Good Friday: fish and hot cross buns, and a little poetry to think upon

In our office, we house the richness of the Bahamian experience. Now I grew up with the idea that to be a true-true Bahamian Christian one had to be a Baptist. That was what the conscious culture seemed to say.

If you were Anglican you were Eurocentric, the sort of person Jamaicans might label “Afro-Saxon”. If you were Catholic you were somehow foreign — Catholics were people who came from other places or spoke different languages. If you were Pentecostal, well, you could probably count, but you were unruly and needed schooling. If you were Seventh-Day, you kept your mouth shut. If you were Brethren, nobody knew who you were.

That was then. I turn forty-five on Tuesday, so I’m talking about what I would have called “the olden days” when I was a child — anything that occurred not only before my birth, but before my parents even knew about the kinds of things that could lead to my birth. I know it’s different now; but there is still a sense that pervades our unspoken realities that certain modes of worship, certain denominations of Christianity (forget other religions!) are more “Bahamian” than others.

This week, though, we had a conversation in our office that signals to me that things are changing. It ranged from robes to titles, and ended in one Baptist saying that the one time he envies the Catholic tradition (both Anglo and Roman) is during Holy Week. The ritual, the liturgy, the solemnity of the season seem fitting.

And I must say that it seems as though that Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday have become more and more popular as services these days. Lent, too; and more and more Anglican congregations, even the resolutely low-church Cathedral congregation, are practising the Stations of the Cross.

This gives the lie to the idea that only African-rooted Protestantism is true-true Bahamian worship. Rather, it suggests that our worship, like our society and our culture, is hybrid. We understand and appreciate the language of the Europeans as well as the language of the Africans, even though we don’t consciously do so. And so this Good Friday, I was happy to do as all my Anglican forebears have done before me — to eat fish and hot cross buns and meditate on the Cross.

My mother fried the fish — goggle eye, to be exact. I made the buns. And in our eating we plugged into a tradition that links us with the collective unconsciousness of those who have gone before. To be Bahamian is all this, and more.


And, for Good Friday, a little T. S. Eliot:

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood-—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.