Wednesday Word: The Violence Within
Clare of Assisi (d. 1253) wrote about the cross as a mirror and the necessity of studying our face within it.
The cross was an instrument of violence. It was used by Romans as a means of torture and to advertise the power of Rome. It was a very visible and morbid way of saying, “If you cross Rome, Rome will cross you.” That pax romana, the famed peace of the Roman Empire, was partly established through this very violent means of torture.
We often think about violence as being done to us. Whether it be physical or mental abuse, a home invasion, a robbery, or some other crime, violence is something that happens outside ourselves or against ourselves. But when we gaze upon the cross as a mirror, we begin to see the violence of the cross within ourselves.
During the reading of the Passion, we all shout, “Crucify him! We want Barabbas. Crucify him!” And a Holy Week hymn points out, “Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee: I crucified thee.” We are the ones committing violence against Christ.
But as we gaze upon the cross as a mirror and consider our own complicity in the violence against Christ, we might also begin to recognize other acts of violence we have participated in and committed. How are we complicit in humanity's violence against nature? How are we complicit in violence against others based on their income level or skin color? How have we violated the dignity of other human beings? The list, unfortunately, is endless.
I don't write this in an attempt to make anyone feel guilty; but I do write this in an effort to say we could all do better. As we gaze on the mirror of the cross, Clare asks us to consider where we fail in love and where we find freedom in love.
And if we do this long enough, this gazing at the cross as a mirror, it just may be that we can move from seeing the cross as an instrument of violence and death to an instrument of life-giving love.