“Are you brave enough to go to a monastary after school?” Asked my new friend.
I lifted my glance to look him in the eye.
“What makes you think I wouldn’t be?”
“…because there’s a crypt below the monastery.” He said, watching my reaction carefully.
“If you go by a certain hour, they might let you crawl through it.” He finished.
“Are there monks?” I must have asked. “Do they sing?”
“Tal vez. It’s kind of a museum now. It was built by the Franciscans trying to evangelize los indigenes.”
“How much is this going to cost?” I asked.
“Your student id…” I glared at him, as our guide he often got free admission from our tuition, waiting “y la gasolina.”
I thought I had enough change to pay for the mileage split with a Norwegian and Mexican passenger.
We arrived to warm, melty quesadillas which were often filled with un-identifiable vegetables like this mystery squash I picked up in a refugee market a few weeks ago – and we were greeted by rainy stones on the mountainside.
“Are you afraid?” Asked my friend.
“No. I am not.” The stillness of the air was somber, as we walked through the stagnate arches.
“Ese monasterio” began our real guide, “fue construyido en el Siglo 16, en el principio del tiempo de evangelizacion que vino inmediatamente despues de la conquista.”
I looked at las plantas that were were crawling up the stone-based atrium as if spirits that wanted to ring your soul to their attention themselves, and one could hear the echos of the bells that had not rang for probably centuries from the towers. It smelled like mold, and the murals on the walls were at times indecipherable and needed restoration – but were by no means uninteresting.
“Don’t touch the paint!” I jumped away from the wall, not realizing that I had gotten too close, and breathing in the alabaster and plaster-esque materials that mixed with the moss on the walls.
I had a tendency of getting too close, and rolled my eyes at the allusion to the curator at the art musuem last week, who was insanely paranoid about the painted works, when I was trying to get nearer to see the mixture of the colors that made up the strokes.
“Joven,” asked my friend, “do you have any objection to my guiding these two young women through the crypt below.”
The guide did not.
We were each handed a small candle and we went down underneath the earth and stone.
The guide decided to follow us through the dark.
We had to lower our heads in the dark, because the stone above us was low to the ground. Rainwater dripped, and moist earth and soft concrete surrounded our feet. The historical monks were to our right and our left. I could smell mold, but not bodies.
I felt as if we had invaded a sacred space, looking for an opportunity to be brave – and I wondered what kind of prayers and spirits protected the soul that caused this spiritual fortress to last centuries –
– just as our candles saturated out.
The air was too moist to support them.
It wasn’t as if we were being judged by ghosts of the peace-seeking monks – but that the place was empty and the light was gone – that caused my fear.
I wasn’t claustrophobic, but I wasn’t unafraid either, and I reached for the people who brought me there, and slowly the guide helped us to make our way back to the door and to the open air.
It seemed wrong that churches were allowed to die.
The art on the walls was meant to last for centuries. They were expressions of the holy one. A call for justice – and peace.
Soldiers broke into some of the monasteries, and put graffiti on the walls and desecrated the murals-
-but it was the moss that outlived the strongest of them, and the vines that wrapped themselves around the stone and the bell towers – intent on keeping the holy spirit alive even when the cathedral was falling down all around them.
Sanctuary – was meant to be sanctuary.
Sometimes today when I see stories on the news, and hear about unrest and political battles – and other injustices, I get that same, cold, dark, muerto-s feeling that I got in the bottom of a crypt of a rotting Franciscan cathedral, and my nose fills with memory of the mold, my skin the cold humidity of the rain, and I know that someone has to stop the soldiers from entering until they can understand and respect the sanctuary of holy places.
Spirit cannot be contained within walls, but I believe it can take up a home and rest between them. There is much need for resources in this world to sponsor the restoration of such historical spiritual sites that have valuable historical lessons to generation-after-generation.
There is so much hurt and growing division in our world today, that even the black and white of a newspaper article is like the cold grey of falling stones, dangerous to the head and the thoughts, and the hearts that seek refuge through the pages.
In many ways, just like this video – the world has gone too far, and it is time for the people of spirit to find and develop the holy places and spaces that arise between nations, until our hearts are healed again.
Otherwise the spiritual mold of stagnation is just as bad as the moss of a cathedral, or the barnacles on a ship. If only the voice of the oppressed could innocently sing out – and rise above the control of the spiritless law.
From the Asian jungles, to the hunger and disease of subsaharan Africa, to the wars of ignorance and pride in the Sahara, to the labor exploitations of Latin America – the laws of the lands have gone too far – and have forgotten to recognize the children of God – as innocent children of God.
We’ve come too far in ways of communication to fall back into greedy colonialsim. It’s disappointing to see how quickly a vibrant colorful fabric can be washed into a dull monochromatic rag worthy of only the dust.
Find a cause that is near to your heart – find the oppressed – and defend them in one way today.
The message given to historians on the subject of the evangelization of the indians, along with the conquistadores?
An indigenous leader, Moctezuma had a dream that a stranger was going to come and teach him about the one, true God. So when the conquistador arrived? Moctezuma invited Cortez into his quarters, treated him like a King and gave him influence over his kingdom. “You have graciously arrived, you have known pain, you have known weariness, now come on earth, take your rest, enter into your palace, rest your limbs; may our lords come on earth.” which ended up in a fall of the Aztec civilization and a foot inside for the ruthless conquistadores who took over the lands, and the spiritual leaders, who followed them. As a result, the people turned against him, and he was killed – however the cathedrals and spirits persisted. There is a God that is merciful, that seeks justice, and kindness – and offers rest for the weary, and sanctuary for the broken, and the set-aside.
For those who don’t think dreams change history – they do. So be careful to follow the prompts and warnings of your unconsciousness as you seek social justice for the people, and sanctuary for yourself.
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