Passion week in the Christian church calendar is complex time – emotions swirling around that stain the corners of each day with shadows reaching ever longer and darker. Prior to Easter Passion week has all the trappings of Anti-Advent in prep for the worst Christmas ever – no great expectations, no shiny lights, no comfort and joy. The march of this Lenten season is a slog… steel toed boots kicking through the muddy days, bumping and falling under the weight of the brooding sky stained red in the horizon. It is not a pleasant time. In a sense, Passion week is easier if you are not ‘passionate’ about what it before us. The growing sense of dread, the longing to turn back and erase all that is to come, the fact that each day only marks more loss, more sorrow, more heartache. In short, it is a world ending time. Things are never the same after Passion week. Sure, there is the annual explosion of wonder and joy with the dawn of Easter, the giddiness of shouting “He is Risen, He is Risen indeed” with other congregants in joyous resolve. And yet, the metallic aftertaste of Passion week remains. I like the way that Yann Martel puts it in “Life of Pi” when his young protagonist Pi muses of what frustrates him about Christianity and especially the paradox of the God/Man Jesus. He rails against the Priest – Father Martin – in frustration:
“It is wrong that this Christian God would let His avatar die. That is tantamount to letting a part of Himself die. For if the Son is to die, it cannot be fake. If God on the Cross is God shamming a human tragedy, it turns the Passion of Christ into the Farce of Christ. The death of the Son must be real. Father Martin assured me that it was. But once a dead God, always a dead God, even resurrected. The Son must have the taste of death forever in His mouth. The Trinity must be tainted by it; there must be a certain stench at the right hand of God the Father. The horror must be real. Why would God wish that upon Himself? Why not leave death to the mortals? Why make dirty what is beautiful, spoil what is perfect?
Love. That was Father Martin’s answer.” (Life of Pi, 54)
As the Church slogs for a few more days through this darkened weekend of anti-celebration, it is important to note that God has a bad taste in His mouth after this. This is not born without a price. This is a celebration par excellence no doubt… but in the same light this is not an erasure – this is redemption. This is not a forgetting – this is forgiveness. This is Love that bends into the dark places, that tastes the bitter herbs, and yet marches onward.