One thing liturgy can teach us is the art of story. More than mere storytelling, liturgy is all about re-enacting the Story. And re-enacting the life of Christ is a multi-sensory, holistic event involving space & time, beauty & rhythm.
For instance, one way early Christians would re-enact the life of Christ is by going on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, not only to see the sacred sites, but to follow the footsteps of Jesus’ crucifixion. But when Christianity became more widespread, it became increasingly difficult for followers to make the long, expensive trek all the way down to the Holy Land.
Enter the Liturgical Artist.
Great craftsmen of cathedral halls began creating progressive art installations known as the Stations of the Cross. These might come in the form of icons, paintings, sculptures or stained glass. And they would typically line the walls of worship spaces & the paths of prayer gardens, creating an opportunity for worshipers to contemplate the Crucifixion while walking the symbolic footsteps that Jesus walked on the Via Dolorosa.
I’ve seen many versions of these Stations throughout my travels. But one set of Stations jumped out at me while I was in a cathedral in Warsaw, Poland.
Warsaw was completely destroyed by Hitler in WWII, so much of the city you see today has been rebuilt in the past 50-60 years, including it’s church buildings. And the art inside some of these spaces have an ancient-modern aesthetic to them. These particular Stations contained such an aesthetic.
With nothing but an old iPhone & a novice-level understanding of Photoshop, I was able to adapt these images to work for projection. I wanted in some way to bring the experience of the Stations of the Cross to modern worship spaces, where it made sense. By presenting these images, I’m able to tell the story of Jesus’ crucifixion in a way that words aren’t necessary. But if you really lean in & take your time with each station, you begin to re-enact the Story… even if just in your imagination.
One church down in Alabama even took it to the next level.
The Liturgy of Easter is not just about the Resurrection. It’s about everything that led to the Resurrection. The praise on Palm Sunday. The taste of the Last Supper. The grief of Good Friday. The hollowness of Holy Saturday. And even the quiet, whispered rumors that ushered in Easter Sunday.
Let’s not miss out on the journey to the empty tomb. Let us not rush into celebration without first contemplating each & every step that Jesus took to the Cross. This is the beautiful, formative power of a visual liturgy.