Sunday, December 9, 2012

Quien causa tanta alegria?


There is a woman sitting on the steps. Head in hands. I say excuse me twice, no response. I hesitate to wake her up. She could be young. Dressed OK, skirt, stockings. but there’s a tear in the stockings, nail polish seems chipped, hair a little dirty.
I ask Kimberley to take a look. Offer an opinion. Well she’s alive, says Kimberley. We decide not to do anything and proceed with Kimberleys’s semester evaluation. We’re pretty much in agreement. I appreciate her thoroughness, ability to be honest about what she can and can’t do and does what she says she will. Her circumstances have led to theological explorations beyond what we originally anticipated. And our life is in a real state of flux. I’m intrigued  by the ritual she is developing around spirals. And that the muscle around the heart is a spiral. 
Something makes me go back outside and check. There’s an ambulance with flashing lights. I turn, puzzled, to a man standing nearby. Someone called 911, he says, she agreed to go with them. Didn’t fight it. I’m wishing I would have done something earlier. 
Back inside, three people, two men and a woman, enter. Takes me a minute to recognize Eugena, the production manager from Woodshed. She’d lived in our house five months back in 2011 during the Tenant. Had a good relationship with Danielle. 
She has brought another, well known off-Broadway theatre to look at space. I recognize the name and am shocked with the coincidence. So send them on a tour.
Martin fits anxious, Teddy calms him down. Just doesn’t want anything to negatively impact our current critical conversations.
There’s a man waiting to see me. Released from St.Luke’s. Cancer.  Metrocard no good... So I give him money for a metrocard. He seems surprised. I wish him well. 
Danielle and Steve and Kimberely working on our website and other communication.
an altar for Maria
Inside, women from Arcadia’s family are setting up the altar. Jamie’s going to like this, I think. She’s been waiting for her a long time for her here. 
Andre arrives early. I am finishing the Sunday service. Tell him to mind the store as I race home to change. As the evening is ready to begin, I realize I can’t find my cell phone. Use my find my phone app on my ipad. It’s in the building somewhere. But where? 
I am so preoccupied. Yesterday got on the wrong train once and went past my stop another time. And when i turn the alarm signal on my phone, I realize it’s charging behind the desk, just where I put it. 
My memory is of Nicaragua. 1982. On a patio on a ravine curling around the city. people arrive with torches, flashlights. Sing a song in front of the virgin. And the host sings a song. An elderly woman. Then she passes out candies, sugar cane. I look out and see lines of light winding around the edge of the ravine,  circling the ridges  with light.  Then later that night, 15 kilometers out of the city, being awakened and told to come lie on the floor because shots had been fired at the house. And hearing the young guard outside, patrolling the house with his AK47 singing a children’s song to Mary.
I was expecting something simple. But when I saw all that Hugo was bringing in, i knew that something else would happen.
I welcome everyone. Tell them we are doing this because we area congregation with a global perspective. That we want to honor the cultures of the people of our community. Share with them. And neighbors. 
There’s Hugo and Arcadia’s family. And church members. And a solid contingent of Nicarguenses. And a representative of Dos Pueblos, a long time solidarity committee in our neighborhood. 
Hugo explains that Mary is the patron saint of Nicaragua. That when they go somewhere, she goes with them. But she is also the patron saint of the United States. So she was here already, waiting for them.
Rounds and rounds of chanted rosaries in Spanish. Older women taking turns as cantors. Voices responding. Stephen tells me it’s the first time he’s done the rosary in 30 years. I look back, watching Jamie. 
After every round, the women, led by Arcadia, passing out treats. First chicha, a fermented corn drink. Oranges. Bananas. Apples...because they aren’t native to Nicaragua, considered special treats of the season. Macaroons. Various candies.  Small items...bracelets with images of saints, key chain/bottle opener/nail files with an image of the Virgin Mary. Sugarcane. Cacao. 
The traditional songs sound like they are from the 1920’s in their orchestration and performance style. Everyone is singing along. I feel like I’m in a black and white movie. That any moment Sandino in his Tom Mix hat will come riding over the hill. 
Finally a meal. With a traditional salad of yucca, shredded cabbage and chicharron. Then pollo valenciana with parmesan. Instead of fireworks there is the popping of balloons. 
Throughout the night has been the call amd responce cheer, Quien causa tanta alegria? La concepcion de Maria. And Maria de Nicaragua...Nicaragua de Maria.
The celebration will continue. 
  • In the end, it’s hard to separate culture from religion. It’s not about Catholic or Protestant, it’s about being nicaraguense. 
  • From a culture whose dominant religion does not ordain women, over and over again I’ve seen services led by women who are the cantors and most of the singers. Mary has something to do with that.
  • When I thanked Arcadia for the overwhelming generosity, she said Look you either do it, or you don’t. It is a culture rooted in hospitality. And that hospitality, like hope and joy, has theological content.
  • Hugo said that back home in Nicaragua, this year instead of treats she is passing out food staples. The people need to eat, she told him.
  • The spirit of Maria, the spirit of alegria nicaraguense has now become part of this place. 
As we’re cleaning up, Acadia asks me to put on some Christmas music, and I oblige, Pink Martini’s White Christmas flowing through Marc’s sound system.
Jamie tells Arcadia how glad she was to see the Blessed  Mother here tonight. Arcadia says there are lots of good reasons to be protestant....but sometimes i really miss Maria....
Quien causa tanta alegria?                                            La concepcion de Maria!

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