Lent is a good time to step outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself. I've never been much drawn towards the challenge of giving up chocolate, alcohol or puddings. I see the point, but it doesn't grab me. I'm more motivated by "time and effort" rather than "stuff", so I tend to have a similar approach to Lenten fasting. This year, I have given up some of the more fun things I generally get up to online - photo challenges over at b3ta, for instance, or gaming at Newgrounds, and instead using the time to put together an online meditation on one of the Stations of the Cross for the BigBible.org.uk's "Easter Journeys" project.
A group of people involved in BigBible put together an online service of 9 Lessons and Carols over Christmas and suggested an Easter project based around the Stations of the Cross and the Stations of the Resurrection. Now my church background does not include either of these sets of Stations as part of its tradition, and that is why this project appealed to me. I was drawn towards the station of the cross which depicts Veronica wiping Jesus' face, as this is a scene not preserved in the Gospel accounts but existed in early apocryphal texts and is preserved through Christian tradition - again, going against my evangelical upbringing of focussing solely on Biblical texts. I decided to limit my research to simply finding out the facts of what was being depicted, pray and meditate upon it for a while, then see what emerged. The end result is based around a theme common to many commentaries on this station of the Cross: responding to suffering in love, and in doing so, revealing the face of Christ.
Tradition has it that the image of Jesus' face miraculously appeared on the cloth which Veronica used to wipe the blood, sweat and tears from his face. I have taken a deeper meaning from this scene: in responding with mother-love to Christ's suffering in such a practical way, the true image of Christ is revealed in Veronica's act of loving-kindness.
I wrote the music for this presentation first. I need something slow and plodding, reflecting Jesus struggling to lug the Cross and the relentless progress to crucifixion. The structure of the story I was going to tell wasn't clear, but somehow the music wrote itself. Music comes easily to me, but the structure of the imagery was less clear at first.
Two images stood out to me: Veronica seeing Jesus in need. Veronica reaching out to him with a towel, or veil or whatever was to hand to meet his need. I decided I needed eyes and hands as the basis of the visual narrative, and it seemed to me that using the eyes and hands of women would reflect the practical mother's love aspect of Veronica's encounter with Jesus. So I put out a call via Facebook and Twitter for photographs. This request was met with quite a few questions from female friends on Facebook who wondered what lay behind it. Not everyone who offered to let me use their images is a Christian by any means, and that was important to me too: we can see the image of Jesus reflected in all acts of love because God, in creating humans in His own image, is the source of love itself. We don't have to label love "Christian love" - love is love: Christians merely know the source, we do not own the rights to all that springs from it.
Putting it together
There were times when I seriously doubted this would work. I used freeware for all the visuals on this, and part of the music track. For those who like to know, photographs were treated using Gimp, the video material was composed in Microsoft Movie Maker, the music was written using Sibelius and mastered (and had reverb and other effects added) in Audacity. In the meantime, the co-ordinator of the project requested volunteers to make other design elements, so I put together the avatar which you see towards the top of this blog entry.
So what do we learn from Veronica?
Well, tradition has it that she was the women whom Jesus had, earlier, healed of a haemorrhage. In that account, we see someone who acted in faith and was healed. She touched Jesus's cloak , hoping to go unnoticed, remain anonymous in the crowd, though things turned out rather differently with Jesus seeking her out and praising her faith. Yet here, amid the very public humiliation of the crucifixion, Veronica steps out of the crowd and offers Jesus a little comfort. In touching his cloak, she was healed: her image was restored. In wiping his face with her cloth, Veronica reveals the true image of Jesus: his image will not die with his crucifixion, nor be merely preserved on her cloth. The image of Jesus will continue to be made known through acts of loving kindness, a reflection of the image of God within all of us.
My online meditation upon Veronica Wipes Jesus' Face will be posted here and on BigBible from Good Friday.