Saturday, April 07, 2007

Aussie Lent

Yesterday, Good Friday, I witnessed untold suffering, blood and gore, and mutilated half-naked bodies aplenty. I, along with a good number of people, collectively winced at each blow, at each thrust of spears. No, we were not witness to self-flagellation or crucifixion so common this time of year in the Philippines. We were munching popcorn as we ogled Spartans' spectacularly muscled bodies get pummeled and bruised by the Persian army.

The absence of melodrama and fanfare over lent is novel for me. Here in Ozland, people were already anticipating Easter as early as Holy Monday. On Thursday the Student Council were giving away Easter egg chocos in the library and greeting us "Happy Easter! Have a choco! No, take two! Enjoy the weekend!" On TV, there are no network reminders to reflect on our sins and ask for forgiveness from the Saviour who gave up his life to redeem us wretched lot. There are no subtle reminders of our collective guilt, and the need for penance and self-chastisement over wrongs imagined or not.

For us Filipinos, the highlight of Lent is Good Friday. We have all sorts of traditions to honor Christ's death. Some don't take a bath. Some skip a meal. Some forgo meat. Some don't eat all. The fanfare is in singing the pasyon and visiting Churches and doing the station of the cross. Amidst the guilt there is also an almost repressed gaiety.

As devout Catholics we tend to focus on Christ's passion and suffering over his resurrection. I wonder if this reflects our psyche as a nation? Is self-abuse the path to salvation?

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