A Valley and a Hill

One Good Friday holy habit is to meander slowly by The Stations of the Cross which depict Jesus’ last hours.

 

In the center of San Luis, Colorado’s oldest town, a mesa rises above the vast valley, offering a poignant climb to Calvary.

 

La Mesa de la Piedad y de la Misericordia, the Hill of Piety and Mercy, captures the drama of Good Friday in a unique way.

 

Local sculptor Huberto Maestras’ nearly life-size bronze figures invite reflection and meditation along a steady upward path to the cross. Bible passages inscribed on plaques accompany the inspiring art.

 

Having walked this mountain one bright September Saturday with my grown son Nathan, it captivates me especially during Holy Week.

 

Though you can easily find scriptures about each traditional station of the cross, what I’m offering are a few imaginary dialogues. Sit with these words as you practice Visio Divina, divine seeing, a contemplative prayerful interaction with a work of art. In this fresh space, allow God to speak to places of your heart.

 

As you ponder each photo of the bronze sculptures, notice your response. What happens in your body? Your emotions? Your memory? What thankfulness arises? What hints of holiness does God whisper as you sit in attentiveness? What distracts you? What challenges you? How will you respond to the love being poured out?

 

We are in a season when venturing beyond familiar walls is not recommended. So while we are all under stay-at-home boundaries, I’d like to invite you to linger before the wonder of what Jesus endured for the love of you and me on Good Friday.

 

 

Prayer for Entering Visio Divina

Jesus, come expand our holy imagination to walk the road You walked. Come speak to our hearts in fresh ways that deepen our intimacy with you. Invite us to confession. Invite us to contemplation. Invite us to Your heart. Amen.

 

The Stations of the Cross Visio Divina

 

Station 1: Jesus is condemned

 

 

 

Jesus: Pilate thinks he is in charge. But this is not of him alone, but of the will and the love of My Father for His beloveds.

 

Response: Jesus, I am Your beloved. Father, You orchestrated this on my behalf. What do You have to say to me here in this pivotal moment? How will I respond?

 

Station 2: Jesus accepts his cross

 

 

Jesus: I accept this cross. My entire life on earth has been building to this moment, but this Story began long ago. From that moment in the Garden, there had to be a way to bring you, beloved, back to the garden of Life. So I accept this hard-heavy wooden cross because of Love.

Response: Jesus. You are taking this gladly for me. Just as you looked at the one who handed you the cross, You look at me. What did you say to Him? What do You say to me? What does my heart feel in the weight of this choice of Yours?

 

 

Station 3: Jesus falls the first time

 

 

Jesus: I stumble, exhausted. I stumble, bearing the weight of more than just a hard-heavy wooden cross. I stumble, but on I go, for this is the Father’s will, crafted in love for love. This is My choice of love.

 

Response: Jesus, when I see You pummeled, fatigued beyond words, my heart goes out to You. Part of me wants to turn away, run away, not make eye contact. Part of me aches in despair for this horrific journey You are enduring. What kind of gift is this that You would give Your very heart of life to me?

 

 

Station 4: Jesus meets his mother Mary

 

 

Jesus: I see the pain in My mother’s eyes. She sees the pain in mine. We don’t hide from one another. It is almost unbearable to see her ache. Yet her resolve, holding sorrow, holding hope, helps Me hold those as well.

 

Response: Agony. Watching the pain of one I love rips me apart. Suffering splinters my heart. I grieve. I imagine the way You look at your mother and how she looks at You and I am simply undone. It feels like too much. How do You hold heartache and grief yet hold hope and joy? What might You tell me of Your heart, Jesus? What might I share of mine?

 

Station 5: Simon joins Jesus to bear the cross

 

 

Jesus: I lean into the strong arms of Simon. The crush of My cross lifts a bit. Simon, you weren’t expecting this burdensome journey today. Yet I see how you step up when the worst happens for another.

 

Response: Where do I offer strength and kindness to another? Where do I grouse at the unexpected burden that digs into my hands and back? Jesus, what is this life of bearing for and with another really revealing in me?

 

Station 6: Veronica wipes Jesus’ face

 

 

Jesus: Ah, lovely Veronica. She is ever at the ready to sacrifice for another. But this seems too much to ask: the gore of this day upon her gentle soul. Yet she does not hesitate, her courage rises above her fear and she steps in, a woman of depth and beauty. Her small kindness spurs Me on to take just one more step toward the cross. I am thankful for a friend on this rough road.

 

Response: Friendship in the hard places with suffering and agony. What You ask, Jesus, is too much. I am not enough. Veronica, one of the cadre of women who loved You well, plumbs the depths of her faith in her humble holy offerings. She knew and loved You long, had memorized Your laugh, Your sighs. I am frailer than this woman of steel and whimsy. How can I offer anything at all to You?

 

Station 7: Jesus falls a second time

 

 

Jesus: “Not one more ounce. Not one more step. I am depleted.” Yet the Father bends down and whispers. He presses in. He nudges on. Maybe I can find just one half of one half of one step. Maybe.

