Dilapidated old shacks coursed the quiet routes of Jerusalem’s infamous Sunday. The chill wind reluctantly commanded to approach and caress the serpentine alleys rested often, its shrill whistle wailing insubordinations. The unnerving silence impregnated the shadow of tomorrow; lonely dirt-encrusted children tampered with the fountain faucet in hushed and awkward glances.
While all inside the cramped and infested quarters of a humble dwelling, broken loaves jitteringly crept along the table’s edge. Some tired man, exhausted with his own malfeasance, gently caressed a swollen goblet of wine. “My blood…” And to the right, as though by habit, passed the transfigured alcohol. Shipwrecked eyes dulled in the soft glimmer of the faded vintage, pausing as though on the very threshold of demanding what suffered in silence. But the exhausted, battle-weary man at that table’s head did not assume that any would accept the challenge. He nodded briefly, his scarring eyes caging the twilight, figuring the darkness in decrepit complacence.
Each tilt the splintered grail took forced a consequent of last inspection: the apostles were not twelve today, but one by one by one until they made the number reckon with the Word. And in the graying heap of resigned melancholy, the brittle, broken skeleton of God in penitent solicitude shone brightly on the numbered twelve.
For some remembered raucous laughter, the humor in the failing pride of Peter – but whether it was the levity on water they deemed absurd, or else the blunt but misplaced faith of an incompetent, we shall never know. All dressed in salt, the garment of his work adhering to him everywhere, an embarrassing heftiness protruded in the skin-tight robes. All the more to entertain the shore-bound visitors and passers-by.
And some the unnatural conclusion of a simple blessing – from disregarded mutes to fellow prophets and disciples. And why the wasted old were spent with such attention? Why couldn’t Andrew have his uncurbed lusts maintained by the laying on of hands? Or perhaps the friendship with celebration and its eminent companion, alcohol, for Thomas?
And still he loved others more than we who had abandoned family to endure him: little children by the wayside, that none would recognize – bastards in their day, and of negligible value to the world. One by one, and dirty first, he reckoned them as God’s. And among the mossy pulpits in the mountain, given no adequate space of grief or mourning for his cousin John, enflamed a mass of ignorants who took away nothing but a satiated gut.
And tithing disciplines and feed and folly, crouching low to pew, and up, and stand and pray and kneel, and observe. But weekly gathering, gaze upon the cement face and question, beg, demonstrate, and be rebuked. Wind our serpentine queue to “My blood…my body…,” gathering the will to smile by an invalid, or recognize the faultless pride of infancy caressing waning age. How noble this testament in subtle silence, as anger creeps and infiltrates, and more than this – we strive to outpace it. But cut ourselves from insolence for one brief hour, we are under the tilting retrospection of a splintered Son of Man.
Shushing shadows drained inside the pale walls, painting darkness on our celebration. I remember arguments of how much to give and what to take and what the calculations should be. The pungent, aromatic (and therefore inappropriate) liquor carpeted the lip of the dead man’s chalice. Gracing it to my own lips, feeling the piercing thrust of wood jutting deep inside my vulnerable skin, I let it to the floor. The seeping liquid soaked in fibers of the wood, all eyes instructing me with hate.
But he never turned. Never uproariously disclaimed my faith. And how he knew: sexual proliferations, freedoms, liberalities, drunkenness and prostitution, greed and disproportioned hungers, insolence and roaring cupidities. The blood poured out for many, taken all for me.
And yet by virtue, in the pause and trial of an introspective moment, where perhaps the grating silence in a sexless night concurred its ill-at-ease, I conceived a fledgling hope. That propped caricature of starvation that led us in these trials and spoke in soft example, wrestling with evils far beyond my ability to conquer, weighed the moment well, and as I was last of twelve insolent and stupid men, he breathlessly proceeded…
“Do this in memory of me.”