Friday, July 3, 2009

God Loves Acoustic Guitar

So as Trofie Wife has observed on this blog, there are quite a few Catholic holidays which call for parades and processions. Little did I know that yet another one— Corpus Domini or Corpo e Sangue di Cristo was on its way until I saw a sign affixed to the main building door, reminding everyone to light and ornament their balconies out of respect per “Signore.” Now, you know that Trofie Wife and Martello have been happy to follow alongside these parades out of curiosity, but we have to stay within our comfort zone. And on this one, I knew where the line was, especially after doing a little research and finding out that this whole event revolved around parading the Eucharist bread (believed by believers to be the manifestation of Jesus’s body) under a canopy around town en route to the cathedral. This was clearly a religious event, and we just weren’t going to actively take part.

Inevitably, Mrs. Furley, our ever-present landlady, was on the case. I knew when our doorbell rang at 7 p.m., 24 hours prior to the event and then three times the following late morning and afternoon (finally followed up with a phone call), that she was fretting about the light display. And of course she was. She invited herself over to discuss the matter, explaining that we should put a small light or blanket on the balcony. I explained something along the lines of “per ebrei, Cristo non dio" (for Jews like us, Jesus isn’t God) and that for us to participate, would be a tacit acceptance of such, and that we weren’t comfortable with that. Either her comprehension wasn’t quite there, or she felt the need to proselytize, since her comeback was, “Well, you can put up a small light. The other American who lived here before you did.” Trofie Wife explained that she wasn’t familiar with the prior tenant’s religious beliefs, but was certain that this whole light thing wasn’t working for her and Martello. Mrs. Furley believed that Martello would feel differently about the matter (oh, if she only knew!) before returning to a prior conversation we had had regarding her own religious practices (she’s not really sure what she believes, but she goes along with it all the same, dozing in church all the while, something of which il padre is aware, as he has commented that "everyone knows you are somewhere else”). The encounter ended with our dear neighbor calling me a good Jew, I think, and allowing me to leave her apartment (we had migrated over there so she could pawn off some lights and show me her own display); I’m still not sure whether or not I'm offended.

When the procession actually started, it was fun to watch. Many (but not all, and I’m pretty sure that we aren’t surrounded by a colony of crypto-Jews here) of the windows were decked out like so:

No one appeared to be in a rush to carry me into eternal damnation for not adorning our balcony.

Corpus Domini is actually a ritual of Italian origin (Firenze (Florence) had an especially renowned celebration), which always takes place 60 days after Easter; it later spread throughout Europe. In Arenzano, the event takes on special meaning, as all the children that have had their First Communion that spring march at the head of the parade. This year, they held a special mass and had the procession headed by the local twins who were both ordained as priests recently (their mother must be kvelling, unless of course these are her only kids and she really wanted to be a nonna…). I knew that the new priests were around our age and had been having trouble getting my head around why someone would make such a self-sacrificing (on many levels) choice; but I guess you just have to hear the calling to fully understand.

As the group rounded my corner, a trio of acoustic guitars broke out in song—I swear the opening chords reminded me of stuff from the NFTY repertoire. The group wound its way down the street and then back up to the Bambini church, where more acoustic guitar was heard, followed by a brief wrap-up inside the church (despite my principled stand, I can still pop in and spy). The faithful were on their knees for most of the ten- to fifteen-minute ritual; I was the standing Jew in the corner. I think they removed the Eucharist from the special box in which it was being held, showed it to everyone on all sides of the church, almost like a magician does prior to carrying out an illusion, and relocked it in a special Eucharist safe. The event ended with more acoustic guitar. Which brings Trofie Wife to her thesis statement: God just really loves acoustic guitar. Doesn’t matter the religion, doesn’t matter what you’re asking for. Just throw together some chords and strum, and God is happy (double points for three-part harmonies).

[Can you spot the guitar strap??]

Baci e gelato,

Martello e Trofie Wife

No comments: