356. July 7th…. “Crown of Thorns” …..I prefer “Crown of Q-Tips” ……

“Crown of Thorns” 2010

“I have always thought the suicide should bump off at least one swine before taking off for parts unknown.” – Ezra Pound

I spent 8 years of my academic career in parochial school…a place that then was much like a mixture of a …..carnival ride….house of horrors….and a really poorly made movie…..I wore a uniform ….dark blue pants a dark blue sweater with the parish’s emblem emblazoned at my heart…a light blue shirt…mandatory t-shirt beneath….my instruction was in an old cut rock building that looked like a castle….chapel on one end….full blown church…on the other….being a part of the place took a great deal of the intimidating nature away from it….yet for those outside of the parish……we were considered “Untouchable”…there was something about us…perhaps we were closer to God…or knew something ordinary people did not….but there was no doubt we were different….kids my age…outside of the Parish…..thought we were training to be “Saints”…..

Main entrance of the church

We attended chapel everyday….and I was one of 2 altar boys…(Not something you’ll find on my resume)…..I would wear the rather angelic white gown…light the candles…..prepare everything for the priest….carry the cross…or hold the bible while the priest read from it…..and I always had to wake the priest up…he was an 80 plus year old man who slept the better part of the day…..and his life was getting the word out there…..between naps…..his name was…Father Bert…

when I was older I spent a great deal of time in the large church just sitting and looking at everything….I used to stare at a particular window …Jesus was….looking towards the heavens…..hands clasped in prayer….and wearing the “Crown of Thorns”….he was covered in a purple robe….and small streams of blood came from the wounds made by the thorns…I always wondered ….why since he was the son of God ….that this stuff happened to him….seemed to me this guy can turn water into wine…and make a few fish feed thousands…what would  it take to dissuade Pontius Pilot…with regard to a crucifiction….and couldn’t he just evoke the same powers that parted the sea…to display his ability that he and God were the wrong guys to be messing with….my confusion about religion began…..right there…..I no longer sang “Onward Christian Soldiers”…with near the same enthusiasm as I had before….that was my religious turning away point….just saying the word agnostic or atheist….would get you a good slap….maybe a few afternoons in detention and a call to the head master’s office…for  swats or a hands under the handkerchief and a good hard strike with the ruler….so those of us that questioned…spoke in whispers…..

I thought certain that  parochial school would make better Christians…and I suppose it probably does for the most part…I’m confident most of the 10 people I graduated with…are maybe not fire and brimstone… God-fearing believers…but have a good handle on it….and I would be happy for them if that is what they chose….yet for me…..I found out young…that this method…of believing….just didn’t make enough sense….scared me more than it did embrace me….made tightrope walking even more of a challenge than normal…..

I did then and very much do now…love Christian art….and iconography especially from the Byzantine period….I have to say the many hours I spent looking at the art in the church had a significant impact on not only what I believe…but a great appreciation for the artwork itself….and I feel that my religious beliefs…how ever far and removed from Christianity….allow me to view the art work as exclusively art work….and that I really enjoy….somehow making the sacred….without the teeth….

as far as the “Crown of Thorns”…..the metophor it offers is a brilliant description….one that is etched into my brain….for my lifetime…and I still see the window on the days I look for it…and it still is as beautiful as it ever was….

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