Posted by: MC | April 25, 2011

Vacation in Redemption Season

…Posting this on Monday morning in Malta — Qawra, to be exact — in a piazza at the edge of St Paul’s Bay with free public wifi access.  Only took me three days to find this place (sort of a miracle, really) and only a 2 mile walk from the hotel.

Easter came and went.  The wind and surf were and continue impressively high.  It’s not quite tourist season here, which is sort of challenging weather wise, but excellent in many other ways.  Like getting a slightly more up close sense of Malta, and the Maltese.  The people of this island celebrate — or better said, commemorate — most energetically on Good Friday — that’s the focus of this brief blog.  The woman at the desk where tourists go to get towels lit up — her brown eyes took on the look of highly polished garnets — her smile was complete.  “You must see the procession,” she said.  “There is nothing more sad or proud in all of Malta.  You must see them; our most precious icons.”  “And there are live people,” she added.  “They tell the whole story of the Easter with their costumes and their faces.”  Grief and joy sit side by side.

Yesterday was Good Friday.  I stood with my daughter in downtown Mosta across from the ancient round cathedral.  Whatever its history of occupations, the small island country ofMaltaradiates Catholicism.  Maybe it’s amplified with the Easter season.  Maybe it’s actual devotion – un-self-conscious, simple, rare.  I like the thought of that.

Sara and I were walking from the bus late in the afternoon.  We’d had hours waiting for the somber procession finally to unfold with the Cathedral’s slow exhale.  In a pace measured to convey the day’s memory of unspeakable grief, small children and adult men in biblical costume carried the flags and other symbols of their devotion.  Their steps were the speed of the slowest of heartbeats or breaths.  Men in all white gathered eight-strong to carry the heavy wooden platforms bearing enormous statuary — icons that see the light of day once every year, and then only if it’s not raining.

Today we were lucky.  There had only been a few drops on the windshield of the old and pretty much careening bus from Qawra to Mosta.  The clouds even parted for the procession. Now, on our walk back to our coast-side hotel, the clouds were back and the wind was up.  Still we chatted happily about our experience.  We had just been given an accidental dip into deep culture, neither of us having any information or expectation about Easter inMalta.  Then there we were just on the other side of sharing in one of the most precious observances in Maltese life.

In the season of winter’s shift to spring with it’s recognition in traditions like Easter and Passover is yet another reminder of the solid and good in human nature.  The stuff we often forget to notice.

In many ways the stories I tell in this blog are a series of fingers pointing in the same direction – toward listening and honoring, toward wonder.  It could all get old and repetitive, except that, like the second question I asked on the EX:Change trip – What is important to have remain the same? – novelty often resides in what endures to be held most reliable, most revered, and most dear.

Maybe little can be fresher than devotion that is un-self-conscious and simple.  Odd that, even as such reliability is so within reach for any of us, it remains at present so seemingly rare.

So, here from vacation time; here in the season of redemption, the enduring kinship defining human being carries the day.  It goes to sleep with us every night, wakes with us every morning, writes and reads and honors the mystery of pain and joy in the procession of our lives.  What comfort in the noticing.

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