Sunday, April 3, 2011

On Hallowed Ground

A woman reading from a prayer book bought from a street hawker; the ascending rows of tea lights giving her face an eerie glow. Another dabbing a white handkerchief on the feet of a statue. An old man on his knees, head bowed and hands clasped in worship. A black-veiled lady looking up at the statute of Jesus on the cross, fingers rolling the rosary in her hand as she mumbled a prayer as mechanically as each flip of a bead. Every single one of them was alone, breathing the same air.

Graven images looked down on them, their stares hard and cold as the benches on which the people sat. Shafts of light shone through the eyes of the saints painted on the colored glass windows and evoked guilt. A statue in ravaged wood towered over them, its hand in a gesture of mock benediction. One of a child, in robes of wine and gold, wearing an expression uncharacteristic of one so young. A mother cradling a baby in her arms, sculpted out of marble; the mother's eyes fixed lovingly on her child, unmindful of everyone else's supplication. An old woman in the somber tones of a nun's habit, limned with a forehead furrowed in desperate devotion, cheeks hollowed by restraint, hands clenched in prayer.

Human life imitates the saints. Flesh, wood, stone, glass or canvas: each its own medium of suffering and vanity.

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