As we came up stairs from soup supper in the parish hall to assemble for Stations of the Cross, Jesson Mata, the Blessed Sacrament parish liturgist, was disbanding a rehearsal for a Saturday wedding. As we took our seats, in a typically teasing Jesson comment, our liturgist instructed us not to spill the wax from the little candles we would use to read the stations booklets onto the pews. I sought out Jesson to assure him that if I spilled any of the wax on the pews, I would let him know where so he could polish it off the next day. (Such a response is typical of this blogger.) And in typical Jesson fashion, he let me know whom he would be polishing it with.
Catholicism is full of bells and smells, shadows, lights, candles and all sorts of physical things. For us the world is divided between the idol and the icon - between the image that points away from God and the one that points towards him. Lent intensifies this. we are asked to turn away from what we have been turning towards --the allures of flesh, food and money and all else the world throws up to lead us away from God. Lenten liturgy is filled physical things been used to lead us away from the world. In the Stations, by flickering candle light, we join in prayer from our little booklets, following the walk of the priest from one station stop on Christs journey to the cross to the next.
As we gather we share the flames atop our little candles until the darkened church is filled with little lights. Some walk following the priest and his accolades. Others, wearier perhaps, stay in the pews and turn slowly to face each station. But for all of us the candles slowly melt onto the drip guards, or as we turn the candles to read by, elsewhere. Slowly the flame descended the core, wafting smoke into darkness. In such manner the Stations slowly burned through our hearts, wafting the smoke of our prayer upwards. As we prayed repeatedly "We adore Thee, o Christ, and we praise Thee, because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world." I felt us gradually melt. After Christ is roughly stripped of his garments we sang "Make me feel as thou has felt; make my soul to glow and melt with the love of Christ, my Lord." As Jesus is on the we pray "O my dying Jesus, I kiss devoutly the cross on which Thou didst die for love of me." So for us, he becomes greater and we must diminish, melted like a pool of wax by our love. We go to stations to burn ourselves down to the bottom, that we may become one in love with him.
Latter that evening I discovered that as I tiled the candle to read by, the wax had fallen not so much on the the pews as on my clothing. Perhaps I shall send Jesson the dry cleaning bill.