From A Distance

28 August 2015 | Melting Moment

Calvary From A Distance

Evening shadows had fallen as I dipped my hand into the holy water font blessed myself and stepped into the cloister, glancing out the window as I did so and catching my breath as I saw “our” Calvary in the distance. The crucifix, as well as the statues of Our Lady and St John had, until now, resided in the garden onto which the formation room looks but were not easily visible as we went about our daily horarium. Today however, they have been relocated to the lawn outside the community room where we can now see them from the refectory, the community room and from the cloister as we walk to and from the Church for the Eucharist and Divine Office.
This moment, as I saw them in their new position for the first time, had a profound effect on me. Calvary has belonged to our community since 1915 when it was shipped from France where it had been carved whilst the craftsmen listened to the sounds of gunfire in the distance.

‘From a distance’. These words from an old Bette Midler song sprang up from my heart as I gazed on the statues now, eliciting some gentle musings. Does God watch me from a distance as the song suggests? Do I look at God from a distance as I was now looking at our Calvary from a distance? Is distance a helpful thing sometimes? All the time? None of the time? Is it sometimes better to stand by and at other times to step back a little?

In St. Luke we have the following account of who stood watching Jesus on the cross from a distance.

“All his acquaintances, with the women who had followed him from Galilee, watched while this happened, standing at a distance.” 

LK. 23:49 Trans. Ronald Knox


And St. John has: “Meanwhile his mother and his mother’s sister Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalen, had taken their stand beside the cross of Jesus.”

Jesus’ mother took her stand beside the cross. His acquaintances stood at a distance. No matter how horrific the spectacle, Our Lady, unlike the acquaintances, did not choose to leave or to stand at a distance, but stood close by the cross of Jesus.

When things become hard to the point of being almost unbearable am I more likely to take my stand with the acquaintances at a distance and identify with them or, with his mother, do I stand by the cross “without weakening or seeking escape”? (Rule of St. Benedict CH. 4: 36)

I continue to think about all of this, wondering about the times I choose stand by only that which matters. And I think of those other times when I stand at a distance. And I know in my heart that being close to the Cross of Christ definitely means being close to the cross of every other single person. The two are inseparable. Exquisite sensitivity is required of me in this, a profound listening to the pain in each situation and person; a capacity to see beyond the surface with the pure and simple look of compassion, gentleness and reverence.

Our Calvary is the most wonderful inspiration for me and I am so grateful for its presence. I/we have so much, are given so much, to enrich and lead us to the one thing necessary. Gratitude wells up in my heart when I remember this truth.

Kookaburra on Calvary

Truly a melting moment for me.

~  Everything that lives and that breathes gives praise to the Lord  ~

Jamberoo Abbey

Jamberoo Abbey, Benedictine Nuns
695 Jamberoo Mountain Road,
Jamberoo NSW 2533 Australia

Phone/Fax: 02 42360628