

Twisted and broken
bloody and bruised
A young man in his prime
looking like something
from … from …
from hell.

Every sinew stretched to its limits
and it’s getting darker
and darker
and surely he must go soon. 

This is for me.
This is for you.
This is what he must do
for you
for me
for all.

This is what we’ve done
with our petty sins
our squabbles
ur selfishness
our pathetic holding on to everything we’ve got
instead of giving it all away.

I’ve got so much
cupboards full
a fat belly
clothes that don’t fit
but I won’t let go.

All those riches I don’t need.
And what does he have?
A scrap of cloth
nd a body full of wounds
of pain
of suffering.

And this is for me.
How stupid I’ve been
for not seeing it sooner.
For not heeding, listening, obeying
for not living with less
for not sharing more.

This is for me.
For you.
For all of us here today.
This is what we’ve done.
And we keep on doing it
over and over
and we never seem to learn.

Velasquez the Crucifixion

Velasquez, Crucifixion

And then it went really dark
dark as night
but it was the day
the whole world went dark
my whole world went dark.

Just let go, Jesus.
I find myself whispering it
under my breath.
Just let go.
Don’t bother about another lungful of air.
We’ll cope.
I don’t know how, but we will.

Just let go
and let it be over for you.
We’ve done enough damage.

I want it over and done with
partly for your sake
and partly for mine.
Because it’s just so unbearable.
And there is nothing to do except bear it.

I hear him take a last breath
his lungs fill
not completely
but enough to speak the words
“Into your hands, God,
I commend my spirit.”

And he bowed his head
and died.

There was a moment of calm
as if the whole world held its breath.
As if all of creation stopped for just a moment
stopped to take heed
of this momentous event.

It was over.
And then a sound broke out
it filled the sky
like thunder and lightning
and it took our breath away
but it was right that there was a commotion
it was right that creation protested
because one of her own
had died
and things will never be the same again.


HYMN My song is love unknown


Christ taken down from cross

We took him down
as gently as we could
Just when we thought we couldn’t take any more
you find that you have to.
We took him down
wrapped in a winding cloth
the colour draining from him
almost as white as the sheet.

A dead weight
and we still had to ask permission
to take him
He still wasn’t ours
and they wouldn’t have given him to us
not without Joseph’s help.
It takes money, you see.
It still takes money and power and status
to get things done.
I’m not saying it wasn’t good of him.
We’d have been thrown out on our ears
if we’d gone asking for him.
And whipped too probably.

And I was annoyed about that.
Stupid really.
Because this Joseph was doing the right thing
but it should have been us.

He wasn’t a real follower like us
He’d turn up late in the evening
when it was dark
wearing a hood and cloak
looking smug and nervous.
He and his pals didn’t want to sit and drink with us
to sing and laugh and tell stories
They would never give anything personal away
never share stories.
They just wanted to have proper, educated conversations with him.
Ask complicated theological questions.

If he was a disciple,
he was a discreet disciple,
saying not Yes or No,
but Maybe.

“Where are you taking him?”
And he says he has a garden
just below the hill.
He would, wouldn’t he?
A nice little garden,
only a stroll from the city walls.

And he says he has a tomb there.
We have no choice.
So we lift him down
and I remember he once said
he had nowhere to lay his head.
How ironic then
that he’s going to lie
in a borrowed tomb.


There he lies
our warrior, our king
our hope for the future
our friend, our brother.

There he lies
at the foot of the cross
still and lifeless
still and noble.

And look at them fighting
and squabbling
and shoving and jostling
and still it goes on
in his name
the fighting and in-fighting
the disagreements about how it should be done
about who’s in and who’s out
about who’s saved
and who’s going to hell.

And everyone thinks they’re right
and everyone else is wrong
that their interpretation is the correct one
because that’s the way they were told
and that’s how it’s always been.

And they just don’t listen.
They just don’t listen to what the man said.
That man there
lying cold and lifeless now
but once he was on fire with his message
and it was all about love
about mercy
about forgiveness.

They just don’t listen.

And we’re no better.

Bougeareau Pieta

Bougeareau, Pieta

She took him in her arms
just as she’d done at his birth
He lay across her lap
this forever child of hers.

She had said Yes in spring time
and given birth to God.
She had said Yes in high summer
and let him go about his Father’s business.
She had said Yes in autumnal festive Cana,
and given birth to joyous sparkling miracles.

Where once he was pink and rosy
and snuggly and cosy
and smelled of hay
fresh and clean.
Now he was cold and white
and heavy and lifeless
and smelled of blood
and brokenness.

