Every Lent, I look around for a Way of the Cross that will draw me into the mystery of redemption in a new way. So I was really intrigued by the introduction to the new Way of the Cross written by Father Marco Rupnik, SJ, a small book which also features his mosaics. The book is called Contemplating the Face of Christ.
These stations featured in Contemplating the Face of Christ were constructed by Father Rupnik and the artists from the Atelier of the Aletti Center. They stand outside the church of Santa Maria in Tolmin, Slovenia, on the crest of the Julian Aps close to the Italian border.
The original stations at Santa Maria had been constructed after the conflict of World War I. The town of Tolmin, at that time, was ruled by the Kingdom of Italy between 1918 and 1943. After the Italian capitulation it was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1943 and eventually liberated by Yugoslav partisans. It was officially passed from Italy to Yugoslavia in 1947 and the Treaty of Paris. Finally, Tomlin was passed to Slovenia after the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. During that era, the Way of the Cross that stood outside of Santa Maria was destroyed. The parish priest Father Milan Sirk commissioned a new Way of the Cross because he wanted this mountain, which had seen so much violence, to have this living reminder of the Lord’s passion once again. These are the images that are in Contemplating the Face of Christ.
As I flipped through the pages, I caught my breath. Father Rupnik created a Way of the Cross in which there is not even a hint of violence (for Jesus himself endured a violent death). Instead, in image after image we get glimpses of faces and flashes of eyes. There is a spiritual intensity that is concentrated in Jesus’ face and gaze. It so gripping, that I found it difficult to look away.
In our country which is currently struggling with its own violence, in a period of history that is unsettled and unsettling, those eyes of the Lord peered deep into my soul, to grasp with firmness my inner spirit, standing it up with a divine courage. The words of the Third Station say it so well:
With that same expression on His face, veiled by a touch of sadness, Christ “listens” to the cross. Placing His head against it, He hears its narrative, the story of the world’s evil. Only the Creator knows the endless abysses of sin that we, created in the image of God, are capable of entering with our free will….
Christ freely enters into the tragic course of human history and gathers up every individual’s “cross of sin.” The Lamb of God has piled the sins of the world upon Himself. But to gather every last one of them, He Himself descends, falling, to lay His ear on the remotest sufferings and on the worst sins carried out in the hidden abysses of darkness.
This is the reason why I am praying only two stations a week this Lent. It is those eyes. I need to know Christ hears the story unfolding before us. I need an answer to the question: “Can you do anything to help us.” In the gaze of Christ alone will I receive the answer. “His face remains the only space of life. In His countenance, all those overwhelmed by evil and sin are kneaded together so as to enter into Him” (Ninth Station).
In His Face, I need to rest awhile. In His Face is Resurrection.
by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP