It’s a warm day, the windows are open, and I heard some sort of chanting or singing somewhere outside. Some kind of religious chanting is what it sounded like, but I didn’t really pay any attention. It kept getting closer. I went to the front window. Several young people wearing blaze orange safety vests and carrying stop signs were standing at the crosswalks, ushering a long stream of people. The first people were singing something doleful. Then came — yes, it was a man dressed in an white ankle-length robe, with a big wooden cross on his shoulder. He was being escorted by a dozen or so angry-looking men in uniforms of short red robes and gold-colored helmets with plumes; one of these men periodically hit the man carrying the cross with a whip. It was a Good Friday procession passing right in front of our house.
At one level, I couldn’t help but see that this was just acting: the angry men were wearing Roman soldier costumes that I had purchased for Sunday school; the white robe worn by the one man was far too pristinely white and unwrinkled; the flogging was too gentle to be real. And not everyone was fully engaged: a happy toddler smiled and laughed in its stroller; a young woman seemed to be paying more attention to the sweet coffee drink she held; the priest in his Roman collar looked a little tired and distracted and I imagined that he was thinking ahead to what came next.
At a deeper level, this wasn’t acting at all. These people were serious enough about their religion to spend an evening re-enacting an important religious moment; perhaps they left work early to do so, certainly they were going to have a late dinner. They were serious enough to go to the trouble of purchasing costumes, organizing safety wardens, and showing up for the procession. A processional like this inhabits both the mundane and the sacred realms; and I was glad that these people brought something of the sacred to our busy street, sharing with their neighborhood a little bit of what’s important to them.