Friday, March 29, 2013

friday: passion

Unravelling. The world has gone to choshek, to the darkness of creation. They say the veil in the temple rent from top to bottom when they hung him - the sky went black for a long time here too, the crowd dispersing in fear. Then the rain came, drowning us all, leaving us with drowning and darkness.

It is over now and I am still here. And the soldiers are still here. And his mother is still here. And Mary my friend is still here. And Junia is here. She wants to run to get us water in case they let us sponge him. I tell her to set the sponge on the ground and let it soak up the rain - it will be enough. A while ago, they pierced him and water ran out with blood. Some argued the water was rain. Others said that it came from his body. The blood ran down his leg. Since we cannot sponge him, I gather the blood on the ground with a towel. We must keep all his blood together. It is the law. We must keep the blood together and bury it with him. We must do everything properly. They must let us anoint him. They must.

I say these things many times to the soldiers. The rain spits in their faces. "There are many crucifixions," one of them tells us. "If we allow it for you, then everyone will want to do the same." "Everyone must do the same!" I don't know where my boldness comes from.

They keep pushing us back in case we come too near. The other two men have died already. My Lord is still alive, his chest barely moving, his face downward, his gaze washed over like a pool, staring to me and the others, and to whomever passes into it. He does not move so that many times we think he is gone and then there is some sign. I pray for his death with everything I have. His suffering is unbearable.

The others cannot endure it and have fled. They fled one-by-one through the night last night, through the day today. From the moment that the soldiers came, from the long night of waiting, through the long morning of trial, through the flogging, through the hanging, one by one they fled. I have not seen John or Peter, they've fled. I have not seen Thomas or Andrew or Philip or Bartholomew, they've fled. All who ate with him are gone, they have fled. I saw Judas here a while ago, crying out and weeping and cursing our Lord and falling at his feet at the cross and weeping until a soldier started to whip him away. I sent some of the women after him.

I have been remembering something our Lord said once. About the presence of holy ones, the holy ones of God who are always here with us. I feel them in our midst. I feel them close to me. I feel them close to him. The rain whips us all for the wind is great. But on him it appears to fall more gently, as if above us in the firmament there were a small hole, just above his head and only dew could fall there. Gentle mist.

Sometimes I move forward to be in his gaze and to look in his eyes. I steel myself for it, to look past the horrible piercing holes, the blood. To look only for his eyes. I have to twist myself to see them. I wait til the soldiers have left, or have forgotten him for a few moments and have turned their backs. I hold my eyes wide open, so he knows that I see him. I hold my gaze steady so to look right into him. His face is frozen open, his mouth twisted in agony. But his eyes are like pools, hovering between life and death. I talk to him. I pray with him. I even try to smile. His mother joins me sometimes. We stand together in each other's arms within his gaze and tell him we will anoint him, we will serve him. We will love him.

Just now, a woman has returned who was among those who went after Judas. She is out of breath and filled with fear. She says he was heading for the Temple to clasp the horns on the altar, seeking absolution. But then seeing soldiers there he changed his mind and ran away from them instead, pushing our people away and running into the hills. I hate Judas and I love him. I am frightened for him. I remember my Lord's tenderness to him the night he drew the letter in the ash of the fire. I remember how he said, "I love you - do not forget it."

Darkness has begun to fall. Still he breathes. They have mocked him. The agony of my Lord is nothing to the shame they bring on him through their jeers and taunts and their piercing of him, their rending of his garments. Every time they touch him I cry out in anger, "Leave him!" One of them struck me and I fell back. Another suggested I be arrested too. At this my Lord's mother intervened and they backed away.

She has been with us since the trial. I am so grateful for her presence. Her face has grown thin and pale with grief and terror. Sometimes she has clung to me, to my garment. When they hung him, we enfolded her, all crying out together. When the crowds were gathering, I huddled with her to shield her from the rain. Junia on one side, myself and her sister on the other, Mary and Martha of Bethany holding a veil before her from the front so that others would not see her and mock her in her grief. Her face rested in my shoulder, her tears against my neck. We whispered to each other agonized words, bodies tense, the ringing of iron hitting iron like nails through our own skin. When it was done and the crowd dispersed, we stayed like this. Eventually Martha took my place to hold her so that I could go speak with the soldiers. I could not rest while they mocked him.

Now, as darkness falls, she sits with us again in the open, at the foot of his cross. Someone calls the guards to food. Since the crowd has thinned to almost nothing, they decide to go and leave only one behind. Just as they are deciding this, I see John returning. He is limping from having been beaten by some people. He is weeping and falls at the feet of our Lord. Crying out to him. The soldiers mock him and laugh as they leave.

The only soldier left is just a boy, too young for his clothing. When we are all alone, our Lord speaks, whispering words we cannot really hear or understand. His mother and myself and John and Mary our friend, draw closer too. The boy-soldier allows it, looking helpless. His face shows sadness, compassion. He inches closer, more to listen than to scold. We cannot hear what my Lord is saying. We turn to the boy-soldier and say, "he is dying. Please give him a drink." The only thing nearby is some sour wine. The boy does not hesitate, puts some on the sponge I had set on the ground, so it is wine mixed with water, and stabs it with his spear. The boy lifts the spear to our Lord's mouth and we see him taste it.
Then he speaks again.
"It is finished," he says clearly. And then he dies. We know it because his head falls to his chest and his chest hollows.

The wind blows up from behind us, sending our garments straight out in front of us, as if they might shroud him. We fall into weeping and calling his name. We lament. We cry out. We fall to the ground. The circle of gentle mist-like rain that was just for him, widens to include us. It washes us, gently, even as our voices rend the air it glides in.

For hours we lament, wailing loudly. Until there is no voice left in us. Until darkness falls again. We are wrapped again in black, the wasteland of wastelands, like the first words of the Word. 'In a beginning God made heavens and earth. And darkness, choshek, was over the face of the deep.' Right now is the time even before spirit.

Then I remember a teaching from earlier in the week, when one of us asked him what would happen to him. He had not answered. And then instead he had recited. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Stretch out your hand towards heaven so that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be felt.' So Moses stretched out his hand towards heaven, and there was dense darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. People could not see one another, and for three days they could not move from where they were."

We were quiet then, each of us thinking about this omen and its frightening teaching. My mind raced.

"But Lord," I had said. "What about what follows then? the next words are that the people of God had light where they lived. The others were in darkness and they were in light. But if you are gone, it must be darkness for us too."

He did not answer, looking downward. I reflected deeply on his silence but could not make the teaching work.

"What you have said is true, Mary," he said then, when the silence had gone on too long. "But hear the words as they fall. The darkness comes for all, but the light follows the darkness for those who love me."

My memory dissolves into the pitch of mud, the splashing of animal feet. Horses with soldiers, are returning from their meal. I look again at my Lord whose body has emptied of all life; and try to cherish his words in my heart. Even as the very blackness of his prophecy pours its rain upon us.

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