I can’t remember where I heard this but someone, sometime said s/he thought the reason churches had wooden pews was so that the pew-sitter didn’t get too comfortable. Christ isn’t a comfortable person.
This weekend we have had the ember days of the Triumph of the Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows. Both uncomfortable remembrances. The Triumph(or exultation) of the Cross came about like this:
St. Helena (mother of Constantine the Great) had found the true cross at Jerusalem and rescued it. She left part of it in Jerusalem at the Holy Sepulchre and took the rest back to Rome. Around 614 the Persians stole the portion of the cross from the Holy Sepulchre. Things went wrong for the Persians after that (an echo of what happened to the Philistines when the stole the Ark of the Covenant). In 629 the Emperor Heraclius took the cross back and carried it in fine procession back to Jerusalem and Calvary. However, upon reaching the city he found he couldn’t go on. Bishop Zacharias pointed out that Christ had not been so finely dressed when He carried the cross. The Emperor changed to a penitents robe and carried the cross the rest of the way.
We are proud to preach Christ crucified and know that He has commanded us to take up our cross each day to follow him. A hard bench in church is perhaps a very small reminder of that.
Our Lady of Sorrows with her seven swords of sorrow comes the following day. Despite the great suffering laid on her she continually said “yes” (Fiat) to God.
Yesterday I listened to the Catholic Answers programme with Steve Ray talking about the horrible persecution and mass martyrdom of Christians in the Middle East. He spoke of a nun whose entire family had been slaughtered and a Christian man whose heart was cut out and eaten raw by one of the the Muslim terrorists. We know what’s happening in Syria and some of us at least are horrified that our Governments want to aid the terrorists who are murdering as many Christians as they can get hold of.
Then after Mass yesterday a man spoke to us. He had come from Bethlehem with some of the beautiful olive wood carvings that he and his fellow Christians make. It’s all they can do to stay afloat there. The wall has done them much damage and they are trapped between Israel’s need for security on the one side and Islamic persecution on the other.
Olive wood, he told us, is the second hardest wood in the world. Some of the carvings, which must be done by hand, take 8 months of work.
There’s nothing comfortable about that.