December 15 - 21, 2013: Issue 141

 Our Lady Of Aitara Mass – Or, Getting Sun Burnt In The Shade

 Our Lady Of Aitara Mass – Or, Getting Sun Burnt In The Shade 

by Lucinda Rose 

13 October 2013 

It feels we have been here for years, not days. Heading back up the hill in a stifling heat and thickening crowd, I feel less and less like myself as the seconds, that feel like minutes, pass. By the time we reach our seats after experiencing the silent, majestic Banyan under which Mary appeared maybe 100 years ago, I feel like I am standing outside of myself, viewing myself from a distance. The mass begins and I am so, so exhausted and it is so, so bright that I feel I can’t keep myself awake (and Tamara poking me from the side). It is strange, because it feels that if something big were to happen right now, we would respond in a different way than normal… maybe more relaxed, maybe with some kind of heightened awareness. Though the heat creates these effects, the rituals and spiritual devotion here absolutely makes some part of us change. It is the only day we get burnt, and we are in the shade. We haven’t had any breakfast, to beat the 600 person crowd up the hill, from all over Timor, and find our shady seats. 

The colours are astounding – fuchsia and aquamarine blues, white, violet, green. 

There is an American man here high up in the Vatican who serves the Pope, and three other bishops from Dili and other regions of Timor. The music is again an act of heaven, yet I still feel a separation, a still disconnectedness here. Walking back down, I have to keep telling myself not to collapse – it requires conscious thought. Waiting for the bishops to arrive before the big feast is the most excruciating wait I have ever experienced. The food has been waiting for us in this heat for ages; coconut rice, capsicum, purple rice, fresh salads, meats of all sorts – maybe some fish from the river... 

I can’t help but wonder about the women who have prepared this feast for us, and those who have missed out on the celebration and deeply spiritual time in order for the event to run as smoothly and successfully as it does. Do they wish they were with us, or are performing the preparations seen as a spiritual act in itself, just as, or maybe even more important than simply being there?

Words and Pictures by Lucinda Rose, 2014.