Following the Stations of the Cross, we had two hours of meditations and images at our Good Friday service. This was following on from our Lent groups which was my sabbatical project last year. This is the first hour’s meditations and images:
Carl Bloch, The Mocking of Christ
First we taunted him.
It was grotesque.
He said nothing.
He just stood there silently.
He stayed human.
Perhaps we who taunted him were less than human.
We were whipped into a frenzy by the crowd
goading one another
to hurl another insult
worse than the last.
We taunted him.
And he said nothing.
The Governor sat there,
he sat there with his toga on,
all posh, all Roman,
polish and power.
Elegant with white, soft hands
and sophisticated wit.
But everyone knew he was shameless
So we did the taunting for him.
He knew this man was innocent.
For heaven’s sake
we knew he was innocent.
It was all a set up.
And he washed his hands,
his lily white hands.
The Governor washed his hands
and declared himself innocent
of this righteous man’s blood.
I shouted at him.
Right in his face,
spittle landing on his cheek.
“Call yourself a king, then?”
The crowd laughed
and that goaded me on.
I felt the power surge through me.
And then he spoke quietly.
So quietly, so softly,
but everyone heard him.
“No, I didn’t. Your Governor did.”
Not cheeky, not uppity,
but certainly not scared.
He answered it as though I had asked it to him
without any of the nasty sarcastic edge
I knew I had used.
Caravaggio, The Flagellation of Christ
First there was taunting
Then there came the scourging.
It gave us soldiers power.
We who only get to obey orders
finally get a bit of power ourselves.
We get to choose how hard
the prisoner gets scourged.
Within limits, of course.
Better not kill him straight away.
But better not send him off looking too clean and fresh.
Some of the soldiers like it more than others.
You’d be surprised who enjoys it.
It’s all about power really.
Finally we, the little men,
the ones who obey orders,
we get some power.
And be honest,
who doesn’t like a bit of power?
So you tie his hands to the pillar
and you find you are tying them just a bit tighter than you need to.
Stretch that skin,
watch him flinch.
He’s at your mercy now.
You even have the power to be kind if you want.
But not many do.
You strut about a bit,
flex your whip,
lay it on hard or lay it on soft.
They can’t tell which it’s going to be
and that unnerves them.
Some of them whimper and beg
some rage and curse
some close down completely.
But you feel bigger and bigger
while they feel smaller.
But this one was different.
We just didn’t get to him
no matter how hard we scourged him.
I mean, it was hurting him
you could see that.
We’d done a proper job
but we couldn’t break him.
We hadn’t made him smaller –
I felt we’d just made ourselves smaller.
I don’t know how that happened.
James Reid, woodcut
We took him off then along the road.
He fell, he stumbled in the dust.
It took all of our power to keep the crowds back,
some baying for blood
but there were some who obviously knew him.
Knew him well.
They tried to get through to him
to touch him,
to wipe the sweat from his face
but we kept it all under control
And we came to the hill
and the crosses were silhouetted against the sky.
He stood there looking up
and it was almost as if the weak sun found him
and perhaps it gave him some warmth
when we took away his clothes.
He has nothing left now.
He is stripped to the bone.
His mind is a desert.
We have taken everything away.
Everything except that silly crown
forced down on his head.
A parody of a crown.
A crown of thorns not gold
a crown of pain not power
a crown of foolishness not glory.
HYMN The head that once was crowned with thorns
Adolf Lachman, Crucifixion Nailing to the Cross (detail)
You have to take pride in a job like this,
being the hammer man.
You’ve got to do it properly
You don’t want the nails pulling out
or not getting their arms spread tight enough
so that it goes on for three or four days.
And you don’t want to hit an artery
or it would be all over way too soon.
No, you have to take pride in a job like this.
And especially this one.
There’s something special about this one.
He didn’t struggle like they usually do.
Usually they put up a bit of a fight.
But not this one.
So I did the others first.
The other two who were bawling and cursing
and badmouthing us all.
I got them out of the way first
because once they’re up on the cross
they soon quieten down.
Then I took his hand
It was cool, I noticed.
Even in all this heat, it was cool.
Now, you’ve got to do it quickly.
It takes skill to get it right, like I said.
No tapping or messing,
it shouldn’t take more than half a dozen whacks.
Of course, the better the wood,
the better the job.
And the nails too
they’ve got to be sharp.
And you’ve got to know exactly where to place it.
I’ll spare you the details
but I’m good at it now.
As I strike the first blow
I say what I always say:
“May the gods go with you.”
And he said something back to me.
I didn’t hear it at first for the noise of the hammer.
“What did you say?”
He’s white as a bone,
he’s biting his lip because of the pain
but he gasps it out…
“God. Not gods.
