I was struck, watching the Stations of the Cross live-streamed from Shrewsbury Cathedral by the reflection that it is not fear of Hell but love of Christ which makes me repent of my sins. The horrors and agonies of crucifixion are things on which few of us wish to reflect. As Fr Marcus Walker reminds us, most of the art depicting the pivotal event of this Friday erases the darkness and the pain. Crucifixion was a punishment reserved for rebels and slaves, and the portrayal of it in Richard Harrison’s Golgotha is gruesome; it is a picture of pain; as Fr Marcus puts it, “there is nothing else there.” It is not a painting one could “like,” but it is one which commands attention because it recalls to us the love that God has for us.
I pray, daily, that God may “spare us from the fires of hell,” but those “fires,” and the fear they engender, would be a poor foundation of faith. They would not help in those moments when one finally imitates Jesus and asks “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” What helps draw me to repentance is the knowledge of God’s love. What hurts most is the knowledge that He hung and suffered there because of my sins. What makes me rejoice most is that He did it for love of me, and that through that love He set me free. I am free. I am free to worship Him – or not. And why should I not?
Though there are times when the darkness hides Him, the Light is never extinguished. Though I cannot always hear Him, His voice is never silent. Though there are times He seems hidden, that is as it should and must be. We take from our society an impatience and a desire to have what we want and to have it now. So, when we make God in our image and mutter that He is not there, it is we who are not there. We are not there attending to the message of the silence or the mystery of what we see only as through a glass darkly.
But He is there. He is there, not least today. Not least when we pray the Stations of the Cross. Not least when we contemplate the Tree on which the Prince of Glory died. Our richest gain, we count but loss, and we pour contempt on all our pride. What are we that He should have gone through this pain for us? Yet He did so. Whatever we suffer, He has suffered. In the spaces and the silences we should reflect on that fact and upon the message of the Cross.
This day is “Good” because it witnesses, as nothing else could, to what draws us to God. St John, as ever, said it best: “ In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
I wish all our readers and commentators a holy Easter, and as today, we enter into the darkness, let us travel towards the light of Sunday together in hope and prayer.
Not fear but love: thus, we speak of imperfect versus perfect contrition for our sins.
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