Saturday, April 28, 2012

CROSS CONNECTIONS ‘an experience’

Jesus Fest youth volunteers Cynzya and Nikhil assist Oswald Cardinal Gracious drape the Cross with purple.
On his way back he is mobbed by a bunch of hoopsters eager to get on with their game, plauded by a motley group of friends and onlookers. The Angelus bells toll an end to their game. What now unfolds is unique … a once in a lifetime experience … Cross Connections.
The tableau opens with a plaint of high handed bureaucracy. Assorted points of view traverse the entire spectrum of why one should get involved in civic matters to whether one should waste precious time at various civic fora … moving on to the legalities of the issues at hand. Whether one is pitching in for political mileage or lending a shoulder to the downtrodden, it all harks back to the life and times of the Man who took a stand and made a difference … a couple of millennia ago.
Pilate’s wife ( Makushla ) now takes centre stage with her proclamation “I told Pilate that Jesus was a good man …” and goes on to proscribe her husband for his cowardice in the way he gives in to a band of rabble rousers of their time, missing the chance to prove to himself and history that he was a conscientious person. Even though God had let ‘His dream come to her’, a heathen, and that too a woman, in a time when women were mere vassals of their men ... she proves herself ‘a woman of substance.’ She vividly re-counts the harrowing experience of having to go through the condemnation, humiliation, torture and ultimately, the execution of the innocent but ‘lonely Man of power.’
Social issues then have their say … activists who’ve made a difference … door to door campaigns that create awareness of societal violence and injustice. Getting up and getting out to do something about a bad situation seems the only way to set things right.
The Carpenter from Jerusalem ( Siddesh ) is in a quandary now. Proudly meticulous in his trade, he has a battle on his mind. Making crosses to execute criminals at the behest of the authorities was arduous enough. Now he is saddled with the onerous task of making one for a fellow carpenter from Nazareth … another Jew … and no ordinary one that. This cross was for the ‘King’ of the Jews … whose only wrong was to do good.
The idyllic rocks off Band Stand are where we were transported to next. The discussion here dwells on whether love has an expiry date. How long does the romance in a relationship last? Do we hang on in marriages that exist on paper but not in our hearts? Love is not the failure … people are … having discarded the values of unconditional love … the love Jesus has for each one of us.
A seemingly insane Judas ( Daniel ) enters stage, attempting to justify his relationship with his ‘so-called friend and mentor’. Through his lies he exposes his own shallow nature, his unwillingness to sacrifice his all, his selfishness, his self-righteousness, his self-deceit, his greed and … his guilt ... at having betrayed the one Man who could have redeemed him. The chords of the purse he drew so tightly are similar to those drawing ‘so tight not so that not one wasted breath can escape’ him anymore.
We now enter the confines of the aged. Have we deserted them? No … they are always with us … even if we just look at them, not really bothering to see them … even if we hear them, not actually listening to what they trying to tell us ... even if we use them for whatever we can get from them.They are an expendable commodity … and we bide their time … even as we try to make ourselves as comfortable as possible around them. Antiques do have value … not if they are human though.
When Simon of Cyrene ( Keith ) was deemed to carry Jesus’ cross it was not of his choosing ... the ridicule, the scorn, the torment of the mob had him wary of being defiled. But his acceptance to do so gave him solace that overwhelmed his burden ... much like the satisfaction one would experience in defying propriety and political correctness for what is right … much like the joy one experiences in shouldering another’s burden. ‘Whatever you have forsaken in My name, you shall receive back a hundredfold, and you shall inherit everlasting life.’ With His arm around Simon, Jesus quietly encourages him to forgo a lot, but in its place He promises him ‘the peace that passeth understanding … an excellent bargain!’
