This is a rough time of year for me.
This week is Passion week.
The week where we celebrate the major events in the last week of Jesus Christ's life.
His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey on Palm Sunday (last Sunday in the calendar), was an open declaration of war to the Jewish authorities.
He knew his texts. The Messiah was supposed to enter Jerusalem on the back of a donkey in the texts...
And today is the anniversary of his Crucifixion....
This week, at the same time I mourn the ultimate injustice of a mock trial, a political farce, beating, scapegoating an innocent man, a painful, drawn out public execution, I mourn my dead parents, and remember others around me who have died. I also think of the countless others, the named and nameless others who have suffered Jesus Christ's fate, and who are YET to suffer his death (in my mother country, in China, in Saudi Arabia, by lethal injection, hanging, beheading, who knows...).
And my two precious religious traditions, Catholic and Protestant, and their very different ways of commemorating Jesus' death.
If you take a look at Hieronymus Bosch's "Carrying of the Cross", a small panel, you will see a pale faced Jesus, eyes closed, clutching the cross, while around him the bestial figures of men and women excited like bloodhounds at the prospect of what's to come. To the side, Veronika holds the handkerchief that she used to wipe the sweat from Jesus's face. (Catholic tradition)
Jesus is like a... Eucharistic wafer gleaming in the midst of an impenetrable darkness.
What did he say ? "I am the Light". Yes, in this painting, he is the ONLY light.
Cut to the Matthaus Passion. Johann Sebastian Bach.
Another great mystic, albeit a Protestant one.
No idols, no pictures, no.. cathedrals for the Protestants.
But... the Matthaus Passion is one enormous cathedral built to house Jesus Christ.
And right smack dab in the middle of this cathedral there is a triptych.
A choral part, where the choir is the crowd, and they scream "Crucify him".
Music as modern, as gut wrenching as any that has ever been written. Terrifying.
And you can.. hear the people in Bosch's painting.
You can hear how they have become ? not animal... just another facet of human, which means.. US, and not THEM. (Remember the Milgram experiment...)
Right after you hear the soprano aria : "Aus liebe will mein Heiland sterben". Out of love my Savior is willing to die. And this aria represents... the small, quiet nest of calm right in the middle of that terrible storm, that nest where Veronika takes out her handkerchief and wipes the sweat from Jesus' face. A tender, merciful gesture.
Music which is almost atonal, almost outside the system, that's how moved Bach is to be recounting this episode from HIS point of view. What founds his faith. What he believes in, right down to the roots of his being.
Then the choir picks up again, and the moment is engulfed in "Crucify him" again..
This is Good Friday.
The day that I remember that I am constantly called on to choose between playing the part of... Veronika, or the crowd that screams "crucify him".
That I am constantly called on to try to see Jesus Christ in my neighbor, even when I want to see one of the members of the crowd.
When I try to remember how weak I am to achieve this, even when I am congratulating myself about how well I am doing it.
And of course, all of this would be intolerable without the promise of the Resurrection.
An even greater mystery. THE mystery.
Lest you think that I am trying to convert you..
How could I be trying to convert you when I am understanding this AS I GO ALONG ?
"Making it up" as I go along ?
Be well, as Thai says.