Wednesday, May 1, 2019

"Beating Judas" and Good Friday

I'm  not  one to jump on bandwagons. My Polish father taught me to look both ways. We would debate, and he would always choose the opposite point of view to whatever I was arguing. This was perverse and annoying, but it was one way for him to  insist that ultimate truths of right and wrong are found outside the box, and to teach me the same. 

I am reminded that Poland has been invaded from the north -- Sweden, from the south, Turkey, from the West, Germany, from the east. Russia. From the right, Nazism, from the left, communism. 

So no I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon of beating up on Pruchnik villagers, most of them children, for beating Judas on Good Friday. There are enough people condemning these villagers to non-person status. 

I've celebrated many a Polish-themed Easter, in the US and once in Poland, and I have never come in contact with this custom. I was vaguely aware of the drowning of Marzanna, a Pagan custom that involved drowning an image meant to suggest winter, but I know of that only from reading, not from real life experience. Beating Judas? Maybe I read of it, maybe not. It's embarrassing to admit that I'm not intimately familiar with a custom that is now playing such an outsize role in Polish-Jewish relations. 

But this *just* occurred to me. The villagers, news reports say, carried out this custom on Good Friday

Secular culture thinks that Christmas is the biggest day of the year for Christians. If you are really a devout Christian, Christmas is of course lovely but Easter is the  more important day. 

Good Friday can never be a happy day to me. It's ground into me. Good Friday is the day that Jesus died. For me. And died horribly. 

Darkness fell over the earth. The veil was torn in two. 

Three pm. Good Friday. Always conscious of it. 

It's a day of fasting and church attendance. A day of reflection. 

I can't listen to rock music on Good Friday. I don't go to the movies on Good Friday. I make sure that no matter what, I do something formal related to my faith, for example saying the Stations of the Cross, that walk you through Jesus' final hours on earth. 

Churches often cover statues with purple cloth on Good Friday. Lights are dimmed. There is no mass or Eucharist on Good Friday. This is a big deal. Really hardcore Catholics will attend mass every day. That mass is celebrated every day is a big deal for Catholics.  That there is no mass on Good Friday is similarly a big deal. 

"All celebration of the sacraments on this day is strictly prohibited, except for the sacraments of Penance and Anointing of the Sick.
Funerals are to be celebrated without singing, music, or the tolling of bells.
Baptism in danger of death is also permitted." Paschales Solemnitatis 

Catholics venerate the cross on Good Friday. You approach the cross, you kneel, and you kiss the foot of the cross. This is a very solemn, humbling practice. 

Finally, you cry on Good Friday. You cry because a good man was tortured to death in unspeakable ways. Stripped. Spat upon. His beard yanked. Forced to wear a crown of thorns. Whipped with weighted leather strips till, as eyewitnesses reported, bones and bodily organs were exposed. Crucified. 

You *think* about this on Good Friday. And you cry. 

I feel this *every* Good Friday. I have felt this weight, this darkness, this stark view of the world, every Good Friday I have lived, here, in Africa, Nepal, sunny California. I cannot hang with friends and joke and laugh on Good Friday. It's Good Friday. 

And on *this* day some chucklehead in Pruchnik decided to resurrect an obscure custom that involves violence, bigotry, and hilarity? 

Shaking my head. 

Yes, yes, yes, I hear what a secular person might say. "Well, all that heaviness and pain. The people need someone to blame all that pain on. So they blame Jews." 

That's what a secular person would say. 

Me, I am not secular. And I was never taught that the "Jews killed Jesus." In fact I had to learn about this belief late in life, from non-Catholics. 

Rather I was taught, as the Council of Trent insisted, that *we* killed Jesus. In fact in the Palm Sunday service that precedes Good Friday, we -- the congregation -- play that very part. We hold up palm branches, as the priest, the stand-in for Jesus, enters the church. we celebrate Jesus with those palms. And then we turn, just as the crowd turned. We literally shout, during mass, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

Deep, heavy truths about how fickle humans are. And how blind.

That some have turned those truths into the beating Judas custom, on Good Friday of all days, is many things, but it is most certainly, as Sue has insisted in the comments section, not Christian at all. 

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Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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