Paintings and meditations by Mary Jane Miller
This collection of 15 stations of the cross paintings is an actual collection from St. Paul’s Anglican Church in San Miguel de Allende. The text are the insights Mary Jane reflected on while painting them.
INTRODUCTION FOR THE HISTORY OF THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS
The Stations became a Christian devotional practice in the thirteenth century. They use the ritual metaphorically to journey with him from his trial to his entombment. The participants stand before snap shot images to immerse themselves in the story of Jesus Christ’s final sufferings as he walked to Mount Calvary. The road between his condemnation at court and final crucifixion is known as the Via Dolorosa (“Way of Sorrows”) or Via Crucis (“Way of the Cross”). In Jerusalem it is still walked by many pilgrims today.
Way of the Cross
These meditations are exemplary not of one man’s walk on one historic day, but the walk for all humanity. The idea is to gain the awareness of the human condition and come to the conclusion, “ If Christ has endured this treatment, so can I.”
What Humanity Can Learn
For two millenniums the human circumstance has changed little, we all still suffer, we all still feel abandoned and we all still get betrayed. Migrant workers, soldiers, prisoners, racial discrimination and violence, the poor and the homeless, the grieving, and the mentally ill are among the many people we will meet along the path. When we focus our mind and heart on the “Way” we realize there is strength in Christ’s exemplary journey whatever the circumstances.
A collection of 15 Stations of the Cross paintings and meditations are practiced durring the 40 days before Easter, a season devoted to deep examination and reflection on self. From the earliest of days of Christianity, followers of Jesus told the story of his passion, death and resurrection. Pilgrims arriving in Jerusalem were anxious to see the sites where Jesus walked. As Christianity took root around the globe, these holy sites were too distant for many to travel to. By the 1500’s, communities all over the world started creating “replicas” of the places along the route to Calvary in Jerusalem. Eventually, these shrines became the 14 stations celebrate.
The Practice of Icon Meditation
Why did you forsake me? . . . To what purpose? . . . The Stations of the Cross speak of injustice with no mercy, they speak of Jesus’s journey to his death with no complaint. But along the way there is not one death but many, each station revealing a kind of death of self and surrender to the horrors life has given us. We are supported by a few on lookers but ultimately we like Christ have to endure seemingly alone what is happening in our life. This is not just the historical reenactment, but the pilgrimage for all humanity until we learn to not do harm to one another.
Sacred Art is more than biblical story telling. Rituals like the Stations of the cross were designed as a visual tool for the community. They help us navigate through a prescribed set of messages and motif and are no longer limited to only church. While the traditional form retains the rich connotations of the underlying message, there is room for reinterpretations that traverse boundaries and expand the possibility of transforming our normal life. The 15 Stations of the Cross allow the inquiry for why do we have to suffer including the social, political, and metaphysical ways as well.
My small collection strips the elements in the story to faces, hands and the cross to underscore our human commonality. Lent and Stations of the Cross exalt unjust suffering, particularly those individuals struggling against authority. Parts of each one of us are seen, touched and crucified everyday.
Station 1 – Jesus is Condemned to Death
Haven’t we all known betrayal, when we want a certain outcome and what we find is something other. Jesus is betrayed by the people in authority. He stands before Pilot as a spiritual warrior, vulnerable in the face of evil force, dominance and power. The intellectual stamina needed to not resist at times like this is enormous, to allow the injustice, accept the condemnation without opposition. He has said “yes” to God and placed his life in God’s hands reminding Pilot,”You have nothing in your hands”.
We follow Jesus with reverence for our own hope to surrender and trust that there is a plan unfolding and our job is to submit willingly without fear. We cannot resist because it is out of our control, because it is ignorance and fear we are faced with. We like Jesus must walk in the direction someone else has chosen, we cannot argue or resist. It would only add to the injustice.
Station 2 – Jesus Takes Up the Cross
He is handed the heavy rough wood to be crucified upon. He took the weight of injustice upon his shoulders! The wood symbolizes the connection to earth and to humanity, that Jesus has had while living and walking among us. With each step he enters more deeply into our human experience and teaches us to not turn away from injustice but to stare at it without flinching. He accepts the path of human misery and suffering that is part of our human life and shows us how to say yes. He accepts carrying the cross he will be crucified on.
Each and every one of us has a cross to carry. Whether illness, emotional turmoil, physical deformity etc. each of us must carry on with what we have been given, no one can walk for us, there will be no short cuts, or payback.
Station 3 – Jesus Falls for the First Time
He lays on the ground in weakness beneath unfair burdens. He knows this should not be happening and the resignation is shown in his intense quiet dignity. He feels the powerlessness of wondering if he will be able to continue. He is pulled up and forced to continue. We watch him stand again and gain inner strength in spite of the clash he must feel between tolerance and frustration. He is suffering for a cause not fully understood by any of those around him. Around Him he hears the hatred in the crowd around him. He does not shield himself, rather endures the pain without expression. He falls down out of sheer loss and fear.
We all face times of grief. We want to give up and surrender but we know no one can walk for us or carry the choices we have made. We rest with Christ in falling under the burden of life.
Station 4 – Jesus Encounters His Afflicted Mother
Every mother has memories of their early relationship with their new born. Their loving glance is captured in one moment. Christ is being seen by his mother up close for the last time. Christ is facing death through this inescapable unjust torture unfolding. Jesus’ path allows Him one last encounter His mother and powerful source of strength throughout his life. She taught him the meaning of the words, “Be it done unto me”. Now they look into each others eyes. He is pained to see his mothers tears of sorrow and helplessness at the sight of Him. She almost smiles, blessing his mission through her love and trusts Gods love which will eternally bind them together.
Our betrayals are intense and softened only when we realize we are loved. At this moment along the journey we remember the times we have been seen up close and intimate even if briefly.