I have spent some time this week replacing our traditional Stations of the Cross – marked by burlap and felt minimally abstracted designs hung at fourteen points around the church sanctuary – with “interactive” or “experiential” Stations.
I think I’ll hang on to those quotation marks. My experience with the traditional stations last Friday was profoundly interactive and experiential. The prayer sequence of the Book of Occasional Services was more than equal to the occasion, and the Holy Spirit did the rest.
Still, for those who prefer their contemplation a little more “hands-on,” here is an extract from the Stations that will be positioned around the sanctuary at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Elyria, until Maundy Thursday, next week:
Station 10: Jesus is stripped of his clothes
There is a frame, with a brief story, and a piece of a small, white towel within. Next to the frame is a basket of clothes: hats, baseball mitt, a lab coat, a hoodie, masks, scarves, both functional and frivolous. They spill out, inviting further exploration.
The story reads:
“I visited a man in the hospital who was close to death, but defying it. He was laid out on a white-sheeted bed, his skin almost the same colour as the background. His bare body was surrounded and caressed by wires, stuck with sticky pads. His face was plugged into breathing machines and his eyes stared across the vinyl tubing. His legs and feet looked cold. Across his lap, a concession to dignity by the indignity of dying, lay a very small, white towel.
Because of the tubes, and his condition, he could not speak, but he had at his hand a paper pad and a Sharpie marker. He wrote something and offered me the page, but what caught my eye was the one thing written before I got there, the only unprompted request that he had made since arriving in this hospital bed:
‘Please could I have a towel?’”
The commentary in the leaflet accompanying the Stations reads:
We choose our clothes to project an image of ourselves which we prefer others to see. We dress for work, or for play, or for praise, or celebration, or to keep others at bay.
We judge others by their clothing – classy or trashy, loud, elegant, dirty, in/appropriate.
We define people’s occupations by their uniforms, and people by their occupations.
Children try on different outfits as they try on ways of being in the world.
Stripped of our clothes, we are exposed, defenceless. More than suffering simple social shame, we find ourselves unprotected by our images, our shells, our choices, our privacy.
The first thing that Adam and Eve did when they acquired self-knowledge, so the story goes, was to make clothes for themselves.
Jesus’ tormentors were trying to remove all of those layers of acquired humanity, self-definition, pride, and dignity from him, but perhaps they forgot:
Before God, we all stand naked, with only the gift of our true selves to offer, which perhaps is what makes prayer at times so uncomfortable.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Amen. (Matthew 5: 3)
Join us this evening, Friday March 30, 2012 at 6 pm for a group experience of this Way of the Cross.