caravaggio: kiss of judas, c. 1602
i remember meeting the cardinal for the ceremony. wearing my sunday best, eyes casting down, i was somewhat confused what the big deal was, as i have not learned how big, powerful and old the catholic tradition was. after all, south korean isnt one of the 'traditional' catholic countries. my dad, upon religion shopping, chose catholicism for the family (a whole another story about that). since my mother was heavily involved in the local church community, i grew up with loads of bible stories in my childhood.
some things did not make sense and some things raised questions rather than answers. but as a little kid, most of my life didnt make much sense, so i just chose to let the differences go and did my bible studies. the fact there was a league and i could do well in it was a big draw for a small second child, competing with her closely-aged brothers.
when i met the cardinal, he asked me what made me study the bible; i thought there must be a good answer, but i blurted the truth instead:
i dont really understand it, so i hope to understand it.
he kindly didnt ask much more. he congratulated me and gave me coupla things as prizes: wall plaque, few books and a lovely cross which still hangs in my parents's place.
then i worked at local korean catholic community church for 8+ years as an organist. playing and working for my godmother, the music minister and conductor of a sizeable choir, over the years, i came so familiar with the rituals and services, especially for christmas and easter.
as a working kiddie organist, easter season was pain on the butt. music's slow and sad, doleful and full of shadow of death. we practiced the same tunes over and over. as easter approaches, there were more things- extra practices, to make musical arrangements, call up musicians for quartets and such and getting their music ready etc., then four straight days of long and serious service. at end of easter sunday survice, i would dream about passing out and dying. hahaha.
now that i do not work as a church musician, however, the meaning of easter grows larger in my mind every year. good friday being the legal holiday, even the university closes, giving me a bit of room to quiet down.
yesterday, pope francis washed the feet of refugees. then he broke the bread with them. today, there mustve been thousands of passion reading, telling the same story of jesus.
this year, i remember a few parts of the passion in particular: peter being told about his upcoming denial of jesus. jesus being human, being all alone in the dark night, the ultimate night as a human being. inevitable call of the cock, calling for death. judas' hug and kiss for jesus. purple robe of the king and the crown of thorns. soldiers drawing for loots- jesus' cloth. mother left crumpled with grief.
i am deeply grateful that i grew up with the catholic tradition close to me, as if it was up to me, i would not have (what normal kid wants to focus on religion at that age?!) the rituals are beautiful and there are many traditions and arts built upon it.
and today, i think of the great passion music that describes the story of fall of a son of the god. and the irony that the most difficult time of his trial mustve been the 'waiting,' in getsemane, in silence- while his friends all fell asleep, one by one. the nights in dry climate can be rather cold, as land mass cools down. if jesus was wearing his day cloth, im sure it wouldve been cold. and dark. so dark. we forget how dark nature is, as our perception have changed to omnipresent light in our 21st ceuntry lives.
but perhaps the most 'cold' thing would be to stand all by yourself, in the wide world. jesus being a man, not a god (so that death is possible), he wouldve felt the physical discomfort. and the psychological discomfort that comes from betrayal, fear and anger.
to stand alone, what would that be like?
with family and small but strong group of friends, i cannot imagine what that would be like.
but there he was, the crux of the easter miracle.
a man alone.
full of sorrow.
pope francis washed the feet of the refugees. i wondered if those refugees wouldve felt alone during their journey- some would have, some may be totally alone by now. as we discuss their welfares, many of them would be standing alone, in the wide whole world. and jesus wouldve known what that felt like.
the stories, they come back, from my childhood. and they become real as i get older.
the tears flow, as good friday night is the night of defeat. oh how mary wouldve cried her heart, till it's burnt to dark soot.