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  • Added April 7th, 2017
  • Filed under 'All Sorts'
  • Viewed 125 times

The Lampedusa Cross.

By Ken Russell in All Sorts

What shall we make of this cross ?

THE LAMPEDUSA CROSS has established its presence among
us, all messy-coloured and unlovely and improvised and salvaged. Nothing shiny and brassy from Lampedusa;
only the impulse of a village carpenter to attach together
two unassorted beams from wreckage bestrewing his stony coastline,
telling evidence of human tragedy upon human tragedy. The
Lampedusa Cross tells its story to those who will listen - of broken
families caught in the crossfire of a civil war they do not comprehend,
their small chances of escape imperilled in the fragile craft offered by
unscrupulous entrepreneurs only too pleased to make their fortune
from their misery and vulnerability.
The Lampedusa Cross is ours for this Sunday as we prepare for Easter
next weekend. What shall we make of this cross ?
One option is to ignore it, pass by on the other side, so to speak.
Of that option I have nothing to say, except of muttered contempt.
How much does it take to move us, or not, as the case may be?
The second option is to fall back on the traditional salvation theology of
the cross, turn the cross on its side, as it were, and take comfort that at
the cross (the Golgotha one) an eternal transaction took place whereby
the wholly good man Jesus was sacrificed by his loving Father to earn
forgiveness of sin for those who repent and believe. The Lampedusa
could very possibly evince such a response among some of us, but is
there one good reason to bring an ugly wooden cross all the way from
Italy when the familiar shiny brassy one that sits so comfortably on our
communion table will do just as well? I mean no disrespect, but let's
be real here.
A third option for our very special cross is to make us weep. I like this
option, and I don't doubt you've shed tears, as have I - quietly and self-
consciously. The kind of conditions from which these Syrians are
fleeing defy imagination. The systematic destruction of their cities, the
failure of the heavily armed protagonists to distinguish civilian from
military targets and the utter intransigence of war criminal President
Assad to consider anything other then the preservation of his own
privileged house is at the heart of a war that has gone from one act of
callous inhumanity to another. Let's never forget that the crosses in
our churches are the ongoing reminders of the Roman practice of
crucifixion - the ultimate imposition of a heartless aggressive authority
which destroyed good human lives with absolute impunity. One of
them was Jesus from Nazareth. Little wonder that women, friends and
supporters gathered weeping at the foot of his cross. Such waste.
Such grief. And now. this week's gas attack. At very least we too
should be driven to tears. What has the human race come to? How can
this kind of tyranny be stopped in its tracks? Is there no better way
than armed reprisal?
Our Lent this year has been hugely leavened by the moving
performance by a Dunedin Choir of Karl Jenkins' 2000 masterpiece The
Armed Man , a mass for peace based on the Catholic Mass. Originally
dedicated to the victims of the Kosovo genocide, the work heroically
pits the powerful words of the mass against the hypnotic throb of
marching armies shown on screen, footage from the world wars
through which most of us have lived, where the awesome power of
war machines have imposed their seeming impregnable power on
innocent communities. And people wept helplessly, as well they might
as their children, homes and futures were swept aside by the tsunami
of the great war machine. If our audience needed reminder of the all-
encompassing power of armed aggression it certainly got one. But did
we depart the Town Hall resigned to the triumph of evil? Not at all!
The crosses carried in the processions of peace throughout Europe,
England and around the world, brought back into living memory by the
film clips, were not the crosses of crucifixion, sorrow and defeat, but
crosses which in all manner of deployment celebrated the outbreak of
peace. "Better is Peace" sang the great Choir, a contemporary
benedictus.
What the film clips could never do, of course, was to show the
innumerable acts of peace done in the face of an all-powerful enemy,
the sum total of which turned the tide of war. The simple cross,
symbol on many an award for bravery, was no longer a cause for
weeping but of pride, honour, thanksgiving and an overwhelming
desire to build a better world.
In next week's Connections I'll develop a fourth interpretation of the
Lampedusa Cross and suggest it as an Easter motivation.
Ken Russell