My Intimate Encounter with Christ
I love Lent. I guess it is the Catholic martyr in me. I love the ashes, the fasting, the palms, and I love how you are forbidden to say “Alleluia!”. Oh, and the colors of Lent... black, purple, red... Lent is sexy. Even more than loving Lent, I love Good Friday. Not many people would say this, but Good Friday just may be my favorite holiday. It is such a dark and mysterious day. Falling asleep on Good Friday meant that Easter was only - like Little Orphan Annie said – a day away. Growing up, Easter morning consisted of waking up, running to our pool table where the Easter Bunny left our baskets, putting on a special Easter hat and dress, going to church, and then feasting with my family. But I really think, what made Easter somehow better than Christmas, was Good Friday.
Now, I clearly have a huge place in my heart for Good Friday, but I will never forget the worst Good Friday of my life. I was about 11 years old, and my mom, dad and I went to Good Friday service. A Good Friday service contains the following three elements:
1) Singing – All songs were in minor chords of course.
2) The reading of the Passion – You probably didn’t see the film, “The Passion”, made by the anti-Semitic Mel Gibson, so here is a review of what happens: Jesus carries the cross; a man named Simon helps Him carry the cross for a while; Jesus falls a few times; He sees his mom; He is stripped of His clothes and the soldiers gamble for who gets what (“I have dibs on the sandals!”); Jesus is hung on the cross; He meets the criminals hanging next to Him (He forgives them); and finally Jesus commends His spirit into His Father’s hands. Anywho, the Passion is usually acted out. I am not talking a fully staged show (for that, check out something like “Jesus Christ Superstar”), but the priest, a deacon, and the lector take on several different roles. There’s an audience participation section (the congregation usually yells “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”), and the priest always reads the part of Jesus.
3) Veneration of the cross – A giant crucifix is brought out onto the altar. You line-up, and one by one you usually kiss the crucifix or bow. In some cases, I guess hugging is appropriate? Don’t worry, there are people in charge of both holding up the cross and wiping excess saliva off.
Now on this particular Good Friday, the singing was awesome. The Passion was fine, and my Church had a visiting priest from Central America who voiced the role of Jesus. It was nice for Jesus to have something other than a heavy Irish brogue, which we usually got from our regular priest (who was sent back to Ireland for fathering a child AND for molesting a teenager... shocking). The Veneration, however, was a disaster.
My mom, dad, and I got in the back of the line. As we moved forward, I was trying to decide what I would do. I could bow down and kiss his feet, but that seemed like a lot of work. I could kiss his hand, but that seemed so cliché. I knew what I had to do. I would kiss his cheek. “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord” was being sung on loop. My heart was pounding. It was my turn. I walked up to Jesus. There He was... hanging on the cross. I stretched my neck up and stood on my toes... trying desperately to kiss his cheek. Oh God. I wasn’t tall enough. There was slew of people behind me. I had to do something. So, I just kissed whatever body part of Jesus that was in front of me. And then it happened. I had kissed Jesus’ nipple.
I walked away. Horrified. I could feel my face turn beat red and I began to cry. As I got back to the pew my mom asked what was wrong. I murmured, through a crying whisper, “I kissed Jesus nipple.” My mom, being my mom, could only do one thing. She laughed and she shook her head. For the rest of the service, and for the next month or so, I carried the guilt of kissing Jesus’ nipple around with me.
However, looking back, I do not regret this intimate encounter with Jesus. And while I am not that Catholic anymore, every now and then I think, “Remember that time I accidently kissed your nipple? Boy...that was awkward.” I laugh because I feel I’ve secured a place in heaven.