Each year, as Easter approaches, I am pulled across an intangible threshold into a different sense of time.
It is dense and multi-layered. It’s like entering into a cocoon, but not so much safe and warm as removed a little from the everyday.
I meander back 2,000 years to Jerusalem and see myself next to the main protagonists, the religious leaders, Pilate, the pilgrim crowds, the disciples and Jesus.
Inside this cocoon, it’s not safe, and it’s not unsafe; it’s immediate, present… first-hand.
Everything slows down, with much to ponder and puzzle over …Who knew what? What did Jesus foresee? These are not questions in search of answers, but still more thresholds providing access to something more…
Over thirty years, while it is more and more familiar, it’s fresh each time I cross over.
It only happens at Easter time.
Mark’s gospel is famous for its frequent use of the word ‘immediately.’ Immediately, Jesus did this; immediately, he did that.
Jesus is always in a rush; so much beckons him forward.
But as we approach Holy Week, the pace of the narrative slows down. We can discern distinct days, ‘the following day, he came from Bethany’ (Mk 11:12). By the way, the fact that he spent his nights in Bethany, outside Jerusalem, suggests the existence of what we might call a ‘safe house.’
In the parable about the need for watchfulness (Mk 13:32-37), we read about the master returning at ‘evening, midnight, cockcrow or dawn’ (Mk 13: 35).
These terms refer to different watches of the night, and they mark another slowing in the pace of the narrative from days to hours.
In fact, these moments divide Mark’s Passion narrative into sections: evening (Passover with the disciples, Mk 14:17-31), midnight (Gethsemane, Mk 14:32-52), cockcrow (trial and Peter’s betrayal, Mk 14:53-72), and dawn (condemnation, Mk15:1-20). Time now progresses very slowly.
Mark has constructed his account in a way that invites us, the readers, to linger. We may find ourselves not so much as readers from another era but participants in a time already past.
We should note that the original parable, which at surface level concerns the Second Coming, also parses Jesus’ final hours. There is a purposeful ambiguity here that calls for time and consideration.
I am reading ‘Amnesia’ by Luke Stegemann. Its topic is landscape, memory and violence. Specifically, it addresses massacres perpetrated against First Nation peoples and extrajudicial murders carried out by the Fascists against thousands of Republicans during and after the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39.
These matters make it compelling. The author also conveys an experience of lyrical beauty in ‘reading’ landscape. Suffice to say, what he discerns is frequently distressing.
I have little practice or ability in reading landscape. Nonetheless, the author has caused me to slow down a little, even stop, and notice more.
It’s like Mark’s narrative but addressed to landscape.
I commend his book to you.
May I also wish you a ‘first-hand’ experience of time as you journey through Easter?