In the last decade, the Christian season of Lent has become increasingly important to my spiritual vitality. In a recent interview with Walter Brueggemann, he called Lent a liminal moment:
We want to celebrate Easter but don’t want to do the hard work of Lent. This is a great seduction into which we all fall.
Lent and Holy Week have a long tradition in Church history. Yet Protestants who hold a sense of skepticism toward the Church calendar tend to scuttle their way directly from Christmas to Easter without much thought to the seasons of Epiphany and Lent which lie in between.
If you follow the Betwixt podcast, you know that I’m pretty keen on the spaces between one thing and another. It’s in these “betwixing” places where transformation happens most profoundly. This is why I’ve increasingly become aware of how Lent and Holy Week have incredible potential to shape our spiritual lives.
Lent is often called the season of bright sadness. Father John Breck wrote:
Bright sadness may be the most powerful and important experience we can know. It brings to our mind and heart, in the most direct and personal way, the ultimate purpose of our life and the object or end of our most passionate desire. It reminds us of who we are, as beloved children of God, created in His image and invited to glorify and enjoy Him forever.
This paradoxical emotion of bright sadness is the fruit of transformation. But this transformation doesn’t just happen by showing up on Easter Sunday. It requires that we journey with Jesus the way of the cross. It requires that we do the “hard work” of Lent. The transformation for new life doesn’t just happen by showing up on Easter Sunday. It requires that we journey with Jesus the way of the cross. It requires that we do the “hard work” of Lent. Click To Tweet
Stations of the Cross: An Ancient Tradition
Besides the traditional practices of prayer and fasting during Lent, a beloved tradition of Holy Week is walking the Stations of the Cross.
The pilgrimage of the cross can be dated to at least the 4th century. With the legalization of Christianity, devout Christians made their way back to Jerusalem where they began walking the Via Dolorosa. This was the path that Jesus took when Pilate bid him to take up his cross and walk to his crucifixion at Golgotha.
But because only Christians with privilege and resource could make the Holy Land pilgrimage, churches around the world set up micro-pilgrimages in their local churches so that everyone could participate. These came to be called the Stations of the Cross. Over time, a host of extra-biblical legends and distorted teaching became entangled with the practice during the Middle Ages.
For many Protestants today, following the Stations of the Cross during Holy Week comes with recognition that the contemplative streams of orthodox Christianity are much older than the distorted traditions of the Church during the Middle Ages.
Why Follow the Way of the Cross?
But for me, I’m following the Way of the Cross this year because of the longing in my own heart to journey more closely with Jesus amidst the hustle and bustle of my own city. I don’t need to travel to Jerusalem or even to a monastery or church to walk the Stations of the Cross. This is a devotional journey that every Christian can make through reading scripture and through prayer.
Yet, I still find the hustle and bustle are hard to resist.
If you find the hustle and bustle hard to resist as well, I invite you to join me in this contemplative pilgrimage toward the cross. The Betwixt Podcast has posted a series of meditations for Holy Week based on the Stations of the Cross. Will you join me? I’m meditating on the Stations of the Cross this year because of the longing in my own heart to journey more closely with Jesus amidst the hustle and bustle of my own city. Will you join me? Click To Tweet
An Invitation to a Liminal Journey
Our journey begins with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and ends in the Garden Tomb awaiting his victorious resurrection.
Before his death, Jesus told his followers that true discipleship requires us to take up our cross and follow him. This is a liminal journey. The cross is the place of incredible paradox where everything is turned upside down: heaven intersecting earth, kingdom of light overturning kingdom of darkness, unclean made clean, profane made sacred, curse restored to blessing, death resurrected to life.
For the follower of Jesus, the cross invites us to the hard work of laying ourselves down. To lay our old ways, our burdens, our wounds, our dreams, our anxieties at the foot of the cross. To see them buried in the tomb in order that new life can come forth. Jesus said that a seed of wheat must first be buried in the ground and die in order for it to bring forth the life that will bear fruit.
And at the heart of this journey is the message of love. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. As we engage the sorrow, the suffering, the violence while walking with Jesus toward the darkness, we discover that, indeed, there is no greater love than that which would lay itself down for others.
This self-giving love of Christ transforms and revitalizes us as we follow the way of the cross. It reminds us of who we are, as the beloved children of God, created in His image and invited to enjoy his presence forever.