We've had a good, if busy, week at church. But after all the activities of Holy Week and particularly the intensity of the various Good Friday services and events, we, along with most of the Christian world, take a liturgical breather, on what is variously called Holy, Low, Black, White, Silent, Still or Great Saturday.
My professional activities this week have meant that I have not had much time to devote to much else, including this blog, or watching football, which, in the case of the midweek debacle between Liverpool and Chelski was a mercy. But today, even as I type the football commentary in on the radio in the background... (And Torres has just scored for the second time)...
But there was a strange juxtaposition between 2 football stories I read this morning. One focusing on the ire of Aston Churches Working Together towards the Premier league, because of the scheduling of the Aston Villa v Everton fixture tomorrow, at a time which may disrupt local church services, and harking back to a time when Easter was treated in the same way as Christmas by both shops and football leagues. It is certainly a sign of the secularization of the other island, which is further down the line than we are here... but it will come. But the best response to this is not moaning and protesting, as it will simply convince a spiritually ambivalent football crowd that Christians are killjoys... Rather, if they feel the need to say something, why not organise people to give a small Easter Egg to every attending fan, together with a piece of football-themed Christian literature?
The other story was a million miles away from this... or rather 2,300 miles... in Northern Israel, where a piece in the Times was discussing a programme to support the use of Aramaic, the everyday language of Jesus, in the small Maronite Christian Community. It notes its use by children when playing football. Makes a change from the Anglo-Saxon used far too frequently in the UK.
Maronites, a Christian sect dating from the 4th century, are scattered in small communities all across the world, with the largest group in Lebanon. Until the end of the 19th Century most Maronites in Palestine spoke Aramaic, but the establishment of Israel as a nation state has contributed to the decline of the Maronite community there, partly through the erosion of their language. The Israeli Education Ministry recognises two official languages, Hebrew and Arabic, which are taught in schools. In addition Maronites have long been barred from returning to their ancestral village of Bir’im on the border between Israel and Lebanon.
“We are fighting to maintain our identity. Aramaic is a central part of that,” Mr Khalloul said.
It's only a matter of time before some buck eejit here uses this programme as an example of what can be done to bolster the use of the Ulster-Scots pseudo-language, and Ulster Protestant identity.
However, there are mixed motivations for using Jesus' language, as there are for reinforcing Ulster-Scots identity. May Shkhady, an 8 year old girl said that while studying Aramaic had enlivened church services for her, she mostly enjoyed using it among her friends. “I love learning Aramaic because it is the language of Jesus. It’s like a secret language that we can talk between us.” That has very practical implications on the football pitch, where it is used by young Maronites to shout intructions to each other that the rival team can’t understand. “It’s good to know that if Jesus were playing football, He’d be on our team,” said one boy.
So what team would he be on in the Premier league? Or in the Irish League? And would he speak Aramaic, Irish or Ulster-Scots?