Behold the Wood

Have you ever thought about the wood of the cross?

As we begin Lent, it might be good to look at the end, to get a sense of where we’re going. That may be why the Way of the Cross is such a popular Lenten devotion.

The heart of the Liturgy of Good Friday is the cross – not the crucifix, but the empty cross, the wood of the cross.

The barren cross is brought in solemn procession or solemnly unveiled following the Passion and the Universal Prayer, accompanied by the chant, “Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the salvation of the world. Come let us adore.”

Then everyone is invited to give a sign of reverence to the wood.

The wood itself – the empty cross – is the important symbol in our celebration of Good Friday.

What would the Way of the Cross feel like from the perspective of the wood?

Some years ago I had occasion to compose a Way of the Cross based on how the wood of the cross itself might experience it.  Here’s the result:

Hmmm. I had not thought of it before, but emptiness plays a big symbolic role in our faith. The empty cross and the empty tomb speak more eloquently of the death and resurrection of Jesus than all of our cherished artistic representations. During Lent we cultivate emptiness in fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Of ourselves we cannot fill our emptiness.  Emptiness readies us for the work of God to fill us.

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Author: tomwelbers

I have been a Catholic priest for nearly fifty years, most of that time serving in parish and college campus ministry. I also have professional degrees in theology and liturgy, as well as institutional management, and continue avidly to explore pastoral theology, Scripture, liturgy, ecumenical and interfaith relations, and spiritual direction. I have a passion for sharing insight into our Christian heritage through teaching, writing, and leading pilgrimages, especially to Early Christian World sites in Turkey. Now actively retired from parish ministry, I live at Nazareth House in Los Angeles.

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