April 20, 2009

Readings from the Weekend

Rock star Bono writes here:
Christianity, it turns out, has a rhythm — and it crescendos this time of year. The rumba of Carnival gives way to the slow march of Lent, then to the staccato hymnals of the Easter parade. From revelry to reverie. After 40 days in the desert, sort of ...

Carnival — rock stars are good at that.

“Carne” is flesh; “Carne-val,” its goodbye party. I’ve been to many. Brazilians say they’ve done it longest; they certainly do it best. You can’t help but contract the fever. You’ve got no choice but to join the ravers as they swell up the streets bursting like the banks of a river in a flood of fun set to rhythm. This is a Joy that cannot be conjured. This is life force. This is the heart full and spilling over with gratitude. The choice is yours ...

It’s Lent I’ve always had issues with. I gave it up ... self-denial is where I come a cropper. My idea of discipline is simple — hard work — but of course that’s another indulgence.

Then comes the dying and the living that is Easter.

It’s a transcendent moment for me — a rebirth I always seem to need. Never more so than a few years ago, when my father died. I recall the embarrassment and relief of hot tears as I knelt in a chapel in a village in France and repented my prodigal nature — repented for fighting my father for so many years and wasting so many opportunities to know him better. I remember the feeling of “a peace that passes understanding” as a load lifted. Of all the Christian festivals, it is the Easter parade that demands the most faith — pushing you past reverence for creation, through bewilderment at the idea of a virgin birth, and into the far-fetched and far-reaching idea that death is not the end. The cross as crossroads.

* * *

San Pedro / San Pablo (June 29th) -- by Jay Wright

There are moments when I wish that my mother
had less of the book by heart,
and that the sugar bowl of her faith
were sometimes dry.

Who wants her spicy saint's eye
following you into the plaza's dark and curiously
curled corners,
after you have left the dance in your neighbor's stall,
and gone currying for the love thorns on Nicolasa's body?
And who wants to hear her voice,
exalting the coverlet of a light blue morning sky,
while you, fastened in a pinafore of your petate bed,
toss in a faceless novia's arms?
It is enough that she imagines that this lake
is Bethsaida, or Galilee, and that the rock hard
sustenance she finds in you grows
from the temple bell voice you've heard,
calling you away from your exhausted nets.

But so, my name was given by my arrival
in summer's first heat,
and by my mother's understanding
that what is sown dies and comes to life,
love's seeded protestation,
the spirit's rehabilitation after it has denied itself.
And yet, when I stand and pull the radiant fish
from Ajijic, I feel the Pauline tension in my body.
I know this day holds a double blessing,
and perhaps it would have been better
for my mother to conceive,
and to bear upon this very day,
a second gifted child, too diffident to deny
the authority in my name.

I would have had reason then to argue
with her need to lament the withered fig tree
of her body, her desire
to extol the conversion of a rejected stone,
in to a riverworn altar,
or into a sun calendar,
turning of its own weight.
And, though this lake lies distant from every gate
my mother's heart has entered,
to prepare me to hear the divinity in my calling,
and to see at the end of sun-benumbed days
the Lazarus light of this Mexican soil,
I would have welcomed the starfall of suffering
her life had promised me.

Now, I go slowly over the rock of my name,
touching the water-smoothed edges,
listening for the cock crow in my spirit,
the threefold betrayal of my mother's grace.

"Why am I in peril every hour?"

If he has appeared to Simon,
it is by the grace of God I am what I am
and the desert light becomes the lake light.
The saints have married.
And my mother will call me Peter,
and ask me again to "speak to the people
all the words of this Life."

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