This Good Friday's text for the Stations of the Cross procession at the Colosseum was written by Archbishop Giancarlo Bregantini. "It invites us to reflect on the current economic crisis and its dire consequences, on the suffering of migrants," plus a laundry list of other social ills ranging from toxic waste to prison overcrowding, according to a Vatican press release.
|Archbishop Bregantini's Ninth Station: "Unhealthy nostagia for the past."|
Gee, wonder what they're talking about?
"Man is the center of history," and "the poor are the center of the gospel," are two recent quotes from Pope Francis. Is the Church to be vertical or horizontal in its orientation? This is the challenge of our day.
Missing the Point
As an update, this is a good place to address the talking point distributed by the Franciscan Church and hitting the comboxes about the washing of feet: "Since is is not a sacrament or ancient rite, and, is, in fact optional, people shouldn't get all worked up over changes." (Only their innovations are to be respected, see?)
It is still a disregard for Church law. If people do not find this troubling, there's really nothing more to be said to them, except the Bear has long since ceased to be surprised. But more to the point, whether ancient or not, it has a particular meaning. In the context of the Last Supper, this has to do with the Twelve Apostles and the newly-created priesthood. (That's why twelve men are selected, get it?) If it were just about inclusiveness and humility,
- Jesus could have begun His ministry by using the six jars full of water to wash the feet of the wedding guests at Cana, thereby demonstrating His humility to the world.
- Jesus could have washed the feet of the sick at the pool at Bethsaida, thereby demonstrating His compassion and humility to the world.
- Jesus could have demurred when Mary tried to annoint His feet and dry them with her hair, and used the teachable moment to wash her feet, and the feet of everyone present, thereby demonstrating His inclusiveness and humility to the world (especially since He pointed out that His host had not washed His feet).
- Perhaps best of all, Jesus could have washed the feet of the Samaritan woman at the well, thereby demonstrating His disregard for rules, inclusivity, ecumenism and humility to the world.
Instead, the foot washing has a particular, private context. He was warning his priesthood about pride of place and the temptation to boss others around just because you are clergy. He was demonstrating that they must be servants. It was not a context-free celebration of humility and diversity.
It is sad and ironic that on the eve of Good Friday, when Christ's prayer for unity should be honored in all the Church does, the clergy from top to bottom injects division by pridefully refusing to adhere to a common ceremony.
Even if those scandalized by the disobedience were completely wrong, charity would seem to demand that their sensibilities be considered. Instead their noses are gleefully rubbed in the disobedience and make-it-up-as-we-go spirit that was never part of the Church.
In Christ's suffering each of us finds the meaning and, yes, value, of our own suffering. To turn the Stations of the Cross into another platform to air a select group of purely societal problems diminishes the saving role of Christ's sacrifice. It also robs the very people who are suffering of the vertical dimension of their pain. It turns their suffering into an impersonal "issue" to be solved in the here and now, end of story.
We will all die. Some of us with full bellies, some of us with empty. Life is short. Eternity is long. While we're here, we do what we can for each other, knowing it will never be enough, and consider the world an imperfect exile. That is the way the Bear learned it, anyway.
Sadly, with each passing year, a diminishing Church is becoming another platform to air societal ills (without, moreover, offering any practical solutions). Jesus provides the moral authority and draws the crowd for the real message: the brotherhood of man. Those who never had the taste for Heaven are satisfied as the day draws to an end. The rest are left to pick through whatever was left behind when the show moved on without us.
If there's hope, it's this: they left all the best behind.
Again, is the Church to be vertical or horizontal in its orientation? Is it the Church of Christ or the Church of Man? In a way, this is the perennial battle. The Church's historical answer has been both. The vertical post and the horizontal beam. And on that Cross the God Who became Man.