"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Saturday, April 07, 2007 Eleventh Station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
This Lent, Christ Church Cathedral gathered a community of artists (and a few of us non-artists)to construct a stations of the cross. We drew stations randomly at the beginning of Lent and got to work. You could use any medium you wanted, and there were a couple opportunities for the artists to gather and share their process during the season.
I drew station 8 -- Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem -- and at some point I'll probably put that one up and my reflection on it. But as we end the Triduum today, I wanted to share one of the most powerful stations I'd ever seen: Phoebe Dent Weil's expression of the 11th station -- Jesus nailed to the cross. You see the image above.
There is much I could write about this piece and what it brings up in me. But I think it best just to leave you with it, the photo that inspired it and Phoebe's words:
"The photograph was taken in the immediate chaotic aftermath of an event of stunning horror inflicted by human beings against other human beings. A kneeling and weeping man tenderly covers the bodies of the dead lying on the ground. There are two guards attempting to keep order: one at the center wearing and Arab keffiyeh who motions towards a grief-stricken boy to keep at a distance; the other, off-camera on the left, whose white glove hinders the approach of the photographer. Between the two guards stands a young man whose impassioned grief can hardly be imagined; the cry of anguish, the outstretched arms, the half-kneeling stance -- all a total-bodily response to the deepest experience of pain and loss with its accompanying despair and anger and questions shouted to God, to the Universe, to all of us, "Look at this! Behold the horror! Why?" Behind him stands a weeping young boyh who reaches out to support him with one hand and comfort him with the other.
"It is a daring move to connect the act of nailing Christ to the Cross with the continuing acts of violence in Iraq that confront us daily in the news media, but the connection for me was immediate. In my interpretive rerarrangement of the photograph I have placed an image of the Crucifixion by the late 16th century sculptor, Giambologna, behind the main protagonist.
"We tend to resort to a kind of psychic numbing to protect ourselves from experiencing the depths of anguish that such horror demands. So, also, with the event of the nailing of Christ to the Cross: a moment of torture of one human being by another, the physical pain, the anguished cry of the victim confronted by the dark forces of the torturer who drives in the nails. The outstretched arms of the victim become the embracing arms of compassion in the face of those dark parts of humanity where compassion is absent. I have transformed the weeping boy who reaches out to comfort the grief-stricken man into an angel."
Since then, I've been in conversation with the person who has set him (and others) up with their blog from Baghdad. Both Mohammed and I are interested in continuing to "meet" online in some sort of environment that would maintain his security but would allow us to continue to talk. While waiting for that to be set up, I got this word from the go-between. I actually got it at the beginning of my trip to South Africa ... and then a few weeks later got permission to post the words I am posting below.
Mohammed's father (Laith Abu Mohammed) was killed in the Arbaeen massacres of March 6th. Mohammed's mother (Zeynab Um Mohammed) died of her wounds incurred in the same attack on March 7th.
Hussayn Ibn Laith died a few days before his parents as he ran with his team to the scene of a bombing to rescue survivors - it was a cascaded bombing attack. In other words, more than one bomb ... the second one being timed to kill the rescuers and or people fleeing the scene. Hussayn was the brother who Mohammed mentions in "what will we talk about." He was 17.
Ali Ibn Laith (younger brother) was wounded together with his father and mother in the March 6th attack. He is physically recovering well. Mohammed and he completed the pilgrimage on foot to complete what their parents were doing. Ali is 8.
Mohammed is now in a 40 day mourning period. I am hopeful after that is over that we will be able to talk. But I also realize he very well may have no desire to be in touch with me. This was his last post, dated March 10:
Let us understand one another, you and I
O God! Pardon our living and our dead, the present and the absent, the young and the old, the males and the females.
I am a Muslim I am Iraki.
Do not come to me talking of your feelings. Do not come to me asking for forgiveness. Who do you think you are?
I will not ever forgive or forget what your country has done to us. I will not ever forget or forgive what your country has done my family, my city, my country, my people.
My grandchildren’s, grandchildren, will teach their grandchildren to hate America for what she has done to us. Never ever ever will I, or they, forget or forgive what your barbaric country has done to us.
Mohammed Ibn Laith
This week, we walk with Christ to the cross and beyond. An image that always comes to me this week is from Dorothy Sayers' "The Man Born To Be King," in which she talks about the dream Pontius Pilate's wife had (MT 27:19). In her mind, the dream was Pilate's wife hearing the words "suffered under Pontius Pilate" said ... not just by one person, but by generation after generation after generation of people for centuries in overlapping chorus.
We are judged by our actions not just in the moment, but throughout time. Pilate stepped back in cowardice in the face of the crowd at his defining moment and because he did, those voices of castigation have echoed throughout history.
The actions of our nation ... and the inaction of those of us who have not done enough to stop it ... are preparing their own echoes. They are the voices of people like Mohammed, whose pain and anger have voice that will carry long after the 40 days of mourning have passed.
| Mike at 4/02/2007 09:40:00 PM
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."