Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Dig: Week 4 - The Passerby & His Loved Ones

Welcome to Week 4 of our Lenten Dig where we will be reading and discussing the book What Jesus Saw from the Cross. I'm realizing now I shouldn't have called these "weeks" but "installments" because technically we should be at installment five by now.  Buuuuut, we're a tad bit behind.  My goal is still to have the book completed and the last post up before Easter but I'm not exactly sure what days that will happen.  I do think breaking them up into two more installments would be the best just because there is so much material in each chapter. Feel free to join the discussion at any time. For those of you reading along at home, I've been meaning to check in and just see what you are thinking so far; I'm interested in your thoughts! Please note, all items I've put in quotations below are excerpts directly from the book.


As I've read through this book it has stirred a lot of emotions, there have been moments that I have felt like I was going to throw up, moments that my whole body physically ached, moments of surprise and moments of wonder.  In reading these two chapters I mostly felt heart-heavy.  I think that feeling stemmed from reading about people rather than places or structures. 

The Passerby

This chapter takes us with Christ on his walk to Calvary. The streets are narrow and winding there is a great buzz in the air because people have flocked to the city for the festival; Jesus - after suffering the scourging, I always have to add that little detail in my mind, a constant reminder that he wasn't just carrying this mighty, heavy wooden beam through little these narrow little roads, he was carrying this mighty, heavy wooden beam through narrow little roads after being whipped furiously - is being jostled around, slipping and falling, at one point it was very unlikely he would have been able to make it any further and all around him - ALL around him, bumping into him even - are these people.  The author breaks the "passerby" down into five categories: friends, sympathizers, strangers, indifferent, and enemies.

I'm not sure which category of these draws up the most emotions in me....the reaction of the enemies makes me feel....angry, I think is the best word.  I can't understand getting enjoyment out of watching this.  I don't think it would matter for me who it is what he/she had done, I could not watch the torment of another and find it pleasing - I just...I can not understand how these people could see this and not, at least, turn away, be unable to watch rather than throw insults and further suffering.  But I think the category of people that might make me even more upset are those in the crowd that are indebted to Him and are still there to mock him. I can't remember what category the author put these people into, maybe indifferent?  The ones He had healed and saved and now they turn their back, now they stand in the crowd and also jeer Him.

Spasimo di Sicilia by Raphael;
picture from Wikipedia
But despite all of this Christ remained gentle, calm, collected. Even under this tremendous amount of pain He bore the suffering of His Cross without uttering a word at those subjecting Him to this. Huh....yeah, I can honestly say that that would be nearly impossible for me...  Maybe, hopefully, what made it a bit easier were the friends that were forever by His side and Simon of Cyrene who, by happenstance, crossed His path and picked up His Cross - picked up His burden - and bore the weight of if at a moment when He simply couldn't go any further.

I have many friends who have stayed by my side and many Simons who have bore the weight, in my times of need. My heart is forever changed by their generosity and I can't help but think these are the people, in their kindness, that enabled Our Lord to continue on. He knew the will of His Father and with the encouragement and love of those around Him He was able to fulfill it.

Reading this chapter I kept finding myself thinking, how can I be more of a friend? How can I be more of a Simon?

The picture above was referenced in the book and I googled it because I was not familiar with the painting. At first glance I wasn't quite sure it did the scene justice but then I read the description on Wiipedia:
It shows the common subject of Christ Carrying the Cross to his crucifixion, at the moment when he fell and his mother suffers a spasm of agony, the Swoon of the Virgin, or "Lo Spasimo" All the emotion of the painting is densely crammed into the foreground and the background is similar to that of a stage set with distant groups of people and crosses. The man on the left in the foreground is similar to a figure in Raphael’s painting “The Judgement of Solomon” in the Raphael Rooms in the Vatican Palace, except reversed. Simon of Cyrene lifts Christ’s cross momentarily and looks sternly at the guards. The four Mary’s are depicted on the right side of the painting and towering on either side of the composition are the guards. The concept of, and devotion to, the "spasm" of the Virgin was fashionable, if somewhat controversial, in early 16th century Catholicism, although in this work the Virgin has only fallen to her kness, not collapsed or fainted, as is often shown.

And while I know the painting was largely done to portray the moment where Our Lord met eyes with His mother, I think my favorite part of the painting is actually Simon of Cyrene and his "stern" look to the guards. How about you?

His Loved Ones

Here I am once again, just getting to chapter two and already having enough written for one post - I'd let this chapter go and leave it to you but this chapter, His Loved Ones, has probably been my most favorite of all so far.  Before I began reading the book I saw a review on Amazon?  I'm not sure which website I saw this, but it was basically praising the book for the positive portrayal of women at Jesus' Crucifixion. And I have to wholeheartedly agree.  This chapter, which described the women who tended to Him before His journey, who stayed by His side throughout, who loved Him so deeply - they were, as the author says, "devoted to Him at the beginning and until the end" - has made my heart swell with love and has deepened and confirmed my feelings on womanhood and maybe, in particular, motherhood. In his description the author calls this the "authentic picture of hallowed womanhood."

"Women is essentially a consoler. Her outlook upon life leads her to be a helper because, since she herself is the giver of life, she is more conscious than man of its frailty and its needs. She protects what she is given."

She's the kisser of owies; the giver of hugs in the middle of the night. She's kind and gentle but she's a Mama Bear when she needs to be.  The is a women. This is a mother. This is so stinking beautiful! Ahhh! Am I the only one that feels so happy reading these words?  Maybe it's because I don't always feel like I'm kind and gentle, with my kids in particular.  I fail....a lot, but reading this reminds me that at my core, simply by virtue of being a women, I can find gentleness and kindness and patience....I might have to work at it, but deep down, it's there.

This chapter talks a lot about Mary in particular and I think provides some insight as to why the Catholic church honors her.  (I know this is confusing, having grown up a non-Catholic, but we do not worship Mary - I hope this post doesn't offend any non-Catholics out there, I apologize in advance if it does, but I think this provides a good explanation as to the difference between worship and honor in the Church. Only read if you are interested; I'm always interested in learning about other faith practices so that's the only reason I am including it here: Do Catholics Worship Mary?)

But aside from Mary and the other women, His Loved Ones, also includes discussion on those not present at the Crucifixion; namely, the other eleven (or ten, since Judas is gone). Jesus is suffering and in need and yet the disciples (with the exception of John) have left Him, but "for Him their goodwill has always been enough." He didn't need them there; He knew in their hearts that they were loyal to Him and He did not hold it against them that they ran when they were scared, that they abandoned Him when He needed them most.

"This is the miracle of the Cross: it saves even those who desert if, provided that the heart is not estranged."

This provides me with so much comfort, for myself and for others.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


Previous Discussions:
Week 1 - The View from the Cross
Week 2 - Zion & His Fathers House
Week 3 - The Upper Room & The Mount of Olives

Discussions to Come:
His Enemies & His Tomb
Heaven & the Epilogue

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