Arriving at a new church on Holy Week has its ups and downs. Having just rolled in Richmond late Palm Sunday evening, my journey to the cross this year was mired in the chaos of transition. But then again, what a great week to start at RRCB! The Maundy Thursday and Easter services were so amazing. They have to be experienced to understand, and now I understand what to expect in years to come. One of the most special aspects of Holy Week for me, however, was the Stations of the Cross in our Chapel on Holy Saturday morning: 14 simple images of what Christ’s journey to the cross may have entailed experienced in silence and reflection. Some stations are based in scripture; others in tradition. But all have been utilized collectively as a devotional guide for Christian pilgrims for centuries. Every time I engage in this discipline I see something new. This time it was a strong affirmation of the Church and community.
In ancient languages and cultures, there is no punctuation. Repetition is the way something is emphasized, the exclamation point or bold face font of ancient cultures. In the Stations of the Cross, Jesus falls three times. I don’t think that repetition is accidental. It is there to emphasize Jesus’ struggle and humanity. And Jesus engages the public three times: his mother Mary, Veronica, and the Women of Jerusalem. What does this repetition communicate? Well, the artwork of all three stations you gives you the clear impression that Jesus is glad these folk (women) showed up, that Jesus needed them in this his hardest hour every bit as much as he needed Cyrus to help him carry his actual cross.
And then in the explanation beneath the depiction of Jesus’ death, these words: “I console Mary and John and Mary. And I let them console me.” What an affirmation of the Communion of the Saints. I imagined those three reaching down through the centuries to place their hands on my shoulders to console me in my grief. And they did, and they do. And in part they do so to show us how to do the same for one another, for we all have crosses to bear.
I’m honored to be here with you at RRCB and to be one among many who will carry on the rich tradition of pastoral care in this place. May we be ever growing in our understanding of how we might better offer such care both to our members and to the greater Richmond community.
Written by David Breckenridge