Stations of the CROSS

On entering Manchester’s St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, fondly known as the Hidden Gem, all our senses are immediately awoken by the sheer beauty and peacefulness of this sacred space. Tucked away in a back street at the heart of the city this little church is an oasis for prayer and reflection for many city workers. Believer’s cross their foreheads with holy water from the small wall font before bowing to the altar and taking their place in one of the rows of wooden pews to pray silently to their saviour. The whole chapel is an active art installation adorned with towering white marble columns and sculptures depicting biblical scenes and saints of long ago.

On either side of the white chapel, fourteen vividly colourful abstract paintings depict the agony of the Passion of Christ, frozen moments of Jesus’ final journey from the court room to his crucifixion at Golgotha. Stations of the Cross offer an ancient creative and contemplative ritual in many churches across the world where, during Holy Week, followers spend a few moments before each image and using their senses, imagination and prayers take time to reflect upon Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. The Passion story teaches us to see courage and power in surrender rather than confrontation and aggression.

What thoughts are evoked in you by the word surrender? What is the difference between forced surrender and the choice to succumb for a greater freedom? Do you always feel the need to defend yourself both in word and deed or are you comfortable with the invitation to let go?

In these Stations Adams invites us to consider the face of Christ as He silently surrenders himself as the sacrificial lamb in this Paschal mystery. The deep emotions of sorrow and grief, fear and helplessness are obvious in the features of the faces and yet the artist has beautifully depicted the paradox that it is through embracing pain and death that new life begins. The colourful depiction of flowers that form the eyes of Christ and those he meets on his journey reveal the hope within the Passion story, that life and love can never be completely destroyed but will live on through the resurrection in the life that is to come.

The beautiful flowers that form the eyes on the fourteen canvases represent the presence of God’s spirit within each of us. They culminate in the final image of a resurrection garden that is Heaven, Nirvana, Paradise; an eternal garden full of flowers from every nation as we each take our place in the promise of an eternity where there will be no more tears or sadness and where the lion will lay down with the lamb, where mutual surrender and everlasting love will reign. For the Easter story ends with hope, the hope of eternal life, that the suffering we are experiencing can be transformed into dancing, into growth and new life.