Monday, March 21, 2005

Crucify Him

When we headed off to church yesterday, I knew what I was getting into—a longer than usual service. I made sure we had a hearty breakfast ahead of time so growling stomachs wouldn’t be a distraction. The service started with a procession that included a donkey. We opted out of that one, but I felt I had missed an integral component of the service. The start of Palm Sunday, with the procession and the palms is part of the emotional journey that takes me from a joyful parade to a deeper recognition about the human spirit and how it tangles with the Divine.

Partner and I have been attending our church for almost two years now. It’s Episcopalian, but I have a hard time identifying myself as such. I am still one-quarter time Roman Catholic, so the easiest definition I can give myself is Anglo-Catholic. I like our particular church, but I am a little more high church than this particular congregation—I could go for all the incense, and probably more kneeling, but that’s just my particular brand of spirituality. We realized this weekend that we had never been at the Episcopalian church for Palm Sunday; I usually steer us toward the RC church for Holy Week services. I wasn’t sure if we’d recite the Passion in the same way at our Episcopalian church as the RC church.

That being said, the Catholic church has let me down on Palm Sunday before too! (Okay, truth be told, the Catholic church has let me down a lot more than that.) A couple years ago my RC church assigned parts to every position in the Passion, including the part of crowd, which is usually assigned to the congregation. I was not pleased with this turn, and thankfully, they have gone back to the original way. Something disturbing and very important happens when one has to stand in church, quite literally under the cross, and shout, “Crucify him!” It’s enormously uncomfortable. It almost makes me itch. I don’t want to be complicit in this crucifixion, but having to say those words, “crucify him,” makes me recognize that I am complicit in suffering. Not necessarily of Christ himself, that’s a larger theological issue, but how many times a day do I drive little nails into people? That student I made cry? The barb I threw at my partner when we were fighting? Talking about someone in a less than charitable manner? How about less overt acts, like a lack of compassion or understanding?

At the Kiss of Peace, our church heaves. People get up and walk around, genuinely to give peace to each other, not to gossip or chat, but to spend a moment in time wishing each other peace. I love this—it made us feel very welcome when we attended our first service. Lately, a young person who is a clearly a woman identified man has been attending our church. At the sign of the peace, after we’d participated in the Gospel, my partner noticed this person sitting with head down, very isolated from the exuberant greetings going around the church. She moved across the aisle, and issued her peace. I can’t tell you how I cried when we got in the car—why did no one else go to shake this person’s hand? What hypocrites! What assholes, really. Me included. My partner (who I think) doesn’t even identify that strongly with the term Christian acted. Acted with compassion.

Ah, because the Passion and compassion are linked, inextricably. When I have to say those words, crucify him, it should make me question how often I do that very act in my daily life. And I can query that all I want on here, or in my thoughts, but the very fact of uttering those words, aloud, so others can me hear me, well, it’s fundamentally different in an undeniable, tragic, beautiful way.


Blogger Career Guy said...

I feel the same way! Those words always made me feel itchy, just as you described. That's quite a homily you wrote here, you know!

How wonderful that you are a lector in your RC church. It's my favorite thing to do. Memorizing the readings helps me (I hope) to communicate the meaning and connect with the congregation. When I train lectors, I always tell them to have an interpretation. It doesn't have to be the same as mine, but have one! Let people know what the message is, and what's important to learn that day. What a wonderful person your partner is--to act so compassionately--you are very lucky.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Katie (WannaBeMom) said...

Thanks, John. I am lucky with my partner-- absolutely. She's a wonderful person-- I think my family has already canonized her.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous LL said...

I second the canonizing! Excellent idea.

I have always had a hard time with the acting out of the Passion. I cannot even come close to saying my lines. It was bad enough when the lector read it solo.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Nico said...

Wow, what a powerful, beautiful post. I grew up Anglican, became Episcopalian when we moved to the US, but haven't gone to church in a very long time. Mostly because I feel like so much of it is about saying the words, but not acting on them, as you describe so poignantly here. In all of the religious right anti abortion anti homosexual anti birth control anti... mumbo-jumbo, I feel like that's what's missing - the love, respect and compassion that are what religion is about to me.

11:22 PM  

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