Mary the Mother of Jesus ( Rebecca ) has ‘no words’ to recount the death of her child. She watches as His kind hands drag the heavy cross through the streets up to Calvary. She watches agonizingly as He hangs ‘between heaven and earth’ for three hours. The only words she finds are from ‘former days’ … the words of the angel Gabriel and the aged Simeon at the temple, they who had both foretold of dark times … and also of His kingdom that would have no end. Even as Jesus raises His voice with his last cry ‘It is finished’ ... the first words of her baby ring in her ears. But of the promise of ‘a kingdom with no end’ … she still believes.
The cry of the unborn child is seldom, if ever, heard. Outside the college gates we are witness to a group of teenagers talking about sex, pre and extra marital, protected sex and unwarranted teenage pregnancies. The issue revs up to cheap and freely available mtp’s or abortions. While for some, especially the ‘guys’, it’s a flippant issue, women rarely forgive themselves. How does one forgive oneself for murder? But God understands and forgives … and erases our sins.
A lurking Peter ( Rohan ) regrets having denied his Lord … the very same Person he had witnessed calming the storm, saving his life … the very same Man who had washed his feet the night before to cleanse his soul. That final morning the cock had not crowed a second time before he had denied Him thrice … just as His Master had prophesied. How he wished he could go back a day and have his Master ‘wash’ him clean again.
Thomas (Nestor) carries a lot of each one of us in him. How easy it is to partake of the feast on our own terms. But to have not seen and still believe, how difficult is that? How could ‘He, the the Son of man actually have stood in their presence … preposterous! Unless I can insert my fingers in the holes made by the nails …’ Jesus says to Thomas ‘You have seen and believed. Blessed are the ones who have not seen and still believe.’ He was speaking of each one of us … our faith can draw us near to Him and He will dwell in us forever. Thomas undrapes the cross of the purple cloth … and Mt Carmel Youth Movement's Nick and Keith drape the cross with a white shroud … ‘He is Risen!’
The curtain goes down with the Cardinal offering a prayer in thanksgiving.
Through the performance we have the choir; Antonette, Carlton, Keegan, Kimberley, Linford, Megan, Samantha, Sammy and Dominique (who also conducted the music) backed by Beven on keyboards, Ian on drums, Dominic on Bass and Callip on Lead Guitar; harmonising Christian Music standards; Were You There When They Crucified My Lord, Behold The Man, Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace, Via Dolorosa, If We Could See Through His Eyes, Make Me A Servant and If He Carried The Weight Of The World.
In the weeks of practice running up to the performance at Jesus Fest on April the 3rd, 2009, I was enamored by the musings of each of the cast; ‘heavy metal’ Abigail, ‘wasted’ Daniel, ‘ball chor auntys’ Darryl, ‘romantic’ Jill, ‘unconditional lover’ Keith, ‘eraser’ Kunaal, ‘ghanti bajao’ Lizann, ‘tun kittey zahno’ Malaika, ‘bmc official’ Nathaniel, ‘what a melon’ Nestor, ‘sala’ Nick, ‘gannawala’ Noletta, ‘woman of substance’ Makushla, ‘words, no words’ Rebecca, ‘bowl of waves’ Rohan, ‘medha patkar’ Rheazel and ‘proud carpenter’ Siddesh.
‘okaaay yaaah’ Asif beautifully wove the tapestry of the theme together with finesse. His brilliant preparatory games helped hone our stage co-ordination skills while the vocal exercises he taught us made us more intelligible.
Asif was ably assisted by ‘clap clap HO’ Gaurav … whose yogic aesthetics brought each one of us back to our center and helped keep us in shape. He even incorporated a testing of our vocal and physical calisthenics with the thoroughly enjoyable ‘gi ya ro la!’ ...
To ‘ready to replace anyone, anytime’ Warner should very undoubtedly go the ultimate credit for being audacious enough to take the plunge and produce his very own masterpiece of a script, and being so very malleable with the lines to suit the final outcome. But then, Warner would always credit his ‘boss’ Larry for letting him out on a limb. An aside was a scintillating take of ‘Via Dolorosa’ on the penultimate afternoon, Warner’s voice slicing through new territory … rendering a version that could feature on any alternative chart.
Symbolising Jesus was, for me, very definitely an honour. To share the stage with such a wonderful set of vivacious young and not so young people was, to say the least, a humbling experience.
Why Me, Lord?

[April 3, 2009]