 

Response: I think of You as effortless. I didn’t ever imagine what it took to persevere. I didn’t ever think of how vulnerable You must have felt in that drudge of burden-bearing. Desolate. Despondent. Bone tired. Somehow seeing You falling, sweating, Your chest heaving to breath, skinned knees, bent shoulders, inspires me to see my own hard days differently. What did Father whisper that kept You going? What might You whisper now to me?

 

Station 8 Jesus consoles the women

 

 

Jesus: They weep. I weep. They sob. I sob. They mourn. I mourn. We are knit together at the heart. For these three years, they made My way easier. They provided meals, shelter, robes. They put up with My motley crew of disciples. They knelt often in intercession. They are ferocious worshipping warriors. Yet today, they are demolished. I turn, inhale a shallow breath, console. The sorrow haunts us all, yet they will not turn away for they shawl Me with their very presence.

Response: Oh, yes. I want to be like those vulnerably brave women. I want to stay when it would have been easier to go. I want to offer when it would have been easier to take. Did they ever feel invisible as they stayed in the background? Did they ever wrestle with who they were to You? Just now, Jesus, You consoled them. What words massaged their grief? What words could You, in Your own agony, offer to lift them from theirs? And what do You have to say to me right here where I so need Your consoling?

 

Station 9 Jesus falls a third time

 

 

Jesus: The world spins. I cannot think. Staying down is easier than rising up. Energy escapes me. I cannot breathe the air I created. Salt stings My eyes, sweat blurs my vision. The thick dark of sacrifice hovers ahead. Broken and drained, the chaos closes in. I remember back at the beginning where the darkness hovered thick. Spirit, You were there then. Be ever-present now. Come alongside and strengthen these frail muscles. Help Me hear Father’s heartbeat. Let Me be what the Father sees Me to be.

 

Response: You collapse. All seems bleak. The moments stretch into eons of agony. I want to scream at You to just quit. Just lie there and rest. You deserve so much more than this. Why do You even now, with legs like jelly, try to rise? I’ve known despair’s dark invitation to stay down. Wounds, lies, myths, brokenness erupt and erupt and erupt again. They break me over and over. When I fall and keep on falling, what do You murmur in my ear?

 

Station 10: Jesus is stripped of His garments

 

 

Jesus: Stripped. Exposed. Vulnerable. I chose to come down from heaven and do the will of the Father. (John 6:38) I chose becoming nothing, taking the nature of a servant, to be obedient to death. (Philippians 2:5-11) I chose this yet that doesn’t lessen the cost of it on My body, soul, and spirit.

 

Response: Let me gaze upon You. Let me fully see all You chose for me by choosing to love me like You do. Let me grasp afresh the depth of Your sacrifice woven of love.

 

 

Station 11: Jesus is nailed to the cross

 

 

Jesus: I writhe. The hammer pounds. My body explodes. I’m held to the Cross by Love’s promise. Somehow I must muster on through for there is still a battle to come. The battle must be won to bring many hearts to glory. Yet torment flattens. Fierce pain throbbing through every muscle and vein sends Me spinning.

 

Response:  I am undone by what You are doing on the cross.

 

 

Station 12: The crucifixion

 

 

Jesus: Forgive them. Today you’ll be with Me in paradise. Take care of one another. Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit. Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?

 

Response: I am stunned by the depth of Love that led You here and held You here for me.

 

 

Station 13: Jesus placed in Mary’s arms

 

 

Mary: Dear Son, dear Savior, You were true to Your word. But at what a cost!

 

Response: Mary, I forget sometimes that Jesus had a mother. To watch this horrid death. To hold the memory of that Baby born of Promise. To recall the wonder of His growing up years. Your heart surely was as torn in two as the curtain in the temple. How did you hold on to hope? How did you go on with such grief? How will I?

 

 

Station 14: Burial of Jesus

 

 

Joseph of Arimathea: You went to Pilate. You received Jesus’ body. Your hands wrapped Him in clean linen. You placed His battered body in your own tomb. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary kept watch nearby. What led you to this moment? What were your thoughts that dark night?

 

Response: The end of the story seems so very unsatisfactory.

 

Good Friday stumbles along, a long journey of grief and agony.

 

Now we wait.

 

In this time of remembering, I recall the Bigger Story.

 

Before Genesis.

 

In the Garden of Eden.

 

In captivity.

 

In the wilderness.

 

Waiting for promises across silent centuries.

 

Watching for prophecies to become realities.

 

And again, waiting for that day when the Story will yet take a Renewal of all things, Resurrection-flavored, turn.

 

But for now, how to wait in the long dark of Good Friday and silence of Holy Saturday?

 

What might my heart need to review? rehearse? re-hear from You, Jesus?

 

 

We are all holding our breath, waiting on You, Jesus.

 

 

 

Lane M. Arnold

April 2020

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