At the Foot of the Cross: A Reflection on Newtown

December 20, 2012

John 19: 25-26

"Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene… and the disciple whom he loved."

Reflection by Mary Luti

This is the season of the cradle, not the cross, but we need the cross now. The cradle is bathed in too much light from Star and Angel. Radiant beams only hurt our eyes, which have recently become unwillingly accustomed to deepest dark. For now, we need the cover of night.

This is the season of the cradle, not the cross, but we need the cross now. In the cradle lies a child, and we are not ready to see him, he is so beautiful. The beauty of other children is a searing pain right now. How can we come on bended knee to this one, glad for his appearance when the rest are gone? If we bend now, we may break in two. For now, we need to stay away.

This is the season of the cradle, not the cross, but we need the cross now. The cradle puts glory on our lips, and the lyrics of lullabies. We need a word more adequate than these. We are poring over the lexicon to find a word with which to fashion inconsolable laments. What we find is the cross.

It is a word that offers no answers. It offers instead a common lot. It is the gathering place for all the world's sorrows, all its wasted efforts, all its murdered children, its violence and catastrophe, its indifference, its evasive posturing and political cowardice, and all its stupefied silences. Sooner or later life deposits us all at the cross.

When we arrive at its foot, we discover its gift—a durable hope that comes not from assurances that the sun will come up tomorrow, or from the truth that God grieves with us, or even from our faith in a risen Lord; but simply from having a place to go; a place to gather so that we will not be alone, so that we will not get lost, when the pain is unspeakable and the sorrow beyond all bearing. 

Carols will ring and light will shine and knees now doubled in pain will bend in awe, but not yet. First, and for a little while longer, and forever, we need the cross. 

Prayer

God of our frail lives, at the foot of the cross gather us and our fright, our grief, and our anger. Give us the hope that comes just from being there, together, with each other, with Jesus, and with you.

About the Author
J. Mary Luti is Visiting Professor of Worship and Preaching at Andover Newton Theological School.

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