Easter, my yearly surprise
Easter has always been a holiday that comes and goes too quickly, in my experience. I am consistently surprised when Easter comes up, and it often rushes by without impacting my heart. I think part of the reason for this is that the evangelical tradition doesn’t have well-established forms or practices in place to prepare a person’s heart to contemplate Jesus’s Sacrifice. We go about our business as usual; it is suddenly Easter, and it is suddenly over.
Catholics seem to have a stronger emphasis on form and practice. Lent, for example, is a very good way to prepare one's heart for the celebration of Easter. I have practised Lent a couple of times and have found it to be very challenging and beneficial to my private spiritual life, but I find myself wanting something that must be done with my community, something beyond what I can do alone.
My longing for communal preparation
I have often craved an equivalent preparatory season for Easter to our preparatory season for Christmas. Namely, Advent. In the past, I have mulled over ways a community could do an Easter Advent, though I found it difficult to come up with a communal activity that would evoke the right mood. For Christmas, my family and I celebrate Advent by lighting the Advent candles, exchanging small stocking gifts, and listening to the 12 Voices of Christmas. The themes are joy, generosity, and celebration of new life. But the themes of Lent are solemnity, abstinence, and sorrow over death. These aren't feelings we want to feel, but the death and resurrection of Christ is the peak of all history! Shouldn't the Easter season get a bit more of our attention?
So, as I contemplated different activities I could maybe share with my family or community, eventually I started mulling over another great Catholic thing: the stations of the cross.
The stations from my perspective
I am intrigued by the Catholic stations of the cross as it is a creative way to guide people through the experience of Jesus in his last moments on earth, drawing the person through the stations and inviting them to consider the impact of Christ’s sacrifice and crucifixion on their own lives. I would like to contextualize the stations of the cross to my evangelical understanding, using these stations - these touch-points of Christ’s life on earth - to teach some devotional art sessions. My heart for this would be that the participants would:
Benefit from the private practice of active meditation on Christ (active in that they would meditate by creating a piece of art, a poem, a melody, a short story, an illustration, etc.)
Witness to Christ’s character and sacrifice by sharing their final artworks publicly with the rest of the church - a form of evangelism and testimony. (optional, and subject to review by me.)
Each session will begin with a time to prepare our hearts: reading scriptures about the relevant station, meditating on an artwork based on the station, and prayer. Then the participants will break off privately to plan out and begin creating their artwork. This will be repeated twice each session, as there are two stations per session.
Station 1: Jesus is Condemned, Station 2: Jesus Takes Up His Cross
7PM - Welcome and introduction to the stations.
7:15 - Station 1: Jesus is Condemned
- Scripture reading: (eg. Matthew 26:57–27:31, Mark 14:53–15:20, Luke 22:54–23:26, or John 18:13–19:16)
7:25 - Art meditation
- I will present a piece of art that evokes Station 1, allow time for participants to consider the artwork deeply, and provide questions to help formulate thoughts about the piece and what it says.
7:35 - Small group prayer and preparation
- Groups of 3 or 4 will meet together to brainstorm ideas that have sprung from the scripture reading and art meditation and pray together to prepare their hearts for studio time.
7:45 - "Studio" time.
- Participants are encouraged to journal, ask questions, collaborate, and keep it simple! I will be available to whoever needs a bit of a boost to come and brainstorm. At the end of studio time, each participant could have a plan OR a finished product. If they planned an art piece out, they are encouraged to work on it in their own time and bring it next session to share with the group.
8:05 - Station 2: Jesus Takes Up his Cross
- Scripture reading: (eg. Matthew 27:31–33, Mark 15:20–22, Luke 23:26–32 or John 19:16–18)
8:15 - Art meditation
8:25 - Small group prayer and preparation
8:35 - Studio time.
9:00 - End with a benediction and encouragement to finish their work during the week.
This structure will be repeated for each subsequent session, with the only difference being a show-and-tell of the previous week's work added at the beginning of the session. The following sessions would cover:
Station 3: Jesus Falls for the First Time, Station 4: Jesus Meets His Mother, Mary
Station 5: Simon of Cyrene Carries Jesus’s Cross, Station 6: "Veronica" Wipes Jesus’s Face
(Note: There is no reference to the story of Veronica in the canonical gospels. The closest is the miracle of the unnamed woman who was healed by touching the hem of Jesus’s garment. So… I will feel free to use "Veronica" as a time to remember one of the women that Jesus encountered in his ministry.
(eg. the bleeding woman: Matt 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34. the woman who wiped Jesus’s feet with her tears: Luke 7:36-50. The adulterous, forgiven woman: John 8:3-11)
Station 7: Jesus Falls a Second Time, Station 8: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
Station 9: Jesus Falls a Third Time, Station 10: Jesus is Stripped
Station 11: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross, Station 12: Jesus Dies on the Cross
Station 13: Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross, Station 14: Jesus is Buried
On Good Friday we'll conclude the sessions with a public presentation of some of the participants' artworks, perhaps a small concert, or a gallery of paintings… depending of course on what people create and if they’re willing to share it.
This would be an opportunity for the participants to practice sharing their faith using the art they created during the previous weeks. Art is, of course, a mode of communication. And communication must have a communicator and a communicatee. I hope that by putting this creative event together, Jesus will be praised, our community will be blessed, and the participants will have stretched and strengthened their artistic skills along the way!
Please join us!
If you are someone who fits into either of these categories:
Someone who would like to practice using their creativity to worship God
Someone who wants to experience Easter more deeply
you will very likely get a lot out of the Stations of the Cross Art Experience. Please share this with any of your creative friends - writers, musicians, artists, etc. If you are not creatively inclined, please consider supporting your creative friends by attending the Good Friday Stations of the Cross event, and invite your friends!
Let's join together to witness Jesus's love for us and express our gratitude and love back to him, using the gifts that he gave us!
I have gleaned some inspiration for these sessions from:
Scott Erickson's "Why the Church Needs Art Series: Pt. 2"
Please check them out, too!