A nightmare in Holy Thursday
My friend Empires was a man of many lectures and adventures a great reader, in his young days, he came across of a big short story by the Asturian writer Leopold Alas Clarin called EL DIABLO EN SEMANA SANTA (The devil in the holy week). And as it happens, what is in books later is in real life, fulfilling the norm by Aristotle’s quod est prius in sensu postea etiam in intellectu, but the other way round. The plot was about a man of good will going every day to the library. He was a dreamer; he lived by the Law of Books, in the middle of a country of illiterates, and the great ideals thinking that there was hope for human kind. By education. The inception of good morals. Reforms. The quest of excellence. He read and read. He dreamt and dreamt. One day-it was Good Thursday when Christ invited his disciple to the Passover dinner and instituted the rule of love, a new commandment I give to you that you love each other as I have loved you- went to the hall of the municipal books, choosing that endeavour because it was quiet and warm. The precept of loving each other was hardly followed by the so called Christians. And he lived in a small Spanish town by the name of Epicidia, when the believers brought the images of the passion to the streets and organized the big processions typical Spanish, the poor guy was a believer but he never was in a procession. Humbug he said, humbug and superstitions. Poor guy, he became the odd out man and was always under suspicion, our poor writer and reader he worked long hours in the pursuit of happiness and endeavoured at the local library. Religion was for him a free feeling of intimate and personal convictions of respect for the other criteria. That was why perhaps that his faith was more consistent and deeper. He loved that silence and seclusion and quietness, only transgressed by the drone of a solitary Spanish fly and the distant sound of the glare of drums and trumpets at the sacramental processions of Holy Week. When barefooted Nazarenes in black or crimson cassocks baring candles or carrying crosses went to the streets. You could also perceive the murmurs of their steps mingled with the strophes of the Miserere. Some of them trailed big chains cuffed to their barefoot. The spectacle was quite medieval. It was the Day of Atonement. For their sins they mounted crosses and pillories staging the different passages of the Crucifixion in real. It was a public manifestation of Catholicism and a signal of their conversion in a country where the Cross achieved victory over the Half Moon and the Menorah by the rule of sword. For fear of the Inquisition, they had to show and make the big performance demonstrating adherence to Orthodoxy, and that the reason why from the windows of many homes hung the ham’s big logs and strings of black puddings and mondongos. Physically, faith had to be proved, or demonstrated the allegiance of the culinary codes of Roman Catholicism which permitted the flesh of the pig at meals. Jews and Moslems, meanwhile, never ate pork. It was banned by their prophets as inmundus or forbidden animal. Christ said, it is true, that what made man pure or impure was not what he ingested through his mouth but what he expelled from it. The inmundus or unclean had to do more with immaterial things like bad thoughts dwelling inside or ill wishes. With that rule he destroyed the puritanical commandments of the Synagogue and he said beware of the false prophets. Don’t trust them, the devil is marauding like a lion and there are wolves disguised under sheep skins. The resurrected Christ is always in perpetual war versus antichrists. Here it is the perpetual fight of our Lord who was a rebel against conventions of satanically established forces of the Pharisees And there is the devil coming even in the Holy Week. However, the Conversos, in their zeal, went further up and appear more roman that the Romans and more popish than their own pope although in private they might remain to the religion of their father. That is why in Spain religion had been secularly a question of appearances. In essence, that was the justification of the holy week big show: to try to rub off the old stigma in a nation which endeavoured to find coherence in credos and forget the differences of believes of ethnical precedence (Goths, Jews, and Arabs). Spain was always a melting pot effervescent. A big olla. The locals were eager, every spring, to stage the drama of our Saviour in flesh as it were a reality show. You could touch it in the defiles of those agonising crucifixes all bruised, maimed and blooded in the procedures or “pasos” leading to Macabre Mountain or Golgotha or into presidium expiring in the cross or hand tied at the flagellation, or those vivid “dolorosas”, pasted; tearful faces majolica full of gold and silver and embroidery. You could smell it in Seville when Macarena our lady of Dolores tumbles in her throne entering Triana among of flood of flowers and the streets full of people clapping in emotion or in the verge of hysteria calling names to the statue saying props that for the non accustomed ear might sound irreverent: “Mira qué guapa llega la hija de puta”. And you could hear the whining echoes of the saetas a Morris song deriving from the ancient jarchas sung in Andalusia by the time of the caliphs. All that was very sensual that you could not think that you are in a holy week but in a paean festivity. The crowds seemed to want to touch the old goddess and have intercourse with