The path at the Grotto heads westward up to the seventh station, which sits at the western-most point in the circle. In some Middle Eastern cultures, and European as well, West is the direction associated with death; the living reside in the east. The smaller reliefs inside the chapel at the Grotto also progress in the same direction, as stations 1 through 7 start from east to west, and stations 8 through 14 return the viewer/pilgrim east.
In the crucifixion account, Jesus is progressing toward a physical death. Symbollically, the pilgrim is moving away from death, and its associate fears and fetters, and moving ever closer to that which never dies. The seventh station is a difficult place, as it lies far from any familiar shore. Here is the desolate and terrifying dark night of the soul, where all the pilgrim can do is trust; there is no other action possible. The seventh station is death–and here one realizes that death isn’t a beginning or an end, but a middle. Its forbidding terrain must be traversed to reach liberation and the realization of everlasting life.
In the biblical account, Jesus has fallen a second time. The bronze sculpture shows Jesus on the ground, holding himself up with one hand, his guards hoisting him by the rope around his waist. Christ’s focus is at the ground where his hand is supporting his weight. He is not looking forward, or behind him, but directly at the ground where he’s stopped. His attention is in the moment.
The isolation around this station is indicated by its number, Seven, which is the number of sanctuary and solitude. This is when one must search within to find that safe and constant place. For some, that place may be prayer, for others, it might be lucidity or awakening, and for yet others, love is their salvation. Perhaps, all of these at different times help each of us through the dark night of the soul. The seventh, or crown chakra located on top of the head, is concerned with assimilation, wisdom, and the unmistakable connection with Source, God, Divinity, Spirit.
The seventh station is where we process everything that has either happened to us, or at least those things that have impacted us in a meaningful way–both traumas and blessings. We are in a state of deep introspection having just come from the sixth station, and if we allow, a divine light illuminates our circumstance. The illusions of fear, separation, and all those things which have overwhelmed or oppressed us up until now have been exposed as just that–illusions.
I realized one day as I meditated on Jesus’ second fall, noticing the guards and handlers around him, that he was never alone on the way to Calvary. The persons most invested in his reaching that last hill were his enemies. As gruesome and tortuous as his death would be, it would change the lives of millions of people for generations to come. Whether one agrees with Christian idealogy or not, that Jesus’ destiny manifested exactly the way it did would be crucial. How can any of us know whether a difficult situation will affect our futures or anothers in a beneficial, or even a momentous way? Certainly, if left to our own devices, we wouldn’t walk the hard path. Do you think that those who love us would let us travail and suffer? Mary would have plucked her son out of harm’s way, sacrificing herself, but the Roman guards kept close to their prisoner, and kept a watchful eye on the throng of supporters and onlookers as they made their way to Calvary.
It would seem that it is often our enemies, or our obstacles which propel us onward, keeping us on the path leading to our destiny. Our commrades wouldn’t let us experience pain or difficulty, so we need our ‘enemies’ in this respect. In many cultures and mythlogies, this is the role of the trickster. In fact, this was Satan’s role in the Old Testament. He was never actually called Satan, but in Hebrew he was referred to as the opponent or adversary, a foil to the righteous protaganist of a given story. So if our enemies are crucial to realizing and fulfiling our purpose, then how are we to truly regard Satan?