A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Sábado De Gloria
Saturday, April 07, 2007

As I sat in the front pew of St Helen's Anglican Church with Abraham Jedediah Rogatnick yesterday evening I had thoughts of my grandmother Lolita and how she directed the Good Friday activities at home in Buenos Aires when I was a boy.

I had called Abraham in the morning to tell him that an unusual version of Mozart's Requiem was being Performed at St Helen's. The Vancouver Voices Quartet and Vancouver Chamber Players were performing the Requiem with only four voices and accompanied by a string quartet.

Many if not most of the patrons seemed to be parishioners of St Helen's (named after Constantine the Great's saintly mother). And there we were, a Catholic and a Jew sitting there discussing how three of the four singers had faulty Latin diction.

Perhaps my grandmother would have been shocked at it all or perhaps her anti-semitic stance was only Spanish 19th century upbringing. On Good Fridays I was not allowed to turn on the radio and sometime around 3 pm we would kneel on the living room floor in our Coghlan home and she would take us through the stations of the cross in Latin. I distinctly remember her telling me how the evil Jews had crucified Him. When describing people's faces she would sometimes say, "She has the map of Jerusalem on her face." Or she would switch to her alternate, "He is one of Jesus' countrymen."

But she never ever uttered a critical word about my best friend who lived across the street on Melián 2779. He was Mario Hertzberg. He, Miguelito (I have long forgotten his Calabarian surname) and I were inseperable and we were known as the inglesito (the english boy) el tano (the Italian) and el judío (the Jew).

Mario had two brothers but he once showed me the photograph of a third who looked much the same as he did except he was fatter and wore glasses. "That was my older brother but he died at a place called Auschwitz."

At age 8 I did not have enough curiousity to pursue the subject any further.

One day Mario and I went to see a Tarzan movie at the Saturday series sponsored by our local Capucine monks who were building a very large new church next door to the little community center and movie house. They charged us a token fee but we knew our money was going to a good cause. As we left after the show we were approached by a chubby Capucine who asked us our names. He asked me to what church I went to. When he questioned Mario, Mario replied, "I don't go to church I am a Jew." I will never forget the Capucine's smile as he placed his hand on Mario's arm and told us, "We share the same God and that is what is important." I thought about that for the rest of the day but I never confronted my grandmother with what to me was a clear difference of opinion.

I lost track of Mario Hertzberg when I was 20 but when I am with Abraham, even though he is 85, I find in his warm companionship, traces of that boyhood friendship that I miss but that somehow have come back.

It is appropriate that I write of this today. In Spanish, we call today Sábado de Gloria . It is an important day in Catholic liturgy as Catholics meditate on Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday is the most important feast day of them all. If the Man does not come back from the grave tomorrow it is all words and nothing more.

In my own little way I discovered last night as Abraham and I heard the lyrics:

tuba mirum spagens sonum (the trumpet will send its wondrous sound)

of a friendship reborn.


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