It is hard going through the Lenten Lands. The Pilgrim pauses, and shifts his staff in his hand. He tries to remember when he received a walking stick – it was certainly not there when he started out – but his memories are dim and confusing. And now this stick is part of him, he can scarcely manage a step without it. Without it he could not continue his journey and, over the years, the journey has become his whole life. But it is hard. His throat is caked with desperate thirst, his eyes ache from peering through the dimness, his hand shakes on the top of his staff. Some days, if the wind is against him or the sun is desperately hot, he hardly makes progress at all. Above all, he is so desperately tired, tired of struggle, tired of sameness, tired of carrying his unrelenting pain. “Isn’t this enough?” he cries out to the unseen heavens, “haven’t I endured enough?”
She aches with weariness, every joint in her body feels like it is at war with the connecting bones. All day she must labour, rewarded only with criticism and blows. To be a slave is to have no self, to be just another possession of her master, to be used, used up, and thrown away. Darkness is behind her, and darkness is before her, and darkness brings, not rest from labour, but greater and deeper fear – the final violation. Cruel toil is bad enough, but, always, one endures what one must in order to survive. It is this other thing that breaks her spirit and tears at her soul, this violation which she cannot sleep through – her master’s lust for a broken girl. She knows little of any god or gods, but she believes that somewhere beyond this world there must be a terrible pity which will one day make things right, otherwise the whole world would break apart from the weight of its vast injustice. And every night she cries out to the light which is beyond all darkness “Let this be enough. I have no endurance left.”
He hangs between heaven and earth, life nailed to death. His is the extremity of pain and loneliness, bearing a burden that is not his own, except that he has freely chosen to carry it. He has become anguish, torment of body and soul, yet his heightened, overwhelmed senses are aware of the scorn of those who mock him, and the flooding, suffocating shame of his helplessness. He has looked into the pit of hell where his enemy awaits him and even now approaches. This enemy comes with a cold and desolate darkness, and the name of this enemy is Death. Yet the nailed One does not fight him by clinging to life, but by yielding totally to his opponent, carrying sin and shame and every one of their horrible offspring down with him into the darkness. This is a strange battle, which can only be won by his utter defeat. The whole of creation holds its breath, waiting for this act of un-creation to happen; the necessary forerunner to re-creation. It is enough, it is time, and in the triumph of his yielding he cries out, “It is finished.” And the Father declares it is enough, and more than enough.
They come from every corner of the world. Some shuffle uncertainly, some limp beneath the weight of the pain that they must carry, and some walk, head erect and shining-faced, with eyes full of hunger and wonder. And some are so broken or so weak that they cannot walk at all, and are carried by those who love them. Some come by the straight road, and some through many twists and turns. But they come, one by one and two by two, a family here, a group of friends there, they come. Some are brought by the pursuit of their enemies, and some are carried by angels, but they come, and keep on coming, until they are a multitude no man can number. And they come and they kneel, dressed in their tears and their hope, and he comes and meets them there, with a servant’s towel and nail-pierced hands. And as they wait, in the holy silence, he comes with outstretched hands, and the huge questions of their pain are answered, as he feeds his beloved ones with bread and wine. It is not yet journey’s end, but they know, as they look back at him with love, that it is enough. Oh yes, it is truly enough.