divinity. But to our man, the character depicted by the magical prose of Clarin religion was quite an other thing, more abstract and inner feeling you can’t share with anyone but yourself. Also, he did not like capuchones dressed like the kukluxklan. Those figures clad in black with piercing eyes under their hoods beneath the tradition of the penanced by the inquisition frightened him. They were like the masks of carnival. Holy week the histrionic representation of Passover, the hooded cowl of the capuchones was the ballast of five centuries under the spell of the tribunal of faith, the holy office. Like the jewelled thrones and the trailing “peplum” or the Dolorosas. Oh yes the laughing devil was jumping to and fro under the cathedral gurgles. The inquisition is always in the back of our mind. For him the pathos and suffered of our lord at the cross had more consistency and purpose than a mere mystery play. His passion was a reminder of his love for men, a perpetual exhortation to repentance and also a signal of his presence in the earth until the end of time. The invincibility of the cross stems from celestial reasons rather tan earthly explanation or convictions. But evil was around even in holy week. That was the idea of demoniac presence at Holy week by Clarin. This criterion wasn’t shared by most of his countrymen. And the poor archivist and scholar was surrounded by suspicion and forebodings. His life was marked by incomprehension. Politically, he was also incorrect. Why? He dared to think by his own. They treated him as a the sheep out of flock, mad heretical. Society had its own caveats and is full of conventionalisms. You cant trod the line. You cant deviate from what is assumed and accepted by the hypocritical moral attitude. My friend Empires looked at the personage described by Clarin and saw in it the spitting image of himself: the odd man out, the freethinker, the mystic, the guy with his own ideas and visions. He didn’t join the mob, he didn’t adhere to the conventional norm. that was why he was crucified. Like his Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
On the balmy spring evening as he was leaving his beloved library he came across with one of the many processions organised by the Guild Hall. This one was one of flagellants. Man barefoot and naked backs came down flogging themselves wuith flagella and batons staging the scenes what happened two rhousand years ago in the Lithostros of Jersualem, oh vos omnes qui transtis per viam videte si es dolor quasi dolor meus. Jeremiah said. He stepped aside and looked in awe to the representation of the Holy Burial (Santo entierro) but he did not kneel down or made the signal of the cross, as perceptive, and for that he became under the suspicion of the local policeman. One of them who looked exactly like some of the Pilate bailiffs who executed the Lamb of god in Via Dolorosa. The town was full of henchmen and burrows. The gallows by coincidence in Epicidia stayed behind the old library building. It was called El Rollo. They were burnt at the staked after long processes to be condemned by the Inquisition.
- Eh you, why are not you in the processions. Are not you a Christian?-the myrmidon in blue police uniform said.
He did not know quite to answer.
-Em… I had to do a little work with my thesis, and need consult some books for my readings
-Didn’t you know, you bastard, you heathen you scum of the earth, what day today is?
-Holy Thursday, sir, and tomorrow Good Friday should be-, he answered meekly.
-I did not see you at the Oficios (liturgical services)
-Perhaps I thought it was not necessary. At home I read the Passion of our Lord.
-Esa misa no te vale (that Mass is not valid) are you a protestant or somewhat?
-No, sir, I am catholicus, apostolicus, romanus.
-Well then. You had to explain that to the Judge. Come with me.
In Epicidia the holy Tribunal of the Faith was suppressed in the XIX century but that infamous court is in open session in the mind of many ignorant. The warden asked him for the brief where he kept his books and jotters. Give those papers. He resisted the order and the local policemen called others of his cronies and they beat the archivist, the writer, the searcher, the dreamer, the mystic, on the spot. They handcuffed him and took him apprehended. Regardless of the exempting privilege of habeas corpus, was conducted to the police station or cuartelillo. There they beat him again, they harassed, impeached, called him names, slapped his face, and punched his nose. He suffered with patience the effrontery and in a way he was proud to undergo the same suffered of his Lord in the presidium. He realized that the Devil is at loose even in Holy Week The world since then is full of kangaroo courts. Unfortunately Anas and Caiphas, the holy sacerdotal class, the pontiffs had many emulated too long during 2000 years of history. And when the cockcrow sang three times the welcome to the new morning, they released him but he was in a poor state after the “paliza”. He could hardly walk and was all bruised. His hands, his head all his limbs ached but he could at the end by the grace of God reach his humble lodgings. And when he went back home and entered in the hall of his house, his wife seeing him as an Ecce Homo” said:
-Eh, you have been drinking again .
That was her salute. Poor guy! Even his wife wasn’t interested but such sort of things were quite frequent in Epicidia those days. There was no love.
13/02/2005 que corresponde al dia de hoy idus aprilis 2009 13