The Crucified Jesus

Path of Descent

The Crucified Jesus
Friday, October 21, 2016

They will look upon him whom they have pierced. —John 19:37

Those who “gaze upon” the Crucified long enough—with contemplative eyes—are always deeply healed of pain, unforgiveness, violence, and victimhood. It demands no theological education, just an “inner exchange” by receiving the image within and offering one’s soul back in safe return. It is no surprise that a naked man nailed to a cross is such a deep, archetypal symbol in the Western psyche. It was meant to transform all earthly suffering.

The crucified Jesus offers, at a largely unconscious level, a very compassionate meaning to history. The mystery of the rejection, suffering, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the interpretive key for what history means and where it is going. Without such cosmic meaning and soul significance, the agonies and tragedies of humanity feel like Shakespeare’s “sound and fury signifying nothing.” [1] The body can live without food easier than the soul can live without meaning.

If all of our human crucifixions are leading to some possible resurrection, and are not dead-end tragedies, this changes everything. If God is somehow participating in our human suffering, instead of just passively tolerating it and observing it, that also changes everything—at least for those who are willing to “gaze” contemplatively.

We Christians are given the privilege to name the mystery—as the path of descent, the Way of the Cross, or the paschal mystery. Although we name and symbolize it quite well, we have not lived it much better than many other religions and cultures. All humble, suffering souls often learn this by grace.

Jesus, however, brings it front and center. A “crucified God” became the logo and central image of our Christian religion: a dying, bleeding, losing man. If that isn’t saying you win by losing, what is it going to take for us to get the message? How often do we have to look at the Crucified and miss the point? Why did we choose that as our symbol if we’re not going to believe it? Life is all about winning by losing—losing with grace and letting our losses teach and transform us. And yes, this is somehow saying that God suffers—and our suffering is also God’s suffering, and God’s suffering is ours (Colossians 1:24). That has the power to transform the human dilemma of tragedy, absurdity, and all unjust suffering—which is just about all suffering.

Gateway to Silence:
The way up is down. 

References:
[1] William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 5, scene 5.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 2008), 186-187; and
The Path of Descent (CAC: 2003), disc 1 (CD, MP3 download).

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