radical transformation

See Proper 17 (year A)
“the sign of the cross”

Crucifixion, Jan Van Eyck, 1420-25, detail

I close my eyes and see the cross in a thousand forms for thousands of days of prayer. I see Mary Magdalene reaching for her beloved’s feet, insane with the desire to turn back time to bring the comfort of her hair and tears and kisses. I see John’s unnaturally calm anguish. I see Jesus’ mother with a countenance tight with resignation, or hysterical with grief, or crumpled inside too heavy clothing, or in a dead faint. Sometimes I hear Dismas, the good thief, say, “remember me.”

Sometimes I see soldiers bored, or maniacal, or sadistic, stripped of their own humanity and immune to torture. I see crowds of grim passers-by cowed by the imposed spectacle, beaten down by these frequent displays of oppression and terror.

Sometimes no people bear witness. The beam stands deep and solid in the ground, running with blood and urine mingling with mud in the rain amongst the skulls and bones. Sometimes a fissure appears in the earth, Calvary the phantom epicenter of an allegorical earthquake opened for the harrowing of hell.  Sometimes I hardly make out the shadow of the cross shrouded in cloud or thick night. Waiting in the gloom I gradually discover where I am.

Sometimes the foot of the cross appears luminous with two millennium of desperate prayers mingling with a glow of supernatural energy to which I add my own prayers.

I come to the foot of the cross by contemplating centuries of devotional art, or through the guidance of my teachers, or through my own imagination. Eventually the very liminality of the cross melts the boundaries of time and place.  But I know it is not enough to simply bring my prayers to this threshold of healing, regeneration, of transfigured living and loving.  I have to accept radical transformation.

Remember me. Remember me. Remember me.

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