STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Station 13 — Jesus Is Taken Down From The Cross, by Joan Chittister

The Path to New Life

Station 13 — Jesus Is Taken Down From The Cross Joan Chittister

From: The Way of the Cross

The Experience

Now when it is finally, irrevocably over, when there is nothing left to do but to admit the loss, the inevitability of reality takes over.  Faith is bruised.  Hope is gone.  The door to yesterday has clanged shut and we are forever bereft of whole segments of our life.  We are alone – the worst word in the English language has descended on our shoulders.  And suddenly we begin to realize how limited we ourselves have always been but only now had to admit.  We are not meant to be alone.

The insight crushes us to the ground.  Where is the rest of me, if not in a coffin of pain in the front of the world, never to be able to hide again?

The realization that death eclipses time, that it alone has the capacity to take past, present, and future from us in the same moment is enough to smother the rest of life forever.

Life, we come to understand, is not a monument; it is a crystal ball, fragile and brittle to the touch.  The smallest details of life threaten it – a cold turned into pneumonia, a car in the wrong lane, a slip on a ladder, the public words of the charismatic leader, the accumulation of hidden enemies, the exhaustion of the giving heart.  Whatever the enemy, every breath of life becomes a risk subject to the vagaries of time.

Sooner or later we come to understand that life is a gift of momentous proportions but is given without the security of knowing that once achieved it will be impervious to change.  A mystery beyond understanding, it comes, at the same time, laden down with the pain of irredeemable and unexplainable loss.  Life comes to us as the reckless joy of possibility but it comes, too, with the agonizing awareness that someday, when we least expect it, we may need to let go of it to begin all over again.

The Call

The call to the unknown is the call to trust what is behind the mist of life to come.  It is the challenge to believe that in the darkness there is yet another life to be had.  Such spiritual gambling is not an easy virtue.  Having already been denied the certainty that planning implies, having already lost what appeared to be the very bedrock of our lives, the decision to trust that tomorrow will be better than this worst of days is the least of human instincts.

The willingness to start all over again at any point in life comes with great reservation.  Better to bear the evil that we have than to fly to what we do not know, we say.  The inclination to hold on, even to the less than beautiful, is part of being human, part of being inclined to hoard life rather than to live it with arms open and head up, facing the winds of the day and believing that the destination we cannot see is just as good or better than the one to which we have already set the sails of our hearts.

Trust is the gift that makes life exciting.  It is the golden thread between the human search for the fullness of life and the heart of God that wills it for us.

The Model

The thirteenth station of the cross with its specter of irrevocable loss, its futile efforts, its wasted dreams, drains the human soul to the point of numbness.  Can anything worse be imagined than the death of the ideal?  When Jesus is taken down from the cross, when hope dies, when everything we ever wanted gets thrown away, discarded, overlooked, ignored, forgotten, we eat the dust of despair.

We wonder what life was ever about if this is all it comes to, despite all the good will, all our great struggles to have it be otherwise.  Then, we realize that only God is God, that we are not in charge of time or truth or the architecture of our definition of the perfect world.  Then, we understand: This next step is, like Jesus, to give ourselves over to the arms of God and trust.

The question on which the thirteenth station concentrates us is a straightforward one: Am I prepared to let go of everything I ever wanted so that God’s will can come through me in another way?

The Rising

When we reach the point in life where we no longer insist on being able to control all the paltry little situations of life, we are now prepared to be broken open to the life of God, however it comes.  At this point, I understand that God will enter my life, my heart, my soul in more ways that I could ever imagine.  Rather than through this one spiritual channel, I will begin to find God hidden in new ideas, beckoning me to new beginnings, offering me the grace in the midst of pain to let go.  Then and only then, do all the deaths of the past become what they have always been meant to be, simply steps on a road that is never the end, always a new beginning of the never ending, never static search for God.

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