- Created on Friday, 22 April 2011 09:25
At 3pm on Good Friday, Bishop Brain celebrated the Liturgy of the Passion in Salford Cathedral. He preached about the power of Christ's Cross, using the First Station of the Cross from the Norman Adams Stations at the Hidden Gem Church in Manchester (the image is copyrighted). Here is the Bishop's homily:
Today we focus on the cross, the symbol of the Christian. But the importance of the cross as a symbol is because of the man who hung upon it, Jesus Christ. Who is Jesus Christ? Why did he die on a cross?
In the Hidden Gem Church, Mulberry Street, Manchester, the Stations of the Cross, by Norman Adams, help us to answer these questions.
The paintings shock us into realising the reality of Christ’s love: in the Mass of the Lord's Supper we were told that his love was ‘perfect’. How does this first Station show us perfect love? We need to look with the words of Isaiah (from today’s liturgy) in our minds.
He describes the Suffering Servant: “Like a sapling he grew up in front of us, like a root in arid ground. Without beauty, without majesty, no looks to attract our eyes” (Is 53,2). Certainly there is little here to attract us! We cannot recognise the personal image we have of Christ here. Perhaps that is because so often our image of Christ is just that, an image and not the Christ who is “one with the Father”. Our image can so often be no more than an imagination: how I want Christ to look and be.
Here we see Christ, who came into the world to redeem us on a cross.
Here we see the Second Person of the Trinity, God made man, stripping himself down to his human DNA! And there, we find not the double helix but a cross. The cross is Christ’s purpose, his existence. That is an awful thought, one we are not comfortable with: no wonder the Adams Stations shock us. The cross almost grows out of his face! But this is the reality of who Christ is. The Son of God who came to die on a cross because he and the Father are one and they love us! In St John’s account of the Passion, read today, we hear Christ state this to Herod: "Yes, I am a king. I was born for this: I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth: and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.” But I cannot find a king here: behold a man, but not a king!
Yet when we look carefully we can see the eternal king. The eyes are often called the ‘windows to the soul’ and the eyes of Christ as painted by Adams are eternal blue, otherworldly, divine. Christ, the Beloved Son, the flower of the Father. And these suffering eyes look out to us: “My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me” (Good Friday Liturgy). Here we see Christ made sin, and, remember “God so loved the world that he sent his Son, born of a woman, a man like us in all things but sin”. That is really why this picture shocks us. The sinless has become sin: because of his love for us. Yet all the ugliness of sin cannot hide the beauty of God’s eternal love, and as we look at a face dominated by the cross we move from the awful red terror of the Agony in the Garden, up through the scourging and crowning (Yes, I am a king) with thorns, towards that dominant CROSS and then – just the hint of that green hope of Resurrection. And all the time those eyes are telling us: Yes, I am the Beloved Son; the Way, the Truth, the Life: follow me: trust me; receive me.
“Thus in the cross and him who hung upon it, all things meet, all things subserve it, all things need it. It is their centre and their interpretation” (Bl. John Henry Newman).
The image is of the first Station of the Cross: Jesus is condemned to death: Ecce Homo. It was painted by Norman Adams, and is found at St Mary's in Mulberry Street, Manchester. The image is copyrighted.