She holds on to him
for dear life
and her eyes fill with tears again
how many more tears?

and if you look around
you’ll see there were tears everywhere
in all of our eyes

She holds him and weeps
for her loss
and ours
nd you can see that he looks like her
and she looks like him
and a sword is twisting at her guts
but she’s beyond feeling any pain now
She is numb
numb with grief
numb and cold
like his cold body lying on her lap.

What a day its been,
this awful day
this awful, dreadful
filled with dread day
And it looks as if she will never let him go
ever again.

Now with all of us
who have knelt ice cold
before our beloved dead,
he says:

Oh dear God, dear God


HYMN  There is a green hill far away


Bela Cikos Sesija The Mourning of Christ

Bela Cikos Sesija, The Mourning of Christ

We laid him in the tomb
She and I.
I didn’t know if she’d let me be there
helping her
or if she’d want to do it on her own.

It’s been a long bleak day;
all the utter, hideous vileness of crucifixion –
but now it was over.
And now he needed to be washed
and the women who loved him most
washed him with our tears.
Great wet tears
our hair flowing over his poor dead body
just like I did once before.

I remember that night
that night when I knelt at his feet
and washed his feet
with the best perfume I could afford.
Nothing was too good for him.

Did I know?
Did I know then
what was going to happen?
Was it foresight?
An omen?
A dream?

Did I know that I’d be back here
doing the same thing again
anointing him for burial
drying his skin with my hair
inhaling his scent
almost gone now
trying to hold it in my memory
to last me a lifetime
trying to hold on
and never let go.

So sad.
So beautiful.
This last act of love.

Love was his meaning.

Oleg Supereco Piety detail

Oleg Supereco, Piety

Too soon, Joseph says we must hurry.
But Mary looks at him with a big question on her face
because there is nothing for her to hurry for any more.
Joseph says they need to get him buried
before sunset
or we’ll all be unclean
and won’t be able to participate in the rituals tomorrow.

And Mary smiled at Mary.
Because clean and unclean
tomorrow and all these words
well, they don’t mean anything now.

But Joseph is insistent,
urgent, impatient.
So we laid him on the shroud
and as we lifted the material
she put her hand out
and stopped us.

And she bent forward
to kiss his brow.
But before she did
she looked at him
and even Joseph didn’t say a word
didn’t try to stop her
and we couldn’t take our eyes off them
this mother and son.

At his birth she wrapped him in swaddling clothes.
then the future seemed full of promise
as it does with most babies.
Now, when he is still young,
his mother once again wraps him tightly in a burial cloth.

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

We were all there,
every one of us,
when we feared there was no way forward
when the path was blocked with some great rock.
He is there whenever we feel entombed,
hemmed in,
in the darkness.

And his mother kissed him
a final kiss.
And John came forward
and took her arm
and said “Mother, come.”

You could tell it was the first time he’d called her that.

Our Mother.
The Mother of us all.

Hans Holbein Cristo Muerto 1521

Hans Holbein, Cristo Muerto

This is where we have to leave him
in a cold, cold tomb
Lifeless, still, cold,
a shadow of the man we once was.

Once he strode across the hills
once he rocked in a boat
once he drank wine and shared bread
and spoke to women and the unclean and the misfits
Once he lost his temper
and got passionate about the things that mattered
about the things that should matter to us.

Once he overturned rules that the church leaders lived for
and told us to forget the stupid rules
and to just love one another,
to break the rules if they were
rules for the sake of rules.

Love was his meaning.
And look where it has got him now.

Was he wrong?
Should he have toed the line,
kept quiet,
played by the rules?
ecause maybe then he might have lived longer.

But then he wouldn’t be our Jesus.
Then he wouldn’t be the reason we’re all here today.
Then he wouldn’t be the Son of God
the Son of Mary
our friend and brother.

Love was his meaning.
Love for you and love for me.
And the price he paid for that love
was death.
For you and for me.

For all our sins
for all our sins.
He died for us all
o that we might be forgiven.

That was his sacrifice for us.

He is dead.
And the world keeps turning.
He is dead.
And we are forgiven.
For everything.
Our slate is wiped clean
today, right now,
at this very moment
and for every moment in the future
we are forgiven
and the slate is wiped clean

That is the price he paid

Thank you.


FINAL HYMN O sacred head surrounded

With thanks to Sara Maitland’s Stations of the Cross for much of the influence for these meditations.