Monday of this week, Saint John’s welcomed pilgrims from Los Angeles and San Diego who were following Jesus in his last earthly steps. It was an extended Stations of the Cross that started in Mac Arthur Park in LA at 8:30 in the morning and ended with the final station on the beach as far south as we could go. Saint John’s was the location of stations eight and nine.
We welcomed congregants and clergy from both dioceses and provided them with beverages and a cool place to sit and relax. St. Philips in Lemon Grove provided sandwiches. The talk over lunch was joyful with a hint of sorrow. Joy – because Episcopalians like to eat and talk. Sorrow – because we were on a journey to remember the last steps of Jesus before his death. After lunch, we gathered in the parking lot around a dark green truck that held a realistic statue of Jesus that stood twelve feet above our heads. He was adorned by large palm branches and was wearing a dark red robe with his hands in the position of blessing. It was there that we recited stations eight and nine. Then we left for Border Field State Park. As a side note, Jesus on the back of a truck went more than 75 mph on Interstate 5. He must be from LA.
The road to Border Field’s parking lot is washed out. We parked our cars in a make-shift dusty patch of road. The pilgrims had to walk a mile through semi-rough terrain and at times deep sand to get to our final station. It was difficult. Once we reached the shoreline, we recited another station. Then, our final station, pictured here, was near the wall.
Just on the other side of the international border were members of
the Anglican Church of Mexico. They brought an incredible Mariachi band.
We could hear the music as we hiked uphill to what we called Friendship Park. Border Patrol allowed all of us to walk right up to the wall and celebrate Holy
Communion. We swarmed the cement standing area and set up our little altar
within twenty feet of the other altar on the Mexico side. Border Patrol also
escorted the dark green truck with the statue of Jesus so that we could have it
at our gathering. During Holy Communion one of our bishops would say a part of
the prayer and then one of their priests would say the next part. We sang the
Sanctus together and then all said the Lord’s Prayer in unison (in Spanish).
International laws wisely prohibit us from exchanging communion through the
wall. To close the service, the south side turned to us and blessed us and then
we turned to them and blessed them. As though on cue, someone on the Mexican
side yelled, “Time to dance” in English and the mariachi band started playing a
lively tune that gave thanks to God. The song concluded with, “Gracias, gracias,
mucho mucho gracias, El Señor!”
We did this to symbolize that Jesus tore down the barrier between heaven and earth. He marched up to the border of death, broke it down and took away the sting of dying. Likewise, love and joy are borderless. The importance of walking a difficult journey, seeing a large cross being carried the entire distance, standing at an actual border, and reciting the Stations of the Cross is a visible way of remembering Jesus’ life. What he did mattered, and still matters today in a big way. In order to celebrate new life in him, I like to pause and remember the journey he took to get there. So now, as our friends and neighbors in Mexico said,“Let’s dance!”
- Fr. Marshall