An essay I recently read entitled “Reflections” contained this paragraph:
“I move away from him again, my hip hitting the side of the table and knocking the mirror to the floor. We both watch it slip from its place on the table, and its ear-splitting crash bringing us to a standstill. Neither one of us looks away from the glass on the floor. One piece captures my teary face and another has caught his; it looks just as broken as the glass that portrays it. The other pieces show images around the room: gray bed sheets, blue curtains, my bare legs. Everything is shattered.” (Caisa Doyle, Reflecting our Greatness, 2015, 16)
The cross is a mirror.
Knocked to the floor. We watch it slip. We watch him slip. There is an ear splitting crash. We are stopped – all movement -all creation brought to a standstill.
We wish to look away. We cannot look away. The brokenness of the cross and him upon it draws us deeper into its embrace.
Look away to what, after all, our brokenness? Our pain? Our suffering? The suffering and pain we cause others?
So we look. We watch. We listen. We imagine. And we know. The cross is there – shattered – and we are shattered too.
One part captures our teary faces, one part captures his, still another our splintered family.
Another part discloses the brokenness of our relationships, perhaps with a family member, a loved one, a friend, a brother or a sister.
Still another shard of cross exposes our broken relationship with God – God’s broken relationship with us.
This piece of true cross depicts the distance between us while that piece over there unveils the reality we are bound together in this mess.
We see in the reflection the brokenness of our world and our society where the powerful and their power are protected and once again the weak and vulnerable are preyed upon.
We see clearly in the cross how our actions of consumption and desire affect and break the lives of men and women elsewhere.
We see the breaking cross under the weight of division between black and white, gay and straight, conservative and liberal, rich and poor, between the man and his spouse, the mother and her son, the son and his daughter.
We see it all here. We see the generations of grey reality which is our reality. We see what is normal and plain unmasked as broken - not right.
Here he is laid bare, and we are laid bare.
We cannot look away. We see that we are as broken as the broken man and his breaking cross.
Yet here in the brokenness is something else altogether.
It is also a view of reconciliation.
Here in the shards of the cross is a seed planted.
Here too is atonement.
Here is the beginning of redemption.
Yes, here are all our plots unmasked – to kill God and stand in his place.
But, here too is God Standing with the victim.
Here is God with the suffering.
Here is death defeated.
Here our pretension to the throne and godliness is defeated.
We are out flanked, not by power, but by complete vulnerability.
Here is the revelation that God reaches out to us - vulnerable. God says to us we shall belong together and to one another. We shall have love. This cross shall be the cross road which links heaven and earth – you and me.
We shall see in its shards both the brokenness and our redemption.
For we long to be loved and belong.
We long to love and provide belonging.
So we see here in this broken man and breaking cross is an image of belovedness, the complete giving over of one’s self for another, vulnerability, and perfect invitation.
We see here, in this brokenness, both our sorrow and our joy.
And it speaks to us of the reality of love.
For where we love there is great sorrow.
Where we are vulnerable there is pain.
Where we are broken there is redemption and recreation.
Here as we halt, as we stop, we see truth then – that in this brokenness there is also great love.
They are mixed together as wine and vinegar.
There is no redemption without the broken man and breaking cross.
There is no love without pain.
There is no Easter without the cross.
The deeper the pain and sorrow the greater the container is hollowed out so it may be filled again.
The empty vessel burrowed by this pain and this sorrow is such that it can contain all joy and all love.
So it is that we too are hollowed out, bored out, carved out on this day, in this hour. For here we are also made to hold a great love – a great joy.
Kahlil Gibran was that Lebanese artist, poet, and writer. A literary and political rebel in his home country , he became popular in the 1930s in the west and again in the 1960s counterculture. He is the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Lao Tzu. He wrote a poem entitled On Joy and Sorrow – and l leave a portion of it with you to close our Good Friday meditation.
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your table, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.