(Originally written for the Grace Lutheran Newsletter)
It was several months ago, maybe during the Summer, but I can’t really remember. I stood at the center of the altar, my hands in orans position, the ancient way of prayer, the ancient way of intercession. Pr. Tiews stood to my right, saying the prayers, speaking the intercessions for all people, for you, for the sick, for the world. I was in a meditative mood and I lifted my eyes slightly to look at the image of Jesus there on the cross. The sunlight was streaming in all the windows, reflecting off the brass or bronze of the crucifix.
As I gazed on the corpus hanging there, head cast down, nails piercing his hands and feet, I began to shake a little. I could only imagine the horrific pain of having to push up on pierced hands and feet to catch a breath, and then falling back down on those nails, lungs growing weak. I couldn’t consider the wood scraping against his back, raw and open from the flogging. I couldn’t image the depth of loneliness, the absent horror of being forsaken.
It is hard enough for us, when we feel betrayed and alone, when a room full of people turn on us, when it seems you are alone in this world and when the ones who love you are far away. But to be abandoned by all, and to have God and Father turn away as well? It gives me chest pains to consider it. We cannot imagine this, not really. Whether we were always believers or not, God is always present for us, in some capacity. It is unfathomable to us to imagine God completely gone, completely absent. We’ve never experienced it.
All these thoughts tumbled in my mind and I had an unsettling realization. I can’t do this, I thought. I could never do this. Not for the world. Not for my family. Not even for myself. I felt even more shaky with this realization, and more ashamed by the second. How can I stand before this image of what my Lord did for me and for all Creation and blanch and flee from the thought of being there myself?
The prayers continued, and yet at that moment I was in confrontation with more than just an image, more than just a picture. It was no longer a Sunday for me. It was me and the Crucified Christ and I admitted my own weakness and fear to Him.
Then the prayers ended and the Eucharist Liturgy continued with the preface and the propers, the Sanctus and then the Words. The Verba. And it settled in my soul again then: He did it for me. I am too weak. I am unable. And so Jesus went were I cannot, not even if I wanted to. He went to the cross and in my hands was His Body, crucified for me. And in my hands was the Cup of the New Covenant, His most precious blood shed for my blood, so thickened by sin and cowardice.
He walked the way to Cross and death and the infinity of loneliness away from the Creator for me. For you. For each of us, because none of us can. None of us could do it in the least. And He prevailed. He is the Living One. And His blood is in us. And His body is in us. And His Cross is mine. And His Cross is yours.