Opening Statement



Saturday, 6 December 2014

Christmas in Cuba 4: The Word Made Flesh!

Complete Story @ Here!

PROLOGO

*Y el Verbo se hizo carner, y habito con nosotros/ 
And the Word became flesh and lived among us.....*
                                                                                           (Juan 1:14)



December 25 1996

From the back of the packed church we watch, standing inside the huge gaping doors, gazing into the cavernous old stone Spanish cathedral. The ecclesiastical procession makes its way through the crowd. The padre, the altar boys in their flowing robes. Nothing fancy. Tattered. Worn with simple pride. Between the folds, a glimpse of jeans, clean white shirts, worn sneakers. A simple wooden cross held high.


Slowly they proceed to the altar past a giant tinfoil star, edged with a trim of bright flashing Christmas lights. In the centre a chipped statue of the baby Jesus, his arms outstretched, a very heartfelt if not garish supplication. It's Christmas in Cuba!


On an old battered organ, a chico leads the choir. The Hallelujah chorus. The rhythmic beat of clava sticks. Maracas. The sweet pungent scent of incense fills the air.


The padre places his missal upon the lectern. The altar boys fan out beside him, heads bowed in prayer. Carefully he adjusts his glasses. Smiles. Raises his arms: “La gracia de nuestro Senor Jesucristo...../The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."



The congregation murmurs its response, “Y con tu espiritu/ And with your spirit."


We make our way to a small side vestibule near the front of the church. Mati sits on the broken pew. Miguel and I lean against the cool stone wall, watching the crowd joined together in prayer. Heads held high. A simple wonder -a natural charm. Pressed tight around us, a bedraggled mix of the young, the old. Black. White. Most dressed in their finest, first world hand me downs, their Christmas best.


Beside us, a young mulatto couple hold hands. His baggy clothes hang loose on his thin, emancipated frame. She’s decked out in her finest spandex, gay lipstick, high heels, hair carefully pulled back into a bushy bob. Very Cubana -petite, there’s been very little to eat. It has not been a good year. Shoulders held high, a simple pride. Tonight is very special -as best it gets. Curiously they look over at Mati, at me, and smile.


Before us, three campesinos from the countryside, sit in homespun white shirt y pants. Their straw hats and stick walking canes held tight in gnarled callused hands. Hand rolled cigarettes tucked behind the ear. Unshaven. What to do when there’s no razor blades anymore? On the floor lie their burlap bags. Fruita. Maize. A live chicken peers out, squawks. Their offering, to be left afterwards up by the altar. Giving what little they have -who could expect anything more? They watch in humble silence.




Miguel nods to his cousins. The girls wave. Sitting daintily with the other little muchachas across the church from us, gathered behind the choir. Eager to arrive early, they found a good spot. Observe the service in wide eyed wonder. In simple, lace, homemade party dresses, pretty ribbons in their long braided hair.


I look about at the Santiago community, gathered together, in simple faith, in prayer. Thinking of Christmas back home in Canada, from a world far removed, with few of the familiar trappings; the bright lights, fancy decorations, the rich bounty; plenty of gifts and food to eat. Our heads also bow in thanks at midnight service. But here there is hope of so much more. The locals crane their necks, watching the padre. I close my eyes in prayer, surrounded by the beauty of the Cuban mass, the innocence, the romance of the Spanish language. In light of the poverty does it all not say so much more?


“Dios todopoderoso tenga misericordia de nosostros..../ May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to life everlasting.”

"Amen."



To be continued ....

SERIES: Part 1 @  Here! Part 2 @ Here!  Part 3 @ Here! Part 4 @ Here! Part 5 @ Here! Part 6 @ Here! Part 7 @ Here! Part 8 Here! Part 9 @ Here! Part 10 @ Here! Part 11 @ Here! Part 12 @ Here! Post Script @ Here!

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