Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Dig: Week 1

Welcome to Week 1 of our Lenten Dig where we will be reading and discussing the book What Jesus Saw from the Cross. Feel free to join the discussion at any time. Please note, all items I've put in quotations below are excepts directly from the book.


Two years ago after Good Friday mass I remember walking out of church into a drizzle; it was a dreary day, overcast, dark, and wet.  I flipped the hood up on my coat and as I stepped into my car I remember thinking: how appropriate.

I think that's kind of how I've always looked at this day: dark, gloomy, depressing. I pictured brown, barren ground and loud, unattractively sounding, squawking birds. So what was so startling to me in reading this first chapter was the author's claim that "there was nothing gloomy about the prospect." There was vegetation: olives, citrons, nuts and figs "giving off their honey scent." While I have always pictured birds, in my head they were more like crows, not birds "making merry in the springtime". But maybe what struck me the most odd were the flowers: "the place was carpeted with cyclamens, the flower of rocky ground, wild daffodils, irises, fennel, poppies, and daisies, and especially the red anemone, perhaps lily of the field, and the famous flowers of Calvary - those tiny blossoms that never seem to die...." I mean, reading this description of Calvary it sounds.....beautiful, inviting, enjoyable, which is in such stark contrast to what was taking place there that day.

Another thing I found extremely interesting in this first chapter was the description of the cross, of it's height and weight.  The author notes that "the length of the beam had to be limited because it had to be thick, and yet the criminal must carry it. Therefore limiting the weight." He talks about the demands of balance and handling and says "it was possible to engage the shoulder against the crosspiece; but to drag the wood on the ground behind would have been out of the question." I have always pictured Jesus dragging the cross on the ground. 

Can you imagine? After having just suffered the scourging, being beaten and having open wounds on your back, I would assume that simply walking alone would be a struggle but now you add the weight of this large wooden beam that you must balance lest it hits the ground and you will, likely, topple over with it.

I think, for me, it has always been easy to form a simple picture in my mind of Jesus hanging on the cross, I mean we see the crucifix hanging over the alter every Sunday. And, on the surface, I think I can talk about his agony but to really dig in and try to to imagine what that must have been like....well, that's a little harder.

The cross had a "wooden projection at some height above its base. This structure, the antenna, formed a sort of saddle and was designed to prevent the hands and feet from being torn under the weight of the body." Being torn under the weight of the body. He was nailed to the cross. Obviously, we all know this, but when I just sit and let that thought sink in....nailed...."His legs drawn up high enough for His feet to rest flat against the beam: a frightful position, but for that very reason the more probable....the first spasms shake the body already mercilessly torn by the scourging and by a night of torment...blood flows in thin streams from His hands and feet, oozes from his forehead....the cruelly strained position allows no movement...." And then there is a "terrible jolt as the cross falls into its rocky hole, sending a shudder through the beam and through the members of the victim". I can't read these words without wanting to cry and without feeling a physical ache inside my body.

The chapter ends speaking of the "noises of the city" a reminder that even in the midst of tragedy the world just keeps on spinning; people keep on moving.  I remember after the fire feeling like my life had come to a complete halt - it was tough for me to get on social media and see people talking about the everyday aspects of life when I felt like our life had just been completely shattered - I would imagine this would be the case with most anyone suffering through some sort of difficult time.  It brought me some comfort to  know that our Lord experienced something similar; as he suffered on the cross, below him the city just kept on moving along.

I'm excited to hear your thoughts on our Week 1 readings.


Next up: March 19th, Week 2 - Chapters 2 & 3 (Zion & His Father's House)


Before I sign off for today I just wanted to make sure you saw the comment Karma left on our last Dig post and share it (in part) with you again here because I loved it so much.

"Our ash Wednesday mass sermon gave 4 "weapons" to fight the distractions of everyday life and to help make the Lenten season a success. I thought I'd share with you and any of your readers that are interested: 

1. Live intentionally- each day the thought of God and lent should be as second nature as going to work on Monday morning. 
2. Love fully- if you're doing it right it should hurt, love those that irritate you. 
3. Learn humbly- have an open mind to really learn about Jesus. 
4. Leave boldly- at the end of 40 days be different and show that you're doing it through God."

Wishing you all a pleasant week!


Jill said...

I have to put my Dig comments in a couple of comments - it didn't like my length :)

Alright, digging in…I completely second your reaction to the comings and goings of the day when Jesus was crucified. I suppose it is our hindsight perspective on it and knowing that we view His death as a horrific occurrence. There shouldn’t be flowers, there shouldn’t be fruit, people should be stopping in awe of what is happening, not continuing to live their daily lives around this inconceivable moment.

