I have a confession to make. I am an enormous sentimental slob. I love passionate over-the-top operatic duets. I just finished listening to Luciano Pavarotti and Maria Guleghina sing the finalé duet of Giordano’s masterpiece Andrea Chenier, Vicino A Té . I cried, emotionally overwhelmed. I defy you not to cry.
Truth be told, we need this catharsis. The characters in the story are sacrificing their lives for others in that orgy of violence, The Reign of Terror that ended The French Revolution. Every time I turn on the TV, a movie saturated with violence, a vulgar, comic-book violence, is promoted. The news? Brutality. We have become inured to brutality. We all have.
We Christians are approaching the critical event of our Faith, the Passion and Crucifixion of Our Lord. I’ve heard the Passion Story countless times and I am still haunted by the sheer ruthlessness and brutality of it. It doesn’t fit well with the Gospel of Nice. Human beings don’t come off particularly well. Even Jesus’s friends abandon Him. We prefer not to think of the evil we are capable of and we are quick to say “Not me. I’m not a party to this atrocity, this execution, this abortion, this genocide.” And maybe not. Until. Until we get to dispatch someone we truly loathe or we think “deserves what’s coming to him.” Until we decide that that particular war, in Syria, or Yemen, or Nigeria, or Sudan, or Darfur, or Chechnya, or Kurdistan, or Afghanistan isn’t our problem, just as our grandparents or great-grandparents thought the wars in Manchuria or Ethiopia or Spain weren’t theirs.
We see the killing every damn day and we bottle the grief up. The rage is fine. We get to be enraged and let that out, part of the unisex Machismo we all can claim, embrace, and revel in.
The tears I cry when Chenier and Maddalena face death, buttressed by their love, arise because I know that some things are greater than the offerings of this world. And that even when Love appears to lose, it wins.