Friday, March 29, 2013

First Word: Mary Judith Ress: Thursday

Maundy Thursday

Today is Maundy Thursday, the first of Holy Week’s three-day pageant. (Not counting Palm Sunday, of course). Although I no longer participate, I’ve been indelibly marked by these ceremonies.  As a little girl, the weight of these days seeped into my psyche and became metaphors for describing life:
“Judy’s an avoider of Good Fridays.”
“The Last Supper was a meal, not a Mass.”
“May you have only empty tombs.”
“We are Easter people and Alleluia is our cry.”
            Then all the years in Latin America where the suffering, crucified Christ far outweighs the Risen Savior.  In the village of Huarochiri, nestled in the Peruvian Andes, where I lived for three years, the campesinos enact the Passion, and actually crucify a Christ surrogate. On Good Friday evening, the procession of larger-than-life statues of the Mater Dolorosa, Mary Magdalene and John-the-Apostle parade behind the casket containing the bloody statue of the now-dead Jesus. Throughout the long night,  Huarochiranos carry their treasured statues around the village’s dusty streets to the drum’s solemn roll and the quena’s plaintive wail.  Each man—young and old, alike—takes his turn bearing the casket.  If he doesn’t, catastrophe in some form or other will surely strike during the coming year: a cow might die, his potato crop might whither, or his son might leave for Lima.   
            Good Fridays let all of us beat our breasts, ask for forgiveness and hope again that suffering pays off.
            In retrospect, I was mistaken about Good Fridays.  There is no avoiding them--yet they don’t necessarily lead to Easter Sundays.
            But today is Maundy Thursday. A day for a good meal.  Barbette’s Feast always spoke of Eucharist to me.  Turns out it’s the new pope’s favorite film.

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