When I was a young girl, my mother told me the story of Jesus dying on the cross on Good Friday. I know she had told me the story to explain why I couldn’t go off and play that afternoon, and so I stayed dutifully in front of our flat on Ring Street.
I don’t remember Mom telling me the story, but I do remember hanging from the iron hand-rail that led to the sidewalk, thinking about a man who was dying somewhere that afternoon, on a cross. I remember looking out across the street, imagining the scene in my child’s mind. I wondered about him. I had a sense of loneliness, as if loneliness hung in the air that day. I couldn’t see what was happening, but it was somewhere, then, in present time.
It was a quiet afternoon. In the 1950’s, activity stopped and stores closed from 12 to 3 on Good Friday afternoon. Folks who went to church, did. And many folks did in that Midwestern city, good and faithful church folks who sat for 3 hours listening to sermons about the 7 last words Jesus spoke. Then, they returned to whatever else they were doing. In Milwaukee, I’m sure, Friday fish fry meals at taverns across the city and state would be full that evening, as they usually were.
My family were not church-going people, and so it seems strange, in a way, that Mom told me the story, but she did. Stories have power even when they are not our stories. Stories that are told, again and again, have more power. Stories have more power than fact or history, truly. And stories we tell become our stories, have a way of working their wonder and fear and meaning inside of us, all the time.
Now, I love the quiet season of Lent, that time of year when winter gives way to spring, slowly, with each lengthening day, with early buds on slender branches, with each storm that may be the last for the season. And I love the movement of the moon across the sky. I wait for the evening when I see the Pascal moon, the full moon that heralds Passover and Easter, an off-shoot of Passover. That same moon marked the day and time for the telling of the story, Jesus taking a meal with his closest friends, honoring the ancient story, also. The moon marks the time when winter slinks into spring, when green appears, when life that was under the earth comes back from the death of winter.
I watch the moon. For as much as we modern folks know, moon is mystery. For a time, it gives reflected light that lights up the white cover on my bed as if it was lit from within. In the evening and night, moonlight comes into the bedroom, and by morning, it is far across the sky, hanging over the Pacific in the west.
Moon is mystery enough. All those other things, those theological understandings and explanations, do no justice to the moon. The passing of time is mystery enough, also, that I would reach back in memory today to see myself hanging from that bar, on that lonely day, the street quiet, and me, safe in the assurance that Mom was close by, checking on me from the upstairs window, often.