The world teases us with an illusion of peace. It tempts us to believe that, if we can just alter our circumstances or if they somehow change for the better, we will be peaceful and happy. If I had financial security, I might think, then I could relax and not worry and maybe even be able to be more generous. If my body was different, then I could think more highly of myself. If I could land that dream job, I would finally feel good. If I could just have that dream house, then things would be better. If someone loved me, then I could be happy. If only…then things would be different.
That approach to life sets up an addictive quest where I am always trying to change something outside of me. I give all my power to my circumstances and I come to believe that I am dependent on things going well in order for me to be well. One problem there is that, hardly ever, is everything going well in this life. Usually something is amiss. And those rare times when all is going well, we know that such is tenuous and that eventually something will fall apart. Our peace, when it is attached to worldly circumstances, is no peace at all.
The peace that Christ offers comes out of this shocking truth: the worst case scenario is going to happen to me. I can’t keep it from coming about. Life may not always be hard but it is going to be hard repeatedly. Not just hard. Downright impossible. The peace of Christ comes out of that reality. The worst case scenario will play itself out. And, surprise of surprises, out of those various horrors we will find grounding and hope. We fight with life and try our hardest to avoid hitting the bottom. But eventually we hit bottom and there we find strength. Something holds us and loves us at the bottom.
Peace doesn’t come by trying to avoid hardship. Peace comes by accepting hardship and finding that God’s love and grace is not threatened by anything this world can produce. That’s a different kind of peace than with which the world tempts us.
Our small chapel in which we hold our weekday Eucharists and various other smaller services has recently been totally transformed by works of art created by Camilla Armstrong. The works of art immediately bring a deeper warmth and intimacy to the chapel. The works will draw you in and move you. The works created by Cam are the Fourteen Stations of the Cross, a depiction of the stages of Jesus’s journey from condemnation to the tomb. As one inspects them more closely, the great sorrow which Jesus went through is revealed. To look at the Stations closely is to be hit by a severe and heavy sadness. But there is more. As we live into that sadness, a sense of peace and even joy, evolves. We come to see that the crucifixion of our Lord leads not only to despair but eventually to hope. The Stations show the absolutely worst thing occurring and, afterwards, the peace of God is revealed more completely. God’s peace is not dependent on things going well.
The Fourteen Stations are: I Jesus is condemned to death; II Jesus carries his cross; III Jesus fall the first time; IV Jesus meets his mother; V The cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene; VI A woman wipes the face of Jesus; VII Jesus falls a second time; VIII Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem; IX Jesus falls a third time; X Jesus is stripped of his garments; XI Jesus is nailed to the cross; XII Jesus dies on the cross; XIII Jesus is taken down from the cross; XIV Jesus is laid in the tomb.
The Stations express what the Cross itself expresses. The Cross, now a symbol of resurrection, is first a symbol of suffering and death. Some resist the Stations as too sad, too hard to deal with. Sometimes we all fall into the trap set by life: if we can avoid hard things, we will be happy and joyful. True joy comes, however, not by avoiding suffering but by embracing it. There we come to see that God is the eternal love and peace we are created to be in relationship with. As you have come to trust the cross to be a life-giving symbol, may the Stations of the Cross in our Chapel bring you to a new level of peace in your holy journey.
We give thanks to Cam Armstrong for her generous offering of herself. And we give thanks for the outpouring of love by God through his Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Through his offering all things are made well and whole.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.