Neither would the picture on the wall help [an onlooker at the Stations of the Cross] to understand what it is that brings such incongruous, oddly assorted people together in this seemingly formal and curious devotion. As likely as not, the picture would be uninspiring, crude, and without any aesthetic value.
If this onlooker asked one of the people there to enlighten him, she would probably be surprised that he should expect the picture to attempt either aesthetic beauty or to represent the physical aspects of the Passion of the Christ realistically. She might explain that the church does not ask for pictures at all, but simply for fourteen numbered crosses marking fourteen incidents on the way to Calvary, showing not so much the exterior incidents of the Passion as their inward meaning. She might add, with a shrug of the shoulders, that the Church tolerates the pictures that we use just as a mother tolerates the crude and almost symbolic pictures that the older members of the family draw for the younger, knowing that the little children will read into them just those things which are already in their own hearts.
Caryll Houselander, The Way of the Cross
The stations in our parish are not lovely. “Uninspiring, crude, and without any aesthetic value,” pretty much describes them. And so, when I read this passage, it was as if a nagging headache had suddenly disappeared. For the past ten years--we moved here ten years ago--I have been grumbling to my husband about the ugly stations in our parish. After reading this, I was able to just let it go.
Of course, the grumbling always came before we got to church, and never after we had finished praying the stations. Even when the logistics turn into a kind of comedy of errors, even though the prayers that we use are not the best and sometimes don’t even make sense, even when the Stabat Mater between the stations is particularly cacophonous, the result is that we walk the way of the Cross. A stillness fills the church, a church in which there is never silence otherwise, and the gravity of what we are doing weighs on us all, even the children who seldom if ever misbehave. When we finish, it takes us moment to come back from the journey before everyone goes to the cafeteria for a light dinner.
Everyone, that is, but I. I like to stay for a few minutes and rest in the silence. And I like to sing the Adoramus Te Christe just for Him. And when I leave, I’m never tempted to grumble.
Caryll Houselander’s book, The Way of the Cross has a meditation for each of the stations ending in a prayer which is in the form of a poem, or a rhythm, as she called them. Starting Monday I plan to read one of them everyday, and I think that I will probably write something about them, although I’m not sure that I’ll be able.