by Carol Dixon
Holy Week is a time when we remember Jesus’ journey to the Cross and his suffering and death and immerse ourselves in the story. We begin with a prayer.
Prayer: (by Rachel Poolman, St Cuthbert’s Holy Island)
We turn to you O God and find you already coming to meet us,
You inhabit our hopes and dreams with creative love,
You hold our battered lives in your scarred hands,
and catch us up from our troubles and fears
to dance towards fullness of life.
We meet you Saviour God, life giver, heart changer, breath taker.
Sustain us, heal us, renew us, we pray, this day and always. Amen
Hymn: Beneath the Cross of Jesus
Introduction: A few years ago I was on a retreat where we were invited to meditate on some icons and reflect on a character who was present at the crucifixion. I have reproduced some of the icons and they are each followed by a Meditations imagining what the different people might have thought. As you read the meditation, I invite you to look at the icon and think about the person who is telling their story. Each reflection is followed by a short silence and some music leading into the next meditation.
Reading: Matthew 27
54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified. ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’ he said. [Matt 27: 54]
Song: Father, Forgive them by Sheila Hamil
Meditation 1 The Centurion
I never recognised him – can you believe that?
The man who healed my servant all those years ago –
was it only three? – in Capurnaum;
who gave the order, like I give orders
every day, and the boy was saved.
Here, on Skull Hill, I gave another order;
nails were hammered through flesh
and our detachment strung the three of them up.
The lads settled down to their dicing
to while away the waiting time – always the worst part.
I didn’t join in. Who wants to win
a sweat-stained bundle of peasants’ clothes?
Instead I stood and watched the small crowd
gathered near his Cross – no trouble-makers here,
just a group of broken-hearted relatives and friends
keeping a last vigil by his side,
while the sky darkened at the sun’s eclipse.
It reminded me of descending into the darkness
of the Mithraum at my initiation rite
when, as a young soldier, proud to wear
the uniform of Rome, I had been spattered
by the blood of the sacrificial bull –
hot, sticky – the stench stayed with me for days,
a sign of salvation, they said, though nothing changed.
Yet here, as his blood spurted from his pierced side,
something happened – I’m still not sure what;
life goes on the same as usual – orders given
and received; but somehow, by HIS blood,
I am…. different – healed.
Surely this man was the Son of God.
Music: My song is love unknown
My song is love unknown, my saviour’s love to me, Love to the loveless known, that I might lovely be.
O who am I that for my sake, My Lord should take frail flesh and die?
He came from his blest throne, salvation to bestow; but men made strange &none the longed-for Christ would know.
But, O my friend, my friend indeed, who at my need his life did spend.
‘Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her.’ [John 19: 26]
Meditation 2 The Beloved Disciple
I suppose I always knew
it would be up to me,
I had ‘friends in high places’ see
which was how I got Simon Peter
past the doorkeeper last night
and into the courtyard at Jesus’ trial.
Then when the women decided
they had to go with Jesus’ mother
to the Cross, I was the obvious choice
to escort them – there was no way
women could go out unaccompanied.
It was totally inappropriate for a woman
to venture anywhere alone,
far less to a crucifixion.
Not that Mary Magdalene bothered
with all that; she was never one
for convention, or worrying what others said.
It was safest for me to go too.
I was the youngest, less threat
to the Roman authorities.
Also I went out of love –
‘The beloved disciple’ they called me.
I suppose Jesus always had a soft spot
for me, despite my nickname
‘Boanerges’, the name he gave us,
‘Sons of thunder’, though
in truth my elder brother James
was always the fiery one, I just
tagged along and did what he did.
It was hard to be here, at the foot
of the Cross, watching my dear Master
stretched in agony above us.
I hoped – prayed – when the earthquake
shook the ground that he would
come crashing down, freed
from the cruel nails, so we could save him.
but instead, through all his suffering
he seems as if he is saving us.
I don’t understand how, or why.
Maybe when this darkness lifts
all will become clear.
But wait. Jesus is saying something.
He is looking at his mother, then
he looks at me. Such a look of love
I cannot bear it. One final request:
‘Son, here is your mother’. ‘Of course’ ,
I want to shout to him, ‘Of course I will
love her as my own, as you loved me,
your beloved disciple… and I love you,
my loving Lord.’ © Carol Dixon
Music: Hail true body (Sheila Hamil)
Meditation 3 The Mother
She looked at him
and saw that he was dying,
and rebelled against
the futility of it all.