Not long ago, Andy and I watched a program on the Passion of Jesus (I think it may have been on the History channel or something), but it bounced back and forth between discussing the scientific side of what happened with some re-enactments of the Passion. And do you know what they showed in the scene around it – stark, barren ground, brown dirt, no vegetation around, just as Kate described – coincidently exactly the opposite of what this author describes. Apparently those that made the TV show either hadn’t visited the location to understand what it looks like OR they were appealing to their audience and putting “in picture” what everyone thinks it looked like. How starkly contrasting is it to think that the world was lovely around Jesus’ death? Interesting perspective from this author, however I do think I still prefer my gut perception.

I too had a difficult time reading the part about carrying the cross. Start with the “crown of thorns” – I’ve heard the phrase millions of times, but have you ever stopped to think what it would be like to have someone shove a bunch of tiny needles on your head and leave them there – blood dripping in your eyes – and that being the least of the pain and mockery He would endure. Then the cross, as Kate described, the weight was limited because they needed to carry the cross. I, too always thought of Jesus dragging the cross – I cannot fathom what a strain it was to His body to have to bare the weight of it too. You know how painful it is to get splinters…imagine a large, heavy piece of wood baring on your back that was already sore with open wounds and that wood digging into it. I attended a religious retreat weekend not long ago and on the weekend there was a point where we carry a large cross for a period. It was obviously not as large as the one Jesus carried but still a few heads above me. It was awkward to carry when sharing the weight and balance with another person, and we were both in good, physical and mental condition.

Jill said...

Continuing :)

The most challenging part for me was when they talked about erecting the cross. On the same TV program, they discussed how the cross was designed with the “seat” that would bare some of the weight of the body to prevent the arms from being torn – I never knew the “seat” existed. It makes sense, but the thought of the body needing to be supported because the nails would rip off the arms – it gives me chills. The program also talked about the part where the feet were nailed together near the heels. They said they did it in that location because it is one of the locations on the body that has the most nerve endings running through it and therefore, a pain that could likely not be put into words. So after all He had endured thus far, the beating, the mockery, the crown of thorns, carrying the cross, being knocked down, then comes the nailing. And if you can survive that, the erecting of the cross. I can hardly type the words, it makes me sick to my stomach to think about it. That program helped me to have a greater appreciation for what this author described.

You think back to the beginning when we talked about how beautiful was the site where He was crucified and how the cross was high enough to display the criminals – so Jesus was elevated above the crowd. If (and I can’t imagine that He was able to, but if) Jesus were able to open His eyes on the cross, can you imagine what He would have seen? Would His vision have been so blinded by the pain that He could not make anything out? Or would He have been able to identify where He was, recognize people before Him, or worse, see the world continuing to live their lives around the pain and suffering He was enduring…and knowing that it was all for them…for us.

All that He bared. If that doesn’t speak to His love for us, I cannot imagine what would…

Kate said...

Hey Jill! Finally finding a minute to come back on here to comment. Since it's been a few days I thought I'd reread my own post before reading your comment - through both of these readings I have had a pit in my stomach, a physical ache. While I was originally writing my post I remember wanting to cry while writing out those words, reading these, tonight, I want to puke.

The crown - blood dripping into His eyes, the cross - rubbing against open wounds, the seat - so His arms would not RIP off, the nails in the heels - strategically placed to feel the most pain. I....I have no words.

But this line, this line that you wrote: Or would He have been able to identify where He was, recognize people before Him, or worse, see the world continuing to live their lives around the pain and suffering He was enduring…and knowing that it was all for them…for us.

"Knowing that it was all for them, for us" - that about brings me to my knees. It easy to think about those that were weeping at His feet but He also had to look out and see people mocking Him, hating Him, enjoying this. And there were still others, those that were indifferent, unaffected, those that just continued on with their lives. And, because He is our Lord and Savior, He looked out at them with love. I can not fathom being able to do that.

I'm....speechless right now, thinking about that leaves me absolutely speechless. Thank you so much for your comments, for this discussion, I'm so happy to be doing this together!

Em said...

Yes. YES. Kate and Jill, you both touched on some of the main things in this past week's reading that also stuck with me: the carrying of the cross rather than dragging it, the almost-cheerful surroundings, the nails and crown of thorns.

We all knew how torturously Jesus was treated by being crucified, and we've seen imagery, but I have to admit that nothing has painted as vivid and horrendous a picture as the words in this book.

I sit here tonight in a lot of pain because I threw my back out yesterday, and I've been complaining and whining and lamenting not being able to get things done. I think about how horribly I behave when I'm in pain, and how what I'm going through is NOTHING in comparison to Jesus. And never during his time on the cross did he curse others (us, the ungrateful sinners for whom he gave his life) or his own Father. Never did he let the pain he experienced allow him to lose sight of ultimate sacrifice he was making.

I am both extremely ashamed in the knowledge that I am no better than any other sinner out there...while in utter awe at the sacrifice he made--the horror he endured--for someone as flawed and sinful as myself.