Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Taking (the Cross) to the Streets

It is the oldest thing imaginable: a parade.

And in this week of the Old being made New before us, we bring the cross outside the confines of the Basilica. That cross – the same one we've used for a generation – is a huge, heavy, unobliging hunk of heaviness that leaves splinters in hands and is a dangerous thing to control in and of itself (trust me, I've seen the thing clean the clock of several bystanders who weren't prepared for its wingspan).

Tonight, winding our way through the dusk of Notre Dame's residence halls, we carried this cross. We were escorted by a small phalanx of trumpets, brass players announcing a unique parade that was headed their way: a parade which was beyond the usual ken of carnival-goers.

For this is not your average parade, and it isn't about fun – it's about joy's final triumph over sorrow.

We've done this Campus-Wide Stations of the Cross service for almost twenty years on campus. And it's remarkable, in not-so-little ways, as to how the campus landscape lends itself to the service.

Consider this: The Second Station - Jesus Takes Up His Cross. This is done on the patio in front of Bond Hall – exuding classical Roman architecture to its core (the architecture reminiscent of the empire that sentenced Jesus to death).

Or the Third Station – Jesus Falls the First Time. This takes place in Lyons Arch, and navigating that cross up and around those convoluted steps is a perfect illustration of the Via Crucis.

Or the Eleventh Station – Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross. Here, the backdrop is the War Memorial ("Stonehenge"), memorializing those who have gone before us carrying their own crosses in mortal warfare.

And finally, there is the Fourteenth Station, when that immense sign of execution is lifted over the baptismal font of the Basilica and carried solemnly up the main aisle of the church, all the while surrounded by the chanting of "Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom." We have brought the cross back to the vault. And the lights go dark, and the hundreds who are there sing "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"

This is no ordinary parade. It is the procession through sorrow to what, for Christians, lies on the other side of sorrow – the promise of the Resurrection.

And we have a big old, splintered, unwieldy mass of wood to thank for this spectacle.

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