Thursday, 13 April 2017

Maundy Thursday: Unison

Sieger Koder: Unison
Throughout Lent we have been travelling with some of Sieger Koder’s paintings and over the next three days of Holy Week we look at three centred upon the cross.

Two men hold a section of it resting upon their heads, bowed, but undefeated by its weight, they hold each other up by the waist – no wonder Father Koder entitles his work ‘Unison’ meaning ‘together.

So much about this day was solitary for Jesus.  And so much about suffering today is often to be faced alone.

Simon of Cyrene is Jesus’ helper, a character who appears, as it were, from nowhere, out of the mist.

He’s described using the place he came from, Cyrene, a Jewish stronghold at the time based in North Africa, today Cyrene is in Libya.

He’s become something of a patron saint of all those who help us carry a cross – he stands for the supporters, the encouragers and the cross bearers.

Yet in truth he’s a mystery.  The only reference we have for him says he was conscripted, rather than volunteered, for the task – and we simply do not know how he took such co-ersion.

When it was all over, and perhaps in an understandable attempt to make sense of it, tradition has it that Alexander and Rufus, Simon’s sons, became early missionaries of the 1st century church. 

The truth is Good Friday is chaotic and contained both the well-orchestrated and spontaneous.  It was a jumble of emotions with panic and fear being the natural consequences of such brutal and unrelenting state imposed aggression.  No one would have felt safe, valued or respected.  We sing of a Green Hill Far Away and it has the touch of poetry about it – yet on that first Good Friday is would have been a place of bitter, terrifying and unabating pain – a hellish cauldron with just one purpose, to forcefully crush life.

So much about suffering and pain-bearing makes little or no sense and simply has to be got through.

Looking back at it the human spirit tries to pull the threads together - and Simon of Cyrene , the cross carrier might well have been so touch by the dignity shown by our Lord that he and his family did indeed become committed and evangelistic Christians.

And thank God it can happen like that today.  Dignity, hope and love can rise from the ashes of pain and suffering.  None of that takes away the chilling reality of Golgotha, it remains The Place of The Skull rather than a Green Hill Far Away – yet it can transform the pain and go some way towards redeeming it.

This week, as we remember the cross, let us be inspired by Simon of Cyrene, the cross bearer and let us give thanks for all pain-bearers who have walked with us at moments of suffering as our companions and encouragers upon life’s often challenging path.


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