We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because you have embraced us while embracing the cross. When pain can make a person self-preoccupied, there walks Jesus still ministering with his gentle words and gestures. We watch him and listen to his words from the throne of the cross. “Forgive them . . .” With our imaginations we are privileged to witness God’s final statement about who we are.
We have watched the violence of scourging, crowning with thorns, stumbling under the weight of the cross, and the mockery of his tormenters. Now we stand with Mary where it is not violent but safe. At the foot of the cross we can say anything we want or anything we usually say about ourselves, but those words and images pale in meaning and importance when we stand at his feet and receive what he is saying over us. We are safe here; we stand in the shadow of the cross. This shadow cancels our personal shadows, our guilt and shame. There can be some shame in our spirits flowing from our realization that it has taken all this to impress on us how loved we really have been all during our wanderings and strayings.
As he is dying, the crowds give up their jeering and move away to continue their celebrating of the Passover within the city of Jerusalem. We stay in the quiet celebration of the “new and everlasting covenant.” Doubts and fears have chased most of his friends away, but he has remained faithful, and we pray to receive encouragement to our staying faithful to him. Away from the shadow of the cross, our shadows lengthen and our past infidelities incline us to not believe and not receive all that he has said about us while on his journey to the cross of cancellation. We gratefully return to our watching place, his watching place. We listen to his final benediction and pledge of faith in his Father’s care.
Ignatius asks those making the Exercises to quietly receive at this second Eucharistic celebration all that is offered. We look up at this cruciform altar and ponder the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Here is the Servant of the Lord. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3). We pray with our hands open to accept this mystery of our being loved this much and for always. At the foot of the cross our arguments falter and our questions about worthiness are rendered absurd. We watch, we listen, we are safe, and we find ourselves created anew, again.
“Who has believed what we have heard?” (Isaiah 53:1). We do, as we refuse to turn away with clenched hands of unworthiness and shame. We stand there until we feel safe to let them take him down. It is a holy stand we take these days of receptivity. “He was wounded for our sins, he was bruised for our iniquity; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his stripes we are healed”(Isaiah 53:4)