Saturday, January 11, 2014

John baptizing Jesus amid the rubble

Tomorrow, the first Sunday after the Epiphany, we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord.  Tomorrow is also the fourth anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti.   When I realized that, I thought immediately of this cathedral mural, one of the few left after the earthquake, and the photos of it still standing, surrounded by rubble.  Jesus standing in the river, John pouring water over his head, while the people around go about their business.

As indeed we still do.  La vie continue...

Here in the US and also in Haiti, despite it all.  But here, we forget - both the baptism and the earthquake.  There, no one forgets. It's all around.

The Baptism of Our Lord - Cathedrale Sainte Trinite, Port-au-Prince (pre-earthquake) - Castera Bazile

In my mind's eye, I can see the river flowing on from the scene of Jesus' baptism, out of the painting and through the rubble, a river of life that not even devastation of this magnitude can stop.  I can see the water of life flowing over Port-au-Prince, flowing over the surrounding area and, indeed, the whole of Haiti.

the Baptism of Christ by John in the Jordan by Castera Bazile

Lord, you are the one who heals and who quenches our thirst.  Continue to bring new life to Haiti. Along with restoration, let justice and peace spring up from that beloved earth. Comfort those who grieve or who are reliving those twelve seconds.  Wash away their terror and replace it with an awareness of your presence and love. Wash through us, too, healing, reviving, making whole.  Give us the compassion and wisdom we need in order to care for each other.  All this we ask in your dear name.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

For those of you interested in more on this mural, this is what it used to look like:

Many of you know Holy Trinity Cathedral here in Port au Prince very well, and know the only earthquake survivor of the fourteen famous murals created by the leading artists of the day… the other thirteen were destroyed on that terrible day.  That mural depicts the Baptism of Christ by John in the Jordan by Castera Bazile.  It’s currently being restored by the Smithsonian.  I remember children looking up at it, learning the Gospel story in pictures.  It is part of the only remaining wall of our cathedral here. In that mural, Jesus and John are standing in familiar positions, John pouring water over Jesus’ head, a dove is descending from a tree which shades them.  But Jesus and John have Haitian faces, and so do the women upstream and downstream who are going about the business of washing their clothes in the river.  And it is not just any river, but a it’s waterfall resembling a pilgrimage site called Saut d’eau  in the central plateau, a scene familiar to most Haitians.  

In all fourteen murals of the life of Christ, the participants were Haitian, and the scenes were familiar village events.  There was no scene even slightly removed from Haiti’s everyday reality.  At the Marriage Feast in Cana by Wilson Bigaud, a Carnival band played for the bride and groom.  On the Road to Golgotha, by Prefete Dufaut, [he’s famous for painting the winding road to Jacmel on the south coast], but in that mural people rode burros and walked to market, were part of funeral processions, chatted with friends along the way, and set up stands for selling fruit as Christ passed by with the cross, part of the scene.  Jesus was not distant in time and space, but firmly in the here and now.  No separation. No lines.

That was an excerpt of a sermon I listened to last spring in Port-au-Prince at the Haiti Connection. To read the rest:

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