A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Focus – Cross and Crown

Fr Brian O'Connell

by Fr Brian O'Connell sm

I came across this notice on the gate beside the Chapel of Mt. St Bernard’s Cistercian monastery in the British Midlands. The notice struck me as odd, and my immediate thought was ‘Yes, Jesus found the Calvary walk very dangerous, in fact fatal.’ A visitor is not immediately aware of the small rocky hill next to the chapel where the monks have constructed a steep way of the Cross. I could believe that some visitors who were not sure-footed had come to grief. In Christian theology and in practice the Calvary Walk is life-giving, and in fact unavoidable for a disciple of the Lord.Calvary Walk Sign
In fact a week or two later I was part of a small pilgrimage group that attended the Passion play at Oberammergau in Germany. This 10-yearly drama has been the subject of an article in this magazine last year. I found it awe-inspiring, but lacking a small torch to follow the English script in the booklet I contented myself with watching the drama unfold, and drinking in the beautiful choral music which accompanied each act, and being amazed at the power of the stationary tableaux at the end of each act. The logistics of getting 2000 people to the venue, feeding them a substantial meal at a nearby restaurant at the intermission, and getting them back to accommodation was achieved with Germanic precision.
What impressed me was the reality that this drama was woven into the lives of the residents of this cluster of villages in the Bavarian mountains. For example a child could be part of a crowd scene at 5 years old, and then have a speaking part at 15 years old, and then a soloist in the chorus at 25. In this way all the local people would have this story as part of their growing up. It would be the same for all the hospitality staff, chefs, bus drivers and musicians. Christian Europe has other rituals to keep this story alive. J.S. Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion was always performed outdoors live on Palm Sunday. Secular Europe may drop some of these reminders.
However it was signs of the Resurrection I was alert to most of all on my journey. Some that spring to mind: a group of Christian bikies bowed in prayer in Colorado, new buildings going up at Ground Zero, peace breaking out in Belfast, Newman’s grave preserving absolutely nothing of his mortal remains. There were many other signs of the triumph or the Cross over death.

Road Riders Gang praying

Christian bikers praying at the Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

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