Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Fourth Sunday in Advent: Fools' Mass


Fools' Mass

 There has been an aggressive and angry man hanging out on our steps. Speaks only to me in Spanish. Has one bad eye. Heavy beard. The other day he followed me into the Bean. I don't know what to make of some one yelling No necista tenga miedo de mi. Aggressive yelling is not a way to reduce fear. I kept looking for someone there to notice but no one did.  Yesterday when I told he would need to move before the performance, he got in my face, poked me in the chest and called me maricon. Faggot is just as offensive in any language.

Today our friends from Theatre Dzieci return for their annual Advent performance of Fools’ Mass. As I arrive, they’re already getting into character. Happily, the chapel is filling up. We’ll eventually need to get more chairs. A new character offers me a program, but won’t let go.

The basic plot is the same every year. It’s an asylum during the days if the plague. Kindly father Jose has cared for this cast if characters with their various mental and emotional issues. And bad teeth.  And now he has died. And the inmates have to figure out how to do the mass themselves. Got a real Peter Brooks kind of feel to it.

And what a cast of characters. The leader who keeps tapping his head and saying sorry. The one who just stares off into space.  A new blind character. The one who wants to hug. The new blind character. I have noticed how subtle changes year to year. For awhile  a new Spanish speaking woman appeared. Now, in this year of Muslim bashing, one of the fools is constantly intoning Allah u akbar.

But when they sing, the ancient church songs are perfect. It's the phenomenon I experienced in nursing homes where a room full of people would be virtually vegetative until an old hymn was played and all of a sudden, the room fills with song.

The dramatic high point comes when a pregnant woman gives birth to a loaf of bread which is then stabbed and then shared.  My friend Jean described it as the perfect representation of incarnational theology. And another friend says that it is the most faithful representation of the deepest truth of the mass she has seen. Grotowski praxis at its best.

Visitors are profoundly moved. The characters maintain character even as the congregation leaves. My 94 year old friend Rachel completely gets it and almost glowing. Later she will tell me how it took her back to her own days working in an asylum. That it was so accurate, they must have spent hours in an asylum just observing.

I’ll always remember Teddy (who passed away 4 years ago this week) saying, I get it, when the one who has taken care of us is no longer there, we have to take care of one another…

I miss him still.

Five days until Christmas.

The weather outside feels like spring.

Dzieci's Matt Mitler and Pastor Brashear

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