Good Friday 2011
When I was being initiated into Catholicism, I would take a Catechism class every Wednesday. During Lent, we would also perform the rosary, saying our prayers and contemplating the Mysteries. We would also often perform the Stations of the Cross, recounting the ancient story of Jesus’ Passion in twelve stations. In the Catholic church, not only do we have our stained glass windows, statues, and crucifix depicting a body behind the altar, which some consider idolatrous blasphemy, but we also have twelve little dioramas all around the church depicting these stations. When we would contemplate these stations during Lent, I was usually the one chosen to be crucifer, just as I was often chosen to be a lector during Mass, and a soloist in choir, due to my voice. Bearing the cross, however, requires no voice skills (beyond the skill of breathing)… just a willingness.
I would bear the cross for the hour or so as we walked around the church recounting the events of two thousand years past. It was tiring as Yoga is tiring, but surely not as tiring as bearing an entire cross all the way to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. I was used to this story, as was every other Catholic present, and the stories were recited with dull monotony. Yet we felt it our duty, so we did this. I had been hearing this story since before I could remember.
I already mentioned how I could not understand, as a child, why Jesus would have to die upon the cross. I already mentioned that no one, then, could adequately explain. I understand now, as mentioned. No thanks to the Catholics of my childhood, though it isn’t really their fault.
Once when I was a very young Homo Sapien, and had only just been potty trained, I headed toward our restroom, only to find a painting created by my mother for a high school project hung upon the wall just before the door. It was a depiction of the Ecce Homo- Behold the Man, as Pilate says when he presents Jesus to the crowd. Being nothing but a tiny new ape, I refused to pass this horrifying depiction of suffering, would not go down this hallway, returned to the living room, and wet my pants instead. I remember what one of my most fabulously personable Greek professors once told me: If one should ever find oneself suddenly thrust into an entirely new place with a foreign, unknown, untouched culture with which one cannot communicate, the best thing that one can do to show them that one is human as well is to do what humans do- and to relieve oneself before them. (As one would also do during crucifixion, n.b.)
During this Lenten period, and before this Lenten period, I have felt more and more my unity with all things, including crucifixion. I remember such events as all the aforementioned events in this post, even that earliest one, and perhaps even earlier events, though they did not occur during this incarnation.
Crucifixion comes from the Latin words crux and figere, to fix to a cross, that is, to fix to torture. The cross has traditionally been both the symbol for torture and also the symbol for the homo sapien- the symbol for the human body- in astrology. The circle is the spirit/eternity, the semicircle/arc is the finite soul, and the cross is movement through spacetime in a human body. I do know that we, as a human race, have for some reason crucified (tortured) one another over and over and over. It is a seemingly indelible part of our consciousness. I cannot say for sure that I lived a past life in which I was crucified, other than that I am interconnected with all things, but sometimes, it seems as though I can remember it with such painful intensity… Iiiii don’t want to talk about it anymore.
I went to church on Good Friday. We did not have a usual Mass but instead were to do the Stations of the Cross. I had been expecting the usual monotony that I had experienced in the past- a procession with a crucifer and a dull recitation provided by the books issued by the Church.
Instead, I was again surprised and refreshed by the presence and innovation of my current priest. Instead of the usual, he decided to use projection screens, image stills, film clips, “secular” music, and his own speeches stringing it all together. It was not meant to be some enjoyable secular-music-fest, he said, but to be a real and present reflection and meditation upon Jesus and the human condition. We went through all the stations, but this time, with completely different presentation.
I was somewhat surprised to hear the words fuck and shit so often- but then again, not so surprised. After all, if we are displaying to our children that a man was tortured brutally, why should we censor anything? We also discussed the very fact that children do see what we do… children often incorporate this into their own unconscious patterns. Yet, while violence is not necessary, catharsis is. By even the second of the twelve stations, the priest had some in the congregation weeping audibly. I have never experienced such a church service. Luken tells me again that this is “real church”.
Emphasized this night by our priest was the fact that… sometimes, we just want to know that someone has been where we are and understands. God, being omnipresent, understands thoroughly. God, having sent himself down into human incarnation to experience suffering, understands intimately. God has been there every time we are beaten, every time we experience suffering. As our priest said, and this is literally true- Jesus Christ is crucified in us today just as surely as he was crucified two thousand years ago. Jesus has been, is, and will always be- Christ Am- in the Eternal Now.
At the end, the priest himself bore a cross, a large cross and not one of those half-sized ones I used to carry, or the tiny one he had carried the night before. He held this cross at the front of the church and passed it off to others, so that we might all come before it and kiss it. I did so, and, as I left, I also stopped by the Pietà, and I kissed Jesus upon his lips. I have never kissed him before, as I have so often seen older women do. Yet on this evening I felt him as an intrinsic part of my being, as though he were my Father and Son and Lover and Self- someone I had always loved- how could I not kiss him, no matter if I was afraid?
I was raised with this story. I was raised with this story in excruciating bloody detail. When Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ hit theatres, I went to see it, but I did not, at that time, see anything out of the ordinary. I sat, and I watched the blood, and I remembered it as though it had happened to me myself- I did not understand why it was so shocking to everyone in the audience. I sat and listened to so many people around me gasping, groaning, and crying out, while I sat in complete stillness and silence. I suppose they were seeing all this for the first time. Me, I had seen this in my mind thousands of times, and perhaps even in my past lives I have experienced it. Perhaps that is why this snuff movie was made- to introduce others to what we, Homo Sapien, have done to ourselves. To show them, because apparently some were unaware. I do not think I should forget my primordial memories of crucifixion, though I must be sure not to identify with them. And if you are unaware, I will show you that Dionysian theatrical representation, so you can see for yourself if you so desire that particular catharsis. Skip ahead to 1:30:40 to get past most of the stations and to the stripping and nailing. However………
Can’t we get over it, already? Can we not move on? Can we not begin to treat one another with Love, cease our humiliation, and begin our respect, because we are all humans united in God?