Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

This morning, for my personal Good Friday activity, I spent a little quiet time with the Stations of the Cross that Larry had posted on his Emmanuel Cyber Chapel blog:

Larry put up the limestone relief carvings from the Ludwigskirche in Darmstadt, Germany along with some reflections on each station written by Harry Langdon in 2001. I was thinking about a lot of things as I sat a little bit with each station. I got up a half hour early to do the stations. I particularly thought about Simon of Cyrene and Veronica. Then when I went back to the first half of the first chapter of John this morning, and reflected how the Word is manifest in people.

I thought about how these humble people--Simon and Veronica--were able to provide moments of grace for Jesus in his darkest hours—Simon of Cyrene by just carrying the cross, and Veronica by wiping Jesus’ face. Both of them were pious Jews, and you know they were probably “just hangin’ out” like everyone else, watching the hubbub in the streets. But something moved them to reach out to comfort the condemned Jesus in some way.

It’s an interesting story of how Veronica makes the renditions of the Stations, I think, and the story itself is a story of grace. She’s not mentioned in the Bible but what is interesting is the story springs from a relic. The legend comes from a relic, the “vera icon”--an ancient cloth that sort of had the image of Jesus’ face on it, and the name Veronica came from “vera icon” and the story arose that a woman wiped Jesus’ bloody, sweaty, messed up face, and his image appeared on it. Although there is a saint attributed to her, she's kind of like a lot of the earlier saints, with blurred boundaries between "real person" and "legendary figure." One has to remember that in the Hebrew and Aramaic traditions, "history" was more conceptual than factual, and a lot of little funny details get mixed together.

In that sense, Veronica intrigues me as an iconic figure, and it doesn’t really matter if she is real or not, because she represents, in a sense, all of us in those moments when moments of grace flow through us unwittingly or unawares. By making Veronica a “real person” in the Stations, she represents ALL the unnamed people who provided small acts of kindness and grace as Jesus made his way to Golgotha. It doesn’t matter if the relic is real or not; it doesn’t matter if Veronica is a “real person” or not; what matters is through her image in the rendition of the stations, she represents all the acts of grace that are unseen and unnoticed.

Likewise, Simon of Cyrene’s story is a representation of a moment of conversion in our own hearts. I like to imagine Simon was just one of the many who had come to Jerusalem for Passover all the way from Cyrene of North Africa, and he was out in the street b/c everyone else was in the street--”Hey, did you hear? They’re crucifying a dude today, they said he thinks he’s King of the Jews!” I like to imagine that Simon was no different that anyone at a public hanging in the Old West. Simon got yanked out of the crowd by a Roman soldier when Jesus fell in front of him and was forced to carry Jesus’ cross.

I think about how those Roman soldiers were scanning the crowd. I can imagine all their eyes down, looking at the ground, like little children hoping the teacher won’t call on them. I can fast forward to imagining the concentration camp occupants of Buchenwald, their eyes down, hoping they are passed by when the guards are sending people to be “deloused.” It is a universal feeling, “Oh, please, DON’T pick me.” But something made a soldier pick Simon. Was it his brightly colored yarmulke? Was it the brief moment when his eyes looked up? Who knows. I think how Simon must have been thinking, “I’m tired. I came all this way. PLEASE, not me. That guy’s all bloody and dirty and covered with spit.”

But he gets picked. He had to be incredibly pissed and afraid of this. Maybe if he didn’t do a good job, someone would kill him too. But something happened to him during this unwilling moment. Simon must have somehow felt the weight of what this man Jesus was carrying...and in that moment, he developed true compassion. Jesus’ crucifixion was no longer free entertainment for the crowds. It was much more real and personal for Simon.

So, for me, Simon of Cyrene represents all those times I did not want to do something, maybe even did it with a cold, dark heart, but at the end of it, I sensed my heart had changed. In retrospect, I had compassion for those I had helped. I had a sense of “I did the right thing.” He represents the moments of conversion in my own heart, when it opens up and breaks open in a way I did not expect.

These are both important renditions of how grace does what it does, whether we want it to or not, or whether we knew what we were doing at the time we did it. How many times when we are the recipients of grace, did it involve someone who was either UNWILLING or UNWITTING? In that sense, grace is not just about “us” even when we are the recipient. Grace is a multi-tasking thing. It works God’s will both through its agents AND its recipients. We do not know on any given day if we will be chosen as an agent OR a recipient. Wow. That is an incredibly holy mystery, isn’t it?


You bet. Grace certainly is not about us, although we sure benefit. Thanks for this.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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