March 25, 2005

Holy Week Post

(Rembrandt, The Three Crosses)

My Church did its Passion Play last Sunday. The eldest Llama-ette had the role of the donkey Jesus rode (or in this case, walked beside) into Jerusalem. While I could not resist joking about her being typecast for the role, I did at least manage to restrain myself from doing so within earshot of her.

After the rather disorganized rehearsal we went through Saturday afternoon, I really was not expecting very much on Sunday morning. However, I was pleasantly surprised and, I must say, quite moved by the performance.

The play was done outside with scene changes being effected by moving from one part of the Church grounds to another, with various backdrops raised to denote different settings: The gates of Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Garden, Golgotha and so on. It was a dreary, misty day, which fit well with the solemnity of the story. But what really made it go was the way the kids stepped up to their parts. Jesus was played by a boy with very large blue eyes. He had actually memorized his lines and spoke them with a very gentle, deliberate delivery that reenforced their weight. A girl played Judas. She had a naturally gloomy countenance and was dressed in dark robes. To see her standing in the Garden of Gethsemane, brooding on her treachery, was quite chilling. There were a couple of brash young boys playing the centurions, who were obviously quite proud of their cloaks and swords. And a little girl with big, dark eyes played Peter - both her claims and denials of loyalty to Jesus were delivered in exactly the same manner of child-like earnestness, saying to me something about human spiritual frailty. And watching the faces of the crowd of other disciples, townsfolk and Pharisees, I couldn't help thinking of the studies in expression that one often sees filling in the corners and behind the main action in medieval painting and glasswork.

Somehow, someway, the kids weren't just kids going through the motions. By whatever combination of their effort and my imagination, they became their characters. In short, at least to me, the whole production was really, well, transcendant.

I must say that this has not been one of my more successful Lenten seasons (by that, I mean one in which I've been able to properly center and focus in preparation for Easter). Part of it certainly has to do with the fact that Lent is so early this year. I simply wasn't ready for Ash Wednesday right at the beginning of February, and I've felt off balance ever since. And as I grumbled yesterday, I don't think Easter is going to be the joyous event it ought to be. (This isn't just because of the C&E crowd. Even if they all behave like lambs, the mere fact that I have to usher means that I miss out on participating in much of the service.) Given all that, moments like those last Sunday when I have felt I've been able to break through have been all the more rewarding.

Speaking of such things, I've been trying to figure out all day how to respond to this post by Dean Esmay about the relationship between Jews and Christians. Dean is usually a very level-headed guy, but here I think he makes some vast overgeneralizations about Christian understanding of, respect for and potential reaction to Jewish law and tradition (which basically says that we Christians are all heretical loonies). Sure, there is anti-Semitic ignorance, condescension and hostility out there. But Dean tars so many of us with those brushes that I am, frankly, rather offended. Furthermore, I find his suggestion that "most of the Jewish Community" itself views Christians as a solid block of Inquisition-spouting, Holocaust-pushing, turn-or-burn goons capable of coming after them at the drop of a hat, to be quite sad. If that is the prevelant feeling, then evidently there is much to be learned on both sides of the, ah, Testimental Divide.

Yips! to our pal Lintenfiniel Jen, who also was puzzled by Dean's outburst and gives a pretty nifty summary of the Christian belief of Jesus' role in fulfilling both the Old and New Covenant. (I like her "incorrect or incomplete" comparison.)

Posted by Robert at March 25, 2005 04:47 PM

One quick remark, apropro of nothing: when my sister was getting married, they had a hard time finding a rabbi, because my brother-in-law (a very nice guy, btw) is Jewish, but she wasn't. He'd probably be Orthodox, but for the fact that in the Orthodox community she can't be Jewish, and thus their kids aren't Jews. I've found Jewish weddings to be much more fun, and personal, than traditional Christian ones.

Posted by: RobertJ at March 25, 2005 07:10 PM

I surfed onto your blog by accident - glad to find that the internet does not suck. Great site.

Posted by: Claudine at March 25, 2005 08:33 PM

Claudine - Happy to oblige! We hope you come back often! Yip! Yip!

BobbyJ - We went to a wedding a few years back between a Catholic bride and a Jewish groom. They did a kind of hybrid service with both a priest and a rabbi, neither of whom (I'm guessing) was terribly orthodox. Anyhoo, when it came time for the groom to smash the glass, it took him four or five stomps. We only mention this on VERY special occasions.

Posted by: Robert the LB at March 25, 2005 11:23 PM

They should've used a lightbulb. That's the tip top secret.

Always breaks and makes a satisfying popping sound.

(ssssshhhhh, don't tell anyone I told you, or I might have to, you know)

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at March 26, 2005 01:06 AM

I have been considering reading the Talmud (I have considered this for many years) and I think Dean's point about the Talmud is very interesting. It bears research.

On the whole persecution of the Jews by Christians I think he goes overboard. Not that there wasn't persecution mind you, because there certainly was. But I think most Christians today regard the Jews as allies, and not as enemies, not as competitors. Most Christians I know greatly value their Jewish friends and have the utmost respect for Judaism. I know I do.

Posted by: The Colossus at March 26, 2005 07:29 AM

Hey, thanks, Rob! I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who was baffled by Dean's post. Christians get tarred with many broad brushes and most don't bother me - that one rankled.

Posted by: jen at March 26, 2005 08:21 AM

Jim - oy, a shanda, giving away tips like that? ;)

Yes, Dean used a broad brush; but you have to consider that the US has only been in existance for such a short time, on a global scale. I didn't change how I acted after 9/11, but I've been both cautious and outspoken anyways - outspoken in that I don't hide, but cautious in engaging in religious discussion, because I have no idea where it's going to go.

Posted by: Lysander at March 27, 2005 02:38 PM

Remember that when it has a figure of christ on it its a crucifix otherwise its a cross

Posted by: mad heron at March 28, 2005 10:58 PM
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