‘Jesus. Such an annoying prick.’ ~ Caiafas
‘I know.’ ~ Judas
Easter. The Holy Week. A period when Greek Orthodox Christianity gathers to celebrate the sacrifice and resurrection of the Son of God in the name of a world purified from evil and ignorance, in holy congregation, in a tongue no one understands.
The situation is tragicomic. All sermons and liturgies are delivered in Koine, a version of Greek which no one speaks, save the preachers, the linguistics professors, and your odd 110-year-old veteran. Churchgoers are addressed in a language they don’t understand. They don’t get the body of the ritual, certainly not word for word, and mumble their way through the service like teenagers in a concert, jabbering lyrics they never really paid attention to, striving to keep up, making shit up as they go along. Happy to be there. Privileged. Present in conscience, if that, but certainly not in mind. How can you be fully present when listening to hours and hours of untranslated ceremony?
To be fair, some are more present than others. They may not understand what is being said, but they are committed to the ceremony, reading from the liturgical texts, enunciating every word, getting involved, excited, without ever grasping the full extent of what they’re saying. It’s like reading Shakespeare in Olde English, first edition, going through the impenetrable language and getting a whiff of things (not that the Scripture compares to Shakespeare in quality, just in inaccessibility), catching glimpses, never really getting the entire message but trying nonetheless. Left with a big hazy blank at the end of it. Churchgoers experience that. They do their best to keep up, poor souls, reading from the liturgicals, raising their voices during the odd passage they’ve memorized from childhood, lighting up at the sight and sound of the occasional word they do recognize, meandering through the rest of it, chanting gibberish gibberish Christ gibberish something Grace gibberish something Lord Almighty, Light something something Praise the Lord something gibberish something Amen.
Hallelujah! Never has Divinity been so transcendentally addressed. Bless you, child. You have reached a divine state of consciousness through a combination of boredom, confusion, lethargy, rote and recital, daydreaming, oxygen deprivation and pure herd instinct.
Never mind the efforts of Jesus Whose efforts were specifically designed to make the word of God accessible to all people. All people.
Imagine if churchgoers understood every word they chanted and sung. Imagine if they had the chance to engage with the sacred text in that emotionally charged context. The feeling of lighting up and being part of the show as a participant, not an observer lost in translation … imagine feeling like that during the entire service.
Nah! Too logical and rad. Can’t have that. Sorry folks, rote and recital is the way to transcend your way to the Lord. Go on, learn those lines, snap snap. Stop wasting time. Get on with it.
And stop asking questions and raising hell. Hubris and curiosity killed the cat, and Christ. It crushed and crucified Him. But He was the Son of God and did it for you, sacrificed Himself for you so that you may be delivered. He died for your sins so you don’t have to, and was resurrected in order to show you the way. Do as you’re told and His death will not have been in vain. Everything will be fine. He will rise again to save you. He will deliver you, if you let Him. Just kill your annoying questions, and your curiosity, too, and stop demanding to understand the words used to praise Him.
Christ has risen, brothers and sisters! Truly risen! Praise the Lord.
See you next year. Now repeat after me: Christ gibberish something Grace gibberish …
By Nicolas D. Sampson