23 Mar THE CARPENTER ON THE CROSS (Part 2)
Remember that we had said earlier that carpenters used their hands to construct and carve furniture. What else could be more dramatic and explanatory that this carpenter carried the cross to the point that his hands were fastened tightly to the cross by the 7-9 inches long iron material nails, symbolic of the relationship and interaction between himself [as a carpenter], his primary tools [his hands] fastened lovingly to his most primary material [the wood of the cross]? An extra step is taken to drive nails through his legs onto the cross. Oh yes! This gruesome action translates to an even more gracious effect; not only are his hands outstretched on the cross but his legs also are fixed firmly to it, thereby making his whole body, his very presence, press against the cross to endorse the cross as the one true glorification of God, the utter fullness of love.
Evidently, the cross handed over to Jesus by the Roman soldiers is not the same cross which he was taken down from. The carpenter had worked assiduously on that cross to transform it and to make all things new. Having exhausted his strength in this glorious task, he says “it is finished”; only after these words does the world come to see that this is the wood on which hung the prince of glory. In humble and prostrate disposition we venerate this most Holy Cross when we kneel as an act of worship and reverence [as we all do at the veneration of the cross]. Not until he took the cross and fashioned it anew, we cannot and do not kneel to the cross handed over to him by the soldiers.
This carpenter’s work is indeed redemptive. To show forth the effect of all things being made new, blood and water gushed forth from his pierced side; the signs of the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Eucharist, the two sacraments which are life giving.
Jesus is the “Carpenter on the Cross”, the Lamb chosen by God himself to take away the sins of the world and wipe them away. The Lord, the just man, the carpenter has suffered much, he has suffered everything as we read in the fourth song of the suffering servant of Yahweh [Is 52:13-53:12], yet God has kept guard over him that not one of his bones should be broken [Cf. Ps 34:19-20]. The mystery of the cross is always before us, not reminding us to mourn the death of a just and humble man, but to bask in the glory and grace that flourishes from the cross. “Christ became sin for us, took the blame, bore the wrath, we stand forgiven at the cross” this indeed is the Power of the Cross. Good Friday was the fulfilment of the Isaiah prophecy that this carpenter had read in the synagogue; a liberation from sin and death which is brought about by his deep sleep in the earth. Great Silence is heard over the land and we remain in a calm and contemplative mood because the Lord sleeps.
In the embrace of that silence, the carpenter’s cross speaks a message to us all; a message of selfless sacrifice for the good of another, especially through the work of our hands and acquired skills. Jesus was a carpenter by Tradition and through this, fashioned the Cross into the sacramental for the world’s redemption. Our work and striving too can become works of Grace. We are invited to enliven this message daily but this cannot be done by a stern distance from the cross of the Lord. Most definitely, like Simon of Cyrene we have to draw close to Jesus in carrying with him, the weight of the cross as we hear him say to us: “lift the burden from another back and each time you do that, you lift the cross’ awful weight that crushes me” the weight that presses heavily on him in the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the sick, the ignorant, the defenceless, and the dejected.
Although, like Simon, we do not always intentionally go seeking the needy, but we may be curious, we may be drawn and due to forces beyond ourselves, we may be “compelled” to help carry a cross. The example of Simon is set before us to follow and when we pick up that cross, we must always remember that it is an encounter with Christ, an act of collaboration with no one less than God. As St. Paul tells us in Gal 6:2 “Bear one another’s burden and so fulfil the Law of Christ” this is the charge before us today, do not hesitate to take up that cross.