The curtain lifts again and we begin to recount ritually and relive interiorly the great events that took place over a few days a long time ago. The world did not stop when they happened. Only symbolically did the sun darken and the veil of temple split. Peoples’ commercial and emotional lives carried on as usual through the short tragic drama of the humiliation and extinction of a powerless pawn in the politics of the world. A short show-trial, public torture to keep the crowds satisfied, another execution of a religious (or political) activist who flared briefly in popular imagination and then lost their favour and sunk between the bigger waves of public affairs and personal concerns.
His close friends ran away, disappointed and maybe angry with him, to save themselves. He was left to die with only his mother, one disciple he loved and a few loyal women at the foot of his cross.
And here we are in 2012 telling the story again from the slightly disjointed but unforgettable accounts written down several decades afterwards. We do not have his own words except in translation. He put nothing in writing himself. We don’t know what he liked for breakfast or exactly who he thought he was. He is more present than any other historical or fictional figure and yet when you look at him closely he becomes transparent and disappears. If we meet him we are changed but we cannot get a grip on him.
These inconsistencies and paradoxes that so irritate the rational mind, when it operates in isolation, are the medium of a great transmission.
Children who like a story and those who recognise the value of a great work art are happy to repeat it indefinitely. In this story the repetition itself is an act of faith that strengthens faith and so clarifies vision.
It is more powerful if we act theatrically in the telling rather than sitting like a passive audience. In this story there are no mere observers.
We have a limited number of chances in one life to replay the drama and penetrate its meaning. Not knowing how many is a part of the process that connects us with the one who suffered and died but did not stay dead.
Laurence Freeman OSB