Beguiled by Santa Cruz’s Church
The “road” to the village is multiple 90º switchbacks that instantly puts your pulse into the aerobic zone. Of course the little Mayans zip up and down it like they are on level ground, in fact they are probably uncomfortable on anything less than 70º.
I decided I needed an alternative from sloth so with no particular goal in mind up I trudged. And as with most Latino villages, all roads lead to God’s house. The square in front was the site of a very important soccer match between the 7 year old boys momentarily released from the school. Their little legs and big voices tore back and forth, charming even this curmudgeon. I weaved my way through them to the church thinking I was here anyway, I really should pay my respects.
It is a gentle church, adobe and white and small. It doesn’t yell at you and call you sinner. No, it is woven into the village by the women like they weave their beautiful cloths.
I moved from the bright, sunny boisterous square into the dark, hushed space. Alone except for the ghosts, I am convinced still linger here. The side walls are lined with carved wooden statues of Saints about 4 feet tall. Somewhat coarse but still I see the considerable skill in the folds of their robes and the lines on their faces. Some paint still lingers and some have suffered amputations. I gently touch, wanting to connect with these long dead artists. Were they thinking pious thoughts or hoping to make enough money to feed their family? I don’t know since they deigned not to talk to me.
The room was still dressed up for Christmas with wonderful wide woven banners draped from the ceiling in pastel colours. Simple bright tinsel decorations that we would find in the dollar stores at home were hanging from the banners, the ceiling and the altar. There was a dude in a glass coffin to one side, I think (hope) it was a statue. Two large doll-like statues stood at the front, maybe 5 feet tall dressed in elaborate satin-ish costumes in glass cases. A simple altar draped in a local woven cloth. I wandered and touched and took pictures and enjoyed having the room to myself.
Finally I decided to just sit in the quiet. That is when a family of tourists wandered in but I just waited them out and they finally left me to my contemplation. I closed my eyes and opened my heart and tried to absorb the energy. You see I believe that all buildings of all faiths absorb the energy of hundreds of years of prayer/mediation as much as the slaughter houses absorb the terror and panic of the animals. I believe that on some level we can feel it if we can still our minds enough. Even as a non-Christian I can appreciate the result of thousands of prayers. Tears sprang imagining all the joy and all the pain that those walls have witnessed. These people live and die in simplicity, enduring and enjoying everything between birth and death. And most of it ends up in this church. From the baptism to the funeral.
I got a glimpse of this cycle when I was with the old woman teaching me weaving. Her grandchild, Elizabeth, arrived with news whose effect was immediate. Tears and grief bloomed on her lined face. The word morté was the only word I understood but the pain I understood immediately. All I could do was touch her arm in sympathy. I wanted to offer to come back the next day but I lacked the words and she soldiered on with the task at hand.
I wish I could have meditated in a temple in Thailand but I don’t have good enough boundaries to block out all the energy of the inevitable hordes of people. When I return I will search out a quiet remote temple to sit in and listen to the monks chant.
Maybe I will sit through a mass in this tiny church and see how it feels. Maybe not.
How do you feel in churches, temples and such? Are they just museums or do you feel their energy?