Art and Mission Intersect in the Stations of the Cross

This Easter season, the Rev. Lauri Diamond of Redemption Anglican Church painted the Stations of the Cross for a missional public viewing. She shares why she felt called to paint the Stations and the profound spiritual experience she had through the process.

By Lauri Diamond

It was March 15, 2010, and I was sitting on the steps of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, Italy. Was I dreaming? A glorious sunset streamed through the saints silhouetted against the sky. I had a warm panini in my hand and my rolling suitcase beside me. I had flown in to Rome and taken the Vatican bus to the city center. The aromas of basil and oregano coming from the street kitchens were overwhelming, and I caved to the temptation and purchased my first street panini. Then I walked into the piazza de St Peters. There were pigeons fluttering in the air as I took a seat on the steps to soak in the reality of life.

On the outer wall of the Vatican, which is the inner wall of St. Peters Basilica plaza, a series of beautiful bronze relief sculptures showed Christ’s final 24 hours on earth. I was mesmerized by the simplicity and the emotion depicted in the art. Not being Catholic, I didn’t realize they were called the Stations of the Cross, a tradition in almost all Catholic churches and many other liturgical traditions. The images of Christ on the way to the cross overwhelmed me spiritually and emotionally.

The images of Christ on the way to the cross overwhelmed me spiritually and emotionally.

I knew the story and believed the result—but looking on the individual artist renderings deepened my understanding of Jesus’ love for the world. The carvings were modern, yet ancient, and the beauty of the art combined with the gravity of the subject touched my heart. As an artist, I knew that one day I would paint them. I didn’t know when or how, but felt it would happen.

Later I joined the Anglican church and became a part of Redemption Church in Frisco, Texas. This is where God led me to continue my relationship with the Stations of the Cross. In the spring of 2014, the leadership team talked about offering a viewing of the Stations as a missional outreach for the public. I was intrigued and offered to paint them. God had a plan!

As with a lot of inspired art, the Function determines the Form. This required “out of the box” thinking from several angles. We were going to use these outside, possibly in inclement weather; we had very little money for production; they needed to be large enough for a group to see; and they needed to be light enough to transport. All those factors led me to this Functional technique.

To create the actual figures, I had a couple of friends to pose for each piece. Sheets of clear acrylic mounted on clear clipboards allowed me to capture the positions quickly in outline form, then to sketch the poses and experiment with different angles. The painting technique of pallet or painting knives allowed for creative expression on a large scale. I was able to layer paint for depth and create texture with color. These techniques all lent themselves to large-scale art. Function and Form working together!

The first set of Stations in 2014 was the traditional, Catholic version. The second set in 2016 was the new scriptural version. 2019 is my third time to paint Stations of the Cross. Each set covers 896 square feet of painted surface on 14 4’ x 4’ boards and represents hours of meditation and preparation. This year I’ve been reading through the Old Testament in preparation to paint. In the five years since I painted the last set, I’ve changed a lot. Ordination to the Diaconate, a Masters from Dallas Theological Seminary and serving Redemption Church have broadened my vision.

There was a gentle urging in my spirit that said, “It’s time.” A window of quietness opened, and I felt God providing the spiritual space to create a new version of the Stations of the Cross as a way to engage our community. The previous versions were dark colors, but this year I saw colors in my mind’s eye: purple, gold and red.

I read Leviticus, a book that is easy to skim over, but the visuals of the blood and sacrifice called me deeper. In our culture, we have sanitized sin; we have dissociated blood from our cleaned-up ways of life. The idea of pain and suffering as an answer to anything is foreign. As God’s people began to realize who they were and who God is, they were told, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Lev 17:11).

Sacrificed blood was thrown on the sides of the altar, the priests dipped their fingers in it, and blood was the answer to sin. The people were also told, “You shall not eat the bloodof any creature, for the lifeof every creature isits blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off” (Lev 17:14). Blood is life. We have forgotten that connection and to us we think of blood and death.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn 6:54). What? The Law that the disciples knew and followed was overturned. Jesus claimed, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (Jn 6:56).

In order to be in Christ, we are to eat and drink him. This changed everything. That night in Jerusalem, the blood that is life became the path to eternal life. The incarnation bowed to the crucifixion, and his blood flowed out of love for his created images. This blood of life was shed for all.

This year I created canvases using a new technique where I hammered 1400 pins into the edges of the boards, one at a time. This is to hold the canvases in place on the 14 4’x4’ boards. The image of an executioner hammering spikes through Jesus’ wrists and feet was in my mind.

The image of executioner hammering spikes through Jesus’ wrists and feet was in my mind.

The Stations of the Cross is not a subject I had ever thought of painting before that intersection of art and mission in Rome. But painting the Stations has become something that I cannot not do. It’s that kind of spiritual direction. So I dig in. I sit in God’s word. It’s hard to take the first stroke. It’s the only subject that I paint with knives. There are tears. Sometimes I get physically ill. It is truly one of the most spiritual experiences I’ve ever had.

The Rev. Lauri Diamond is a deacon serving as Pastoral Director and Missions Pastor at Redemption Anglican Church in Frisco, Texas. Lauri and her husband Tom have four grown children. Lauri just graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary. She loves anything involving creativity, has a passion for reaching out, and thrives on connecting church and community and helping them connect with God.

All artwork in this post depicts the 2019 Stations of the Cross. Artwork is the property of Lauri Diamond and is used with permission.