Easter in Milatos Big Friday (Good Friday) Tonight Christ has died again as He did 2005 years before. The church is lit and the bier rests, covered in small white flowers, unlike the ignominious crown of thorns, waiting to be carried through the tiny village streets. The faithful and the not so faithful stand outside the church, the former in prayer, the latter maybe hoping for some benevolent spin-off from the atmosphere emanating from the events within. Candles flicker safe in a tray of sand and more are lit as each new worshipper enters.
Why? In prayer for a loved one? A gesture of thanks for a new birth? Who knows. The candle I light and place in the tray of remembrance with all the others, is for B.... If God is looking down then he'll get better. If not I can only pray he dies without pain The prayers abruptly cease and, at the four corners of the bier, new and larger candles are lit. Not even the most devout unbeliever could but help be moved by the enfolding ritual.
From the church the procession begins. Led by lanterns and followed by candle-lit symbols of the sun, the bier emerges, the priest behind. For a moment, no more, there is absolute silence. No bombs explode, no tiny child cries. It seems that for this brief time there is an acknowledgement that on this day Christ died. That something momentous and mysterious; something beyond our ordinary grubby days, has happened. We must wait another day before, at midnight tomorrow night, we celebrate Him rising once again. The bombs erupt and echo round the village once more. The young men posture, being 'brave' in their apparent indifference to the potential danger. Young girls squeal and pretend to be afraid, behaviours which are as much a part of the ritual as the slow procession through the village streets before the bier is returned to the church to rest in silence. In deference to the young and, one suspects, the tourists, Friday evening continues with loud music and the occasional brilliantly coloured firework, scintillating against the backdrop of the star-hung sky. Whilst in Iraq, or the aids-rife villages of Africa, it may seem as if the ultimate sacrifice of one young man, 2000 years ago, is of no greater significance than that of the latest suicide bomber. There have been so many sacrifices. Down by the small port, a faint breeze disturbs the pond-still surface of the ink-black sea. We will wait through Saturday, behaving as if it is just another ordinary day, but in truth we are aware of an air of suppressed excitement in the village, especially amongst the children. We wait for midnight, for that one brief moment when everyone is drawn together in the common recognition of Christ risen and the common belief of a brighter, cleaner future - however each of us as individuals perceive that new dawning day to be.