This post is part of our Lenten series, journeying the Stations of the Cross. It can be hard to face ourselves, to examine our brokenness, but in this reflection on the Eleventh Station of the Cross, Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross, Caitlyn takes us deeper into what it means to lay down our lives on the cross.
Every time I look at a crucifix, I’m reminded of a comment a consecrated virgin once made regarding Good Friday, something along the lines of, “Let us join our Beloved upon the marriage bed of the Cross.”
It’s the one day of the year when all consecrated women, Brides of Christ, find themselves in the desolation of widowhood but with the knowledge of what will come. This darkness does not end here. We, as Christians, look forward with joy to Easter. But that doesn’t mean we reject the profound sorrow, the intense grief that comes before that day of unspeakable joy.
Each year, on Good Friday, we gaze in sorrow and horror as our Beloved Lord is scourged, mocked, beaten, and crucified. And all the while, He looks upon us with heart-shattering love. “Father, forgive them.”
When I was little, I didn’t “get” the Stations of the Cross. I didn’t understand why we had to turn at awkward angles in our pews as each station was announced, or why we had to kneel and stand and kneel just to stand again. Why did I have to suffer to endure tedious repetition that I didn’t understand, especially if Jesus had already suffered for me?
Painting Stations of the Cross, entering into the Stations more deeply, as prayerful reflection, changed my heart. It wasn’t just repetition. The stations weren’t just names. They were moments, the final moments of the journey of a man—God—whom I love more than life itself. It was agony to watch Him suffer, to know the cruelty of the crowd and see it reflected in my own sins. Agony to stand beneath the foot of the Cross when I wanted to be closer.
I wanted to be with Him on the Cross. Not just standing beside Him. I wanted my heart to be so closely, totally, perfectly united with His that there was no separation between us. I wanted to experience every wound, every sorrow of His Heart—and every joy—with Jesus. To run to Him when He fell, to wipe the muddied blood off His face, to be nailed with Him to the wood of the Cross, and there learn from Him how to forgive those standing below. Those who were not yet sorry for the evil they inflicted upon my innocent Lord.
So many times, I’ve been part of that crowd. Part of the lesson is learning to forgive myself.
I often use 1 Corinthians 13:4‐7 for my examination of conscience before Confession. Have I been impatient? Have I been unkind? Have I been envious, boastful, or proud? Have I failed to uphold the dignity of others? Have I sought my own gain? Was I quick to anger? Resentful?
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”1 Corinthians 13:6‐7
I fail. I fall. And with every fall, mine is the hand that drives the nails into His Sacred Hands. Mine is the tongue that lashes His Holy Face or mocks Him from the foot of the cross. Mine are the uncharitable thoughts that sink the nails ever deeper into His Sacred Head. And every single time, at every single moment, He is with me, gazing upon me with utmost calm, with the tenderest love.
“Just come back,” His gaze says. “Just come home. Whatever you’ve done, surrender that to My Heart and just be with Me now.”
There’s a beauty in recognizing our own sins—that recognition allows us to apologize for the specific wrongs committed. Not to ignore the wounds, but to examine their roots, to begin to heal. While gazing at the crucifix recently, I realized that, after the Resurrection, Jesus still bore His own wounds. And yet He healed—He heals—mine. He is still pierced open, pouring out His love upon fallen humanity. And His wounds are precisely what heal our deepest wound, the source of every wound—sin. He bears our brokenness, still, in His Precious Body, to show us that He still heals. He still loves.
We still sin against Him, and He still calls us back to Him. No matter how many times I pound the nails into His Sacred Feet, He draws me up again and again, into His Heart. The more I recognize my own brokenness, the more I understand my need for Him. In those moments, there’s nowhere I’d rather be but nailed to the cross and enduring every pain in union with Him.
I’ve experienced this desire to share the cross in the love of my grandparents as they share in each other’s sufferings. When my grandpa falls or is visibly in pain, my grandma weeps. When my grandma has been in the hospital, my grandpa has remained with her. Despite and perhaps because of the pain of the experience, I see that love increased and overflowing so that the flood of it soothes and strengthens the rest of the family.
But in that way, I’ve learned that being with Jesus on the Cross isn’t just about me running to Him. He runs to me in my suffering. Even on those days when it feels like my burdens are extra heavy, like He’s withdrawn His love, His strength from my heart—He is still teaching me love. He is still drawing me closer to Him.
He is with me, fortifying my heart, encouraging me to persevere, teaching me to love. To love when it’s hard. To love even when I feel I’ve poured out my heart so fully that I just have nothing left to give.
There are days when I find myself praying with Psalm 88 over and over again, “I have reached the end of my strength.” It’s a psalm I pray every Friday during Night Prayer from Liturgy of the Hours, and it’s the only one of the 150 psalms that ends without hope, with the words, “My one companion is darkness.”
I’ve learned not to be afraid of acknowledging darkness, of acknowledging suffering. Jesus didn’t ignore darkness or sorrow or pain. He entered fully into it. He shattered darkness, death, and sin by His Resurrection. And so, I trust, He is with me in my own pain, my grief, in whatever sorrows pierce my heart.
There are days when I just don’t have the strength to lift the cross. Days when I feel like glass in a broken window, shattered but not yet fallen out of place. Days when I wonder why I told Jesus I wanted to join Him in the winepress, to be crushed with Him, to be buried with Him. If I can’t manage to lift this heavy burden, how am I expected to carry it downhill and back uphill, dizzy with exhaustion, my hands aching from service?
These are days I argue with God—Lord, I thought You gave me this work to do. So why aren’t you making it easier? Why aren’t you lightening the load? Why does this task seem impossibly heavy?
But I only have so much energy for fighting back, especially in a battle I know I can’t win (He’s God, after all; He knows my heart). And so, after I’ve wrestled with trying to understand the why, I lay down all the strength of my fight. And then I lay down on that cross too heavy for me to carry.
He’s always there, waiting on the Cross for me. Waiting for me to set aside my worries, fears, doubts, anger, and feelings of inadequacy—to return to Him. He has been here with me before, long before I was born. He longed to hold me in this moment of crushing overwhelm before He’d even created the heavens and the earth.
He loves me with a love beyond human comprehension. And with my arms outstretched with His, with my feet nailed like His, with my tired heart pouring out every drop with His, I am united with this love. I am strengthened, renewed, and refreshed by this love.