It always gives great pleasure when we can combine interests in a satisfactory way.
As a necessary break from working at my desk, either in musical composition or the written word, I would often spend a little time in the greenhouse or removing a patch of weeds.
It is a splendid diversion primarily gaining the refurbishment plans of the Oxford Oratory. But it gives me insight into the creators of those crucifixes:
those who modeled the corpora;
those who decided upon the styles of the Labels at the top of the cross;
those who veneered the pine or polished the hardwood;
those who chose chestnut over mahogany, oak over ebony;
those who modeled in clay and cast in silver, bronze, brass or spelter.
And behind these practical things…
why does the loincloth hang to the left or right;
why are the arms almost erect, straight or at an angle;
why is the left foot on the right and vice versa or why are the feet side-by-side?
Aside from learning new techniques in the workshop, I was able to think all these questions as I worked and saw in them the potential for both a book and a useful meditation booklet to encourage, perhaps, a deeper consideration of the many ingredients in the Passion of Our Lord, which would lead the mind to see more clearly the whole of our Salvation History as it is continuously shown to us through Scripture, from the Patriarchal narratives to the words of the later prophets.
It seemed to me that in enabling the gaze to dwell upon the damaged knees of the Crucified Christ, for instance, the mind might dwell on the attitude of humility, prayer and service and consider Christ’s kneeling before his disciples in the upper room, Christ’s agony in the Garden and Christ’s crashing to his knees under the weight of our sin on the road to Golgotha,
and how the people of God were forewarned that the Messiah would be the servant of all and would suffer severely on account of mankind’s fall from grace (cf. the Suffering Servant passages in Isaiah).
Therefore, from the label on the cross to the feet of Christ, I concluded that we could start to think more profoundly and these thoughts gave rise to Praying the Crucifix.