As I rode my bike to my book club yesterday morning, I wondered idly what name the day might have. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday… surely this Saturday must have a name too?
We had a new visitor to our book circle, a woman named Charlotte. I’d guess her to be somewhere around my mother’s age — certainly our most senior member, if she comes again. How ironic, then, that we were discussing a young adult anthology. But before we discussed the book, we found ourselves discussing religion, prompted by my suggestion of a name for the day: Hellacious Saturday, in reference to the so-called Harrowing of Hell, the idea that Jesus visited the underworld between his death and resurrection.
It made for some interesting conversation.
Charlotte was quite circumspect at first, seeming to think that the rest of us might be devout Christians. She soon loosened up however. We talked quite a bit about various Catholic doctrines. When I said I was raised in a conservative denomination of the Lutheran church, Charlotte said she was too.
“Missouri Synod?” I asked.
She nodded and laughed. “The worst one!”
For the benefit of any LCMS members out there, and especially my own dear mother, I hasten to add that Charlotte did not mean, at least as far as I know, to insinuate that the people of the LCMS are bad, nor to disparage the many good works done by that church. I suppose she meant simply that they are indeed conservative, (though not, of course, as conservative as the CLC) and she had some doctrinal issues which I share, but mainly I record this brief exchange because it gave me a chuckle as I wondered what my mother the church secretary would have thought.
In reality, the Saturday before Easter is known simply as Holy Saturday, or Holy and Great Saturday, or the Great Sabbath. But I didn’t recall that, and I quite liked the idea of Hellacious Saturday. That night as I took a bath I envisioned Hallmark and the candy manufacturers getting on top of this and using it so sell more product, with greeting cards and little cinnamon devil candies and so forth. Needless to say, I’m probably intrigued by the whole “harrowing of hell” bit because it’s a mytheme of the descent to the underworld, which alsoe figures importantly in the story of a certain Greek goddess I know and love.
Then we watched the evening news, and were stunned to learn that for one family, at least, it was indeed a Hellacious Saturday, and no joke about it. I’m referring to the triple murder in Terrytown. Amongst the victims: a baby boy, only a few months older than our daughter. He was shot execution-style.
There are many other lurid details in this story, like that the cops tasered the mother of a six-year-old boy who was also killed because she was creating a disturbance.
And I just saw that they have arrested someone and charged him with these murders.
The notion that someone — anyone — can shoot a baby in the head like that is truly horrific. It’s as clear a demonstration of the existence of evil as I can imagine.
Despite being fed up with organized religion, Charlotte mentioned that she still retains some religious beliefs, in main part because of a desire for what I’d call “cosmic justice.” I may share that desire, but I don’t think desire alone means it exists. I think our yearning for justice issues from our human experience. It reveals our common humanity.
The question is, how can someone venture so far from those human norms, to become such a monster, to perpetrate such a monstrous act? I don’t think I’ll ever understand that, and I don’t suppose I want to.