The shadow of the cross

The shadow of the cross
13th March 2016 Anne Richards


The minutes became hours, and the hours seemed to go on for ever as I tried to get some sleep. Sleep is not normally a problem for me – within 2 minutes of my head hitting the pillow I am usually out like a light – the book I have attempted to read having fallen onto my face!

However, on this occasion I was staying at the home of a lovely couple who I’d met for the first time that afternoon. I was in a small bungalow, in the middle of a housing estate, in Cape Town, South Africa.  With a team of youth workers, we’d spent the day seeing the ongoing impact of apartheid. We’d met orphans at children’s homes, and we’d seen life in a township. And it disturbed me deeply.

It was a noisy neighbourhood, cars passing loudly at regular intervals, voices of party goers returning home, and dogs barking incessantly. Midnight, 1 am, 2 am. 2.30am. It was going to be a long night. I just couldn’t understand the level of hatred that I’d heard about, and the consequences of it – and I found myself asking the questions that as a priest I get asked most often, ‘Why God?Why so much suffering? Surely you must be able to do something about it? ‘How can there be this much hatred in the world?’

At 2.47am I opened my eyes,to see how much time had passed. On the wall next to my bed, as if projected, there was an enormous cross. It was of course the streetlight, shining in, projecting the shape of the window frame onto the wall. It was a huge cross and it filled the wall. It was one of those moments where the ordinary became extraordinary.

In that moment, I was reminded that somehow, God was right there in the middle of the mess – simply because his own son had suffered on the cross. The journey of the cross is for the christian, an essential part of Lent and especially Holy Week. We cannot celebrate the joy of Easter and the resurrection, unless we are prepared to first walk the way of the cross.

The chapel is currently set up with ‘Stations of the Cross’ – everyone is welcome to come and enter into a journey which will allow us to deepen our faith and draw near to God.