Saturday, April 09, 2011

Passiontide: An Image, A Poll and A Meditation

Passiontide, Birmingham Oratory, 2007
(Image source: Lacrimarum Valle)

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For the sake of interest and comparison, here are the results of the 2010 poll:

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Finally, our Passiontide image above is from the Birmingham Oratory, and so here too is a meditation from the Birmingham Oratory for Passiontide. [NLM emphases]


It is Passiontide and the images in church are hidden from our sight. When Easter comes the joyful contrast will be all the greater. Meanwhile we focus more on God. When we look around church today we see the veils - but what does God see when He looks at us? He sees veils too. His image in us is hidden by our sins and failings. Looking down from the cross Our Lord found little to comfort Him. “I looked in vain for compassion, for consolers, not one could I find. For food they gave me poison and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” In Lent we can console Our Lord by letting Him see His image in us restored. At the foot of the cross His mother comforted Him. She never lost God’s image and she reflected His love back to Him entirely. Mary Magdalen consoled Him. She regained the image of God through repentance. Can we console Him by turning back to Him?

Our sins and failings are more than just a veil concealing the goodness God made by creating us. They are the cause of terrible suffering in the world, a deep injustice against God and against each other, a cause, in the end, of Our Lord’s death on the cross. The crucifixion is the only means by which we could be freed from our sin and its consequences.

Our Lord’s death and the kind of death He died, is so appalling, horrific and grotesque that we ought to be shocked by it. We should be stunned into speechlessness at the thought that the Lord of the Universe, the Creator of the World, Word-made-flesh and Splendour of the Father ended His ministry of love choking out His last agonised words on a Roman cross.

Part of the wisdom of the tradition of the veiling of images is to give us time to become un-used to the crucifixion. In a peculiar way, the covering of the cross helps us to see it properly again. We can become too used to the Cross. By veiling the images now we will be able to see more clearly on Good Friday and on Easter Sunday just how much God loves us.

Perhaps by our prayers and our penitence this Passiontide we can join Our Lady, St John and St Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross. We can console Him too. When we unveil our crosses on Good Friday, we will be able to look at the image of our Saviour in His agony and see God's love for us shining through the face of Jesus. And on Easter Sunday the statues will be unveiled once more. The church will be full of light and joy.

All that is what we will see from our places. But our Father loves our hearts of flesh more than any statue. What will He see from His place once we have passed though Lent and Passiontide? May God see from His place the compassionate image of His Son restored in each of us, the veil of sin removed. The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote:

“Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.”

May it be so with us!

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