The Way of the Cross

Thanks again to my son for recording and editing this version of the (biblical) stations of the cross. The text is directly from Common Worship, but using only the biblical texts and the prayers. You’re very welcome to use it if it’s helpful to you.

Creative Stations of the Cross

This morning at church we worked together (all ages) to create the(biblical) Stations of the Cross.

Three of the stations were mine to plan, and I’m posting here what we did.

My first station was the betrayal and arrest of Jesus. We cut paper into strips, and used crayons to make rubbings of silver coins on the paper, while we talked about Judas’ story, and how he tried to take back what he had done, but the consequences were already happening. We thought about the consequences by making our strips of paper into a chain, representing Jesus as a prisoner. The chain and all its interlinked loops also reminded us that all our actions affect other people, but that we can make that a good thing, not a bad thing, by the way we are with our friends, and with the people we find it hard to get on with- especially when we have things to forgive, or when we need to say sorry.

My next station was Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate. Pilate was supposed to be the one responsible for justice, but he didn’t know what to do so he washed his hands as if to say ‘what happens to Jesus is nothing to do with me’. This is how injustice keeps happening, even today.

For this station we cut cross shapes out of sugar paper and wrote on them an issue to do with injustice that we felt strongly about: poverty, bullying, #metoo, racism, prejudice, being blamed for something that’s not your fault… We carefully folded the ‘stalk’ and then the ‘arms’ and then the ‘head’ of the crosses into the middle so we had a little folded square. We looked at how we had hidden the issue that we’d written on the Cross. Then we floated that square in a bowl of water and it opened again, revealing the truth hidden inside. Some of them opened slowly, some quickly. That’s how justice happens: someone dares to speak the truth, so that everyone can see it.

My final station was when Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry the cross. I cut the ‘way of the cross’ out of fabric, and everyone made little people out of salt dough. The people were placed on the fabric road, in groups, with a cross for each group so that they could share the burden. We talked a lot about how tired they were, and about who supports us on our life journey – and who we are able to support – especially when life is hard.

You can see some of the other stations on this film that my son made during the morning – he didn’t manage to catch all the Stations but here’s what he managed to photograph, in order.

Stations of the Cross

If you haven’t already seen it, take a look at this, the website for the Cambridge Stations. And better still, if you can, go along in person to any or all of the installations and artworks that have been specially commissioned as part of this pop-up reflective project for Lent.  The tradition of following the stations of the cross derives from the still earlier tradition of pilgrimage, especially pilgrimage to the Holy Land, in which pilgrims would seek literally to walk in the footsteps of Christ.  For those unable to make what was a long and arduous journey, the Stations provided a way to make a ‘virtual pilgrimage’.

The pattern of the Stations familiar to many of us contains not only events in the passion of Christ taken directly from scripture, but also some from tradition, such as Jesus’ encounter with Veronica, who wipes his face with a cloth on which he leaves the imprint of his face, a ‘vero icon’ – a true image – of Jesus. The Stations used for this project are those found in the gospels themselves, and on the Cambridge Stations website each short passage of scripture is provided for your own reflections. Some of the artists have also provided further thoughts that can be read alongside seeing the artwork itself in situ.

My own church is too far off the beaten track to be part of the Stations route, so I was allocated St Botolph’s Church, right in the centre of town as a venue, and Station 13: Jesus dies, as my title. Here’s what I did (right).

As soon as I started looking at this crucial part of the story of Jesus’ passion I was drawn to the image of the temple curtain being torn in two, coupled with the earthquake that split the rocks (in Luke and Matthew’s account). I decided I wanted to experiment with ripping the actual canvas on which I was painting.

The second thing that occurred to me was how, in icon writing, the gold leaf is applied first, and is allowed to shine through the halo of the depicted saint – it is a glimpse of the always-present reality of the kingdom of God, breaking through into the material world. I decided to honour this by using gold leaf to line the tear in the canvas, and on a board behind the tear. At the moment of Christ’s death – the moment of darkness and desolation – the kingdom of heaven was near. How else could the Centurion proclaim that, ‘Surely, this man was the Son of God’?

Finally, having decided on gold leaf, I came across the Japanese tradition of ‘Kintsugi’ – mending broken pottery with gold, so that the wounds in the pottery become shining scars, and the mended vessel becomes more beautiful than when it was first made.  It struck me that the gold leaf lining the tear in the canvas, in the temple curtain, in the very fabric of reality, is a way of affirming the wholeness and healing that was possible through the suffering and death of Christ. The risen Jesus still bears the scars from his passion, but they are signs of hope and wholeness – following the iconographic pattern of this painting, the broken skin would be healed with gold. And just as Thomas did when he met the risen Christ, you can actually place your finger into the tear in the canvas and feel the rough edges.

Please excuse the quality of the photograph – it is rather blurred, while the actual painting is rather more crisp and vibrant!  If you can, pop along to St Botolphs and see it for yourself, and why not go and visit all 14 stations?