Notes on Good Friday
‘I always had a wish that it [Catholicism] would “take”. Like vaccination.’
Graham Greene – The End of the Affair
As if led by reflex, I turned the car off the road and into an empty church lot. I know the church had an open-air stations of the cross on its ground. I’d driven past it many times over the last few years and had never once seen a single soul walking the stations, nor felt any great inclination myself to explore. It was in full view of the road, so your piety (or plain ol’ agnostic curiosity) would be seen by passing motorists. And yet, being Holy Week, I found myself leaving the car and walking the trail.
The previous day was preying on me. I had attended a meeting that was bizarrely (to me, anyway) held in a room that was in a children’s arcade center that was part of a Mega-Church complex. I was amused by the ridiculousness of it; the thought of evangelical laser tag and claw machines where you try to win Jesus plushies, but the more I thought about it, the more I found myself depressed by the whole thing; there’s always something sad and wilting about arcades, and the addition of bible quotes onto the wall only serves to deepen that further.
So, twenty-four hours later – alone, but in full view – I walked the stations. The trail was sun-baked and my shirt was soon heavy and drenched; this was not the draughty churches of childhood, nor was it like the setting of Larkin’s Church Going that I kept thinking on as I walked. There was no grass, no weedy pavements, nor brambles, just an Englishman out in the midday sun.
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.
Philip Larkin – Church Going