I’m referring to the religious art of the Stations of the Cross. You may already know that the Stations of the Cross are a series of prayers and reflections based on the last journey Jesus took in Jerusalem from the court that condemned him to his execution on a cross. Some Christians have found it helpful to them to literally follow his footsteps along the road known as the Via Dolorosa as a spiritual exercise. The Stations of the Cross grew out of the desire to do something similar without literally going to Jerusalem – too often war and violence have made that a risky undertaking even if one had the means and opportunity to travel there.

I was struck the other day by the thirteenth station. The number is not significant but what it depicts is after Jesus has died a couple of friends – or are they sympathetic strangers – help his mother take his body down from the cross. It is a moment between death and burial; a moment that occurs for many human beings. I thought about all the people who are coming to terms with the death of someone they have loved but yet have not had the funeral. It is a tough place to be – not one I have had to face often for myself but it is one I have had the privilege of waiting there with others.

It is not a good place to be although it may be a necessary one. Between places are, I think, among the hardest places to be. They are characterised by change and uncertainty, but can be places of apparent stillness, numbness maybe or even the opposite: rapid movement where we struggle to keep up.

The thirteenth station of the cross reminds us of that difficult between time: even those closest to the Son of God had to deal with it somehow. We do well to have a thought (and prayers) for those who find themselves in a similar position. But the thirteenth station is not the last one in the series. Strictly speaking it is not even next to last. First there is that burial, that final letting go. In the thirteenth station you may see Jesus being held by those who love him, in the fourteenth they must literally, physically, let him go – it is a step to the emotional letting go which takes longer. The thirteenth station is not a place we remain in for long. Sooner or later we move on – whether we really want to or not. All this is part of the Good Friday story.

For Christians this is not the end of the story either. There is Easter too.

Advertisements