Already he seemed
so far away from her,
like a stranger, almost.
She had known him
little more than
thirty years, such
a short time really
in the eons of eternity.
The emptiness which filled
her heart was replaced
by a kind of repugnance
as she looked at him –
a shadow of his former self –
his bleeding, sweating body
racked with pain; it was
revolting, repellent, disgusting.
Where was the glory
and majesty of Death
which people talked about?
She shut her eyes
to try and efface the horror
of it all……. and saw
the stable and the blood
upon the straw, recalled
the stench of sweat
and warm animals –
felt their hot breath and the pain
of the child fighting
its way out of her womb,
from the darkness
Looking up, she caught his eye
and, meeting his tranquil gaze,
understood he knew that they
had travailed this journey before.
The ghastly gore of death
was no different to that of birth.
The glory came afterwards…..
‘It is accomplished!’ he cried to the world;
and she smiled, through the mists of her tears.
© Carol Dixon
HYMN: O sacred head sore wounded
Reading: Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene [John 19: 25]
Meditation 4 – The sister of Mary
I didn’t want to be here, you know.
Here, at the crucifixion; but I had to come
because of his mother, my sister.
I had to be there for her.
Jesus was the joy of her heart, the apple of her eye,
her first born – never mind how he was conceived –
first born are always special in a way,
and he was, mark my words, he was;
so good at following in his father’s footsteps.
Then after Joseph died it all changed.
Oh he remained for a while as head of the household
but as soon as his brothers and sisters were able
to support their mother, he was off.
First of all he went to follow that wild cousin of his,
John (what a disappointment he must have been
to his elderly parents), the desert man,
living off locusts and wild honey,
just like one of those strange prophets, long ago.
But Jesus didn’t stay long with him.
No, he came back up north and soon
had quite a following himself – a mixed bunch
from fishermen to tax collectors, the riff raff
of society – with a few zealots thrown in.
So it’s little wonder he ended up here, really,
crucified between two criminals.
It shouldn’t have happened though – he wasn’t a rebel
well, not in that sense of the word.
He was good and kind and healed people,
helped whoever came to him in need.
And now here he is, in need of us
as we lower his battered body, and rest it
in his mother’s arms, for one last time
before we lay it in the borrowed tomb.
So that’s why I’m in this place
where I really don’t want to be, God knows,
I’m here for his mother, yet despite myself
I’ve become part of it too. © Carol Dixon
Prayer: During a time of quietness as you listen to the song ‘Embrace the world’ let us pray … for our own needs …and for the needs of our world…. laying all our burdens, worries, and need of healing at the foot of the Cross, leaving them in the care of our wounded Saviour who heals all our hurts and gives us his everlasting peace.
Song: Embrace the World – Words & Music Colin Dixon
Jesus, with arms outstretched, from your Cross you embrace the world.
Dying, you show us how to live for each other, forgetting ourselves.
Across the earth we see suffering, sisters, brothers, broken by strife;
You teach us, Lord, to love and care, so we learn to live your risen life.
Fighting and famine, hatred, bloodshed, war, earthquake, torture, fire, bomb and gun,
How much longer will we watch and wait till your will on earth is done?
Sharing food and healing hurts, helping poor and homeless too,
Sacrificing greed for power, and lust for wealth before we learn to follow you.
Throughout the world people profane your name, living in hatred instead of in love;
Send us your spirit of truth & grace, give strength for weakness, your power from above.
Jesus, with arms outstretched, from your Cross you embrace the world.
Dying, you show us how to live for each other, forgetting ourselves,
As you did Lord, when you were here. © Colin Dixon Easter 2001
Closing prayer [by Rachel Poolman, St Cuthbert’s Holy Island]
God lingers where others can only offer fleeting thought…..
God lingers with those labouring to bring new life into being
with those who grieve for love lost and hopes dashed……
God lingers with those who celebrate the gift of beauty in their midst,
with those who are lost in a tunnel of darkness with no end in sight….
This day within the ordinary and the extraordinary God lingers
breathing love, embracing despair, murmuring hope…..
God lingers with us and all creation this day, and all days, for evermore.
Hymn: When I survey the wondrous cross
Blessing: God’s peace, seen in Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord, be upon you this day and always. Amen.
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