Friday, April 6, 2012

The crucifixion, "INRI", being alone, and reaching out

The just will be whipped, stripped of their skin, tied and blinded with fire. When they have suffered all these pains, they will be nailed to a cross.
(from The Republic by Plato, 2-5-361-E)

Hello my dear reader.

Today I have been meditating and reflecting on the Latin INRI or IESUS NAZARENUS REX IUDAEORUM. In my mental hard drive I recall images of my childhood back in Catholic school where it was not hard to find a crucifix with the INRI at the top of the cross. What is INRI, and where does it come from?

INRI is usually translated to: "Jesus the Nazarene, (the) King of the Jews" or "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews". In the Gospel according to St. John, after Jesus had been nailed to the cross, we find the following verses:
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” John 19:19-22 (NRSV)

I cannot imagine the physical and emotional pain of a crucifixion. It was usually done to slaves and rebels, and considering who Jesus was and what he did... Cicero called this "a most barbarous and terrible punishment." First, the person was whipped and flogged without mercy. Then the person would be forced to carry the crossbar (of the cross) on his shoulders all the way to the place of the crucifixion. The torture continued with the person being stripped; try to imagine that additional element of humiliation and of course the fear based on the knowledge of what was coming next: to be nailed to a crosspiece and raised up as you were. Unfortunately, the nightmare would not end here. The person would remain there, nailed to this thing 6 to 9 feet above the ground....for hours or days until the moment of death. The end would come via exhaustion, hemorrhage, asphyxiation, etc.

As I was thinking and meditating about this horror (it is quite disturbing that human beings have an amazing talent to find ways to inflict pain and suffering in such elaborate ways) I thought of the complete loss of hope...once you got to this point you knew you were done. There would be no last minute phone call from the governor that could save was the end.

The Gospels have different ways of how this horror ended for Jesus. In the Gospel according to St. John it states that Jesus said: ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. But the Gospel according to St. Matthew says that after Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ he later cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. To this day those verses and that version of his last words still disturbs my soul. Then I started to think about this: if it was me on the cross, after all the torture, the suffering, and the pain...what would my last words be? I simply cannot imagine. I also cannot imagine the terrible combination of despair, of loss of all hope, and of being alone.

Then I thought about that last world: alone.
To feel alone
To be alone.

Have you my dear reader ever felt alone? Have you ever felt the terrible despair that comes with extreme loneliness? I have. And yet as of right now, I know that I am not alone.

This is not only a matter of my state of being and my existence in the love of the Son of Man that walks with me. This is also a matter of knowing that I know that I have people that love me, that I have people that care for me, and that I have people that would miss me if I was gone. And as I thought about this, I remembered that right now there are people who are alone.

Who have no one to call on the phone.
Who have no one to help them if they end up in the hospital.
Who have no one to bail them out of jail.
Who have no one they can talk to about what happened to them at work.
Who have no one that would listen to them about their broken hearts.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Ask yourself my dear reader, is there someone you have not spoken to in a long time? Is he/she doing alright? Maybe you could call him tonight. Maybe you could write her a letter.
Maybe you on your way to class, or to work, while you take out the trash, or while you are at the store you see someone you have not seen in a long time...maybe you both say hello to each other and something tells you "I wonder if she is okay". If you get that feeling my dear reader, reach out! That person may be just fine.

But maybe, he is not...

If you are religious and/or spiritual say a prayer for those who are alone tonight. Take a moment of solitude and center both your mind and your heart and think about those who are alone. Those who tonight feel like they are either carrying a cross of pain, or are have already being nailed to a cross of suffering. And after you pray, reach out!

If you are not religious, then most of this advice can also apply to you my dear reader. You may not see a point to saying a prayer, but you can still take a moment of solitude and center both your mind and your heart and think about those who are alone. And then you can do something as simple as sending a text message to someone with a "hello! how are you?" For all you know you may get a reply like this: "Well, I have been better..."

Reach out!

To my Christians friends: remember that today was the day of the Son of Man being nailed to the cross. And yet, per the Gospel according to St. Luke when one of the men being executed with him asked to be remembered by him, the Son of Man found enough strength to say Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise. (Luke 23:43) Even at that last moment of life, the Son of Man reached out.



Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it. --Thomas Merton

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