Learn More About Going into the Dark.

Learn More About Going into the Dark.

In Remembrance of Me…

In Remembrance of Me…

Do this in remembrance of Me…

I remember sitting at an Easter Vigil liturgy, the highest, holiest liturgy of the year in the Roman Catholic calendar. I was a little incense-drunk and feeling kind of spiritually woozy from the religious excesses of Holy Week (more on that later, if you’re interested).

I looked up at the crucifix. Same crucifix I had looked at a thousand times. Same crucifix I saw all through my childhood. Jesus, larger-than-life, wounded and nailed, head bowed, thorns digging into his forehead, just a gruesome picture. The thing is, if you grew up Catholic, and especially if you grew up southern or central European Catholic, you get used to these things. A victim of capital punishment, I would think later. Like venerating the state-sanctioned murder by electric chair of an incarcerated man?

I know it’s more complicated than that now. And it was what happened to me that night at that liturgy, that most solemn and high Celebration of the Eucharist, that Mass of the Easter Vigil that helped me feel the complexity in my body, at least a little.

I was praying after Communion while others went by, while the choir sang. Sitting in the front row as we always had growing up, I had my hands laced in front of my face, but loosely. There was still incense visible in the air from the blessing of the Eucharistic elements (the bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Christ). Commuicants passed slowly.

I looked up at that crucifix and I saw the antlers there. I saw the image of the beautiful slain god Tammuz. I saw the king giving over his life for the well-being of the land and people. I saw the love-mad Attis and the furious Cybele. I saw image after image after image of other traditions I had been taught in the years I had been away from Mother Church. I saw the languages I had learned to speak after my milktongue of Ave Marias. I saw ceremonies I had attended, mysterious ceremonies I will not detail here, nor anywhere.

A pounding started in my head as I looked up at the Christ.

Crown of thorns, crown of antlers, crown of thorns.

Crown of thorns, crown of antlers, crown of thorns.

I looked up between my interlaced fingers and the smoke (in reality now just a few wisps) seemed to grow thicker. I thought of the images of the temple of Adonai in the Hebrew Bible, the fire and smoke the prophet sees before his calling by the Most High. I felt a rush of wind and a beating of wings.

Crown of thorns, crown of antlers, crown of thorns.

Crown of thorns, crown of antlers, crown of thorns.

Sacrifice is embedded in the human experience. There is always a price. And so our myths—the collective dreams of cultures—tell of sacrifice again and again. They detail the hunger of gods and the bloody consequences of chance. They give direction for the offering of sacrifices of what is valuable to us in our hearts, souls, livestock pens, and gardens. They tell tales of sacrifice seemingly gone terribly awry, whole kingdoms lost, devastated, caught in the net of divine dispute.

Crown of thorns, crown of antlers, crown of thorns.

Crown of thorns, crown of antlers, crown of thorns.

I cannot think too much about that night. It makes me dizzy to think of it. And then to sing, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” afterward….a celebration of resurrection too soon for my inspiration-skewered brain.

I went home entranced, the words still beating a regular tattoo in my brain.

Crown of thorns…

Crown of antlers…

Crown of thorns…

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