There is only one God.”
So the next one I said:
“May YOUR God go with you.”
I don’t know why.
It just seemed polite somehow.
And when I finished
he said “Thank you.”
I feel like I’ve done something important
and I’ve done it well.
but that’s how it made me feel.
Then the cross was lifted up
and we stood back.
Ezio Marzi, The Innocent
I gasped when I looked up.
Where was he?
Where was the man,
the man we’d mocked
and spat upon
and tied and beaten
Was this some kind of joke?
For there, before me
I saw a child hang there.
It must have been a trick of the light
but just for a moment
for just a brief moment
I saw a small innocent child.
Was it a sign, a portent?
That he was innocent after all?
That we had nailed an innocent man to a cross
and he was innocent all along?
I kept these thoughts to myself.
Didn’t want to sound a fool.
Didn’t want to rock the boat.
Too late now, anyway.
But I could have sworn I saw a child,
Sam Harrison, Crucifixion
And I looked again
and a man hung there.
The man I knew
the man we’d beaten
and the child was gone.
He looked as if he wouldn’t last long now
I told him I’d stand there until he died.
I don’t know why.
I don’t usually.
It was the last thing I said to him.
It seems like an obvious thing to say,
and I’m glad I said it.
And even gladder that I’m doing it.
I don’t know why though.
Some soldiers passed by
drunk by the looks of it.
Some have to do that… drink…
to get through it.
“Heh! You said you’d destroy the temple
and build it in three days, did you?
Come on then, let’s see it.
Come on, save yourself then!
Save yourself and get down from the cross!”
They laughed and stumbled
and nudged one another.
And then the chief priests came along
with their scribes.
No show without punch, eh?
Just wanting to check
that their biggest threat is being dealt with.
They joined in with the soldiers
shouting up at him
but I don’t think he’s listening.
“He saved others, so they say
but he cannot save himself.
Come on then Jesus, King of the Jews,
Come on Messiah,
come down from that old cross
so that we can see you
and maybe then we’d believe you!”
But he didn’t say a word.
He just hung there
bloodied and beaten
HYMN Take up thy cross
Dinah Roe Kendall, Crucifixion
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there on that hill?
We do it on a hill
so that everyone can see
for miles around.
Everyone can see the example,
what will happen if you don’t obey the rules.
You can’t miss it.
And from that hill
I suppose he had a view over the whole city,
could see the Temple,
the wide spread of the countryside,
right across to the mountains.
He had a thing about Jerusalem
so I had a weird thought
that maybe he had chosen this place
and that he was going to do something.
I wasn’t sure what he was going to do.
But something spectacular
that was the feeling I had.
That everything was going to be all right.
Because I heard he called a man Lazarus
out of his grave.
So any moment now…
And when I looked at all the faces around me
well, it looked like some of them
were maybe thinking the same.
I think that must be his mother
there at the foot of the cross.
I don’t know that my mother would come
if it was me hanging up there.
I wonder what’s going through her mind…
Nelia Ferreira, No More
What have they done to my baby?
my own one.
What have they done?
And I remember those words
from long, long ago.
“And a sword shall pierce your own soul too.”
Those words of prophecy
spoken when he was just a babe in my arms
a small innocent baby
being brought to the temple
that day long, long ago.
Oh what high hopes we had for him then.
We knew he was going to be special –an angel told us that.
An angel brought news of his coming
when I was so young
just a girl really
and here I am
still not old
but I feel it today.
Nobody should ever have to watch their child die.
What happened to my boy?
How did it come to this?
Such cruelty I’ve seen today.
I can’t believe what I’ve seen
and how brave he’s been
but not me
not brave at all
I can’t breathe
I can’t breathe
while he hangs there
My heart is in my mouth
I can’t bear it any longer
But I can’t look away.
Simon Bisley, Christ on the Cross
It’s going on too long,
my boss said.
The crowd are getting agitated
there might be trouble
there might be a riot
and it’s getting hot as the sun rises higher.
Heat and crowds –
never a good mix
To begin with
he’d take turns
hanging from his wrists
letting his whole body hang from them
then he’d push up with his feet
take the weight off his arms,
Just prolonging it really.
They all do it.
So my boss told me to hurry it up.
Get it over and done with
before things get out of hand.
I took my spear
and plunged it in his side.
He’ll not have the strength to hold on much longer now.
I knew there would be blood.
That’s why I stand back.
It can be messy
but it was the strangest blood I’ve ever seen.
It was like blood and then water.
Water gushing out like a stream
two fountains of blood and water.
Red and clear
Blood and water
What on earth have I done?
I’ve never ever seen that in all my life.
HYMN The royal banners forward go