Today is Good Friday, it is the morning and it is wonderfully quiet: the quiet after the storm.
Yesterday, the remnants of tropical cyclone Ita battered New Zealand, smashing caravans, flooding rivers, causing slips and toppling giant trees across houses. Here in Wellington we got off easy even though half of April’s rain fell in one day.
I can’t believe how still, warm and nice it is; the perfect time to reflect as I don’t have to be at work for another 6 hours. Yes, it seems nuts working on one of the most sacred of holidays (so sacred, even the temples of greatest worship are closed preventing the eternal pilgrimage to malls and Easter sales).
Where could I possibly be working on this hallowed day? At the biggest cathedral of our age, the local sports stadium: there’s a rugby game on don’t cha know?
It’s the last thing on my mind. I’m rushing around in the quiet trying to get every domestic job done before the rush of going away for two nights with my 6 year-old and getting back for the working week.
But my head is full of this day; what it means.
21 years ago I was both much younger, and an actor. It was my life, not just pretence or aspiration, I worked around the country, saw every show I could; studied it at varsity. Which is why a lifetime ago on Good Friday I took part in a Passion Play in Christchurch’s Cathedral Square.
It was a bit of a radical production: my good mate played Jesus as a black-jeaned bogan with a Mohawk. I was one of the ‘baddies’ who got to swig beer and abuse the crowd as I dragged him around the various stations placed around the Square. A lot of my close friends from the (for want of a better word) alternative music and theatre scene were involved. We’ve stayed in touch (a minor miracle), I could write a lot of detail but it deserves more space than I can allow right now.
Suffice to say, it was quite something standing inside the foyer of the Cathedral at 9am on a quiet Good Friday, surrounded by my closest friends, listening to the drums beating outside, summoning the crowd, while I nervously opened the can of beer (an official prop) which foamed all over me, sobering me (slightly) from my way-too-stoned-state (as I said, I was a baddie).
As the heavy oak doors creaked open to reveal a daunting crowd, I inspected the NZ Police issue truncheon borrowed from a drummer’s Dad, noticing that the truncheon had ‘Daddy’s Little Naughty Stick’ written on it in biro. My sobriety became even more complete.
It was an exhilarating performance. The crowd loved it. The jokes, clever insight and sharp wit went down well. It was the best review for any show I had been part of.
And though I have studied religion (and am a thorough atheist) crucifying one of my best mate’s in the town square is something I enjoyed beyond belief.
Of course, the shattering earthquake my hometown suffered in 2011 has shined a different light on that morning.
While the earthquake failed to destroy the Cathedral, there has been an unbelievable rush to knock it down, as well as a heartening resistance to this barbarity. That great symbol of a city, and a culture, now sits in a beautiful and horrific limbo.
Maybe that is apt.
I recently listened to a great podcast about crucifixion. Like all things, there is a lot more to it than I knew. For those at the time it was the act itself that shocked most. It was practiced across many cultures for 1000 years, and the main aim was to humiliate and degrade. Dead bodies were even dug up to be crucified in order to exact that intended purpose.
Good Friday remembers a day nearly 2000 years ago when a much-loved person from history died. But it seems that to the people of the time, it was the manner of execution that would have caused the greatest trauma.
All these things fill my head in the quiet of this morning. But I also know that this is the second Good Friday since I lifted my father’s dead body from the bed where he made his dramatic exit 2 hours before the sacred holiday began.
I knew he would be cold; stiff from rigor mortis. What I wasn’t prepared for was how heavy his wasted body was.
People in the past have weighed bodies before and after death in order to find the weight of the soul. But having carried a ‘lifeless’ Christ from the cross, and my father’s corpse from his bed (both on Good Friday), I know that dead bodies weigh more than the living.
Today, it is warm and quiet. I love it. I’m drinking it in.
Time for some hot-cross buns before the noise of the Hurricanes begins.