Playing 'Mas -- a Hole in the WallThe Maracas Valley--The quiet stillness of the morning hour pierces the Valley air. Chirping birds and morning sounds lend to memories of yesteryear.A presence pervades the University, perched on the edge of unimaginable possibilities. God is here and guards this place, like the apple of His eye.It is mid-semester break, and the country pauses quietly, before the gathering storm of Carnival descends.In preparation, many Seventh-day Adventists have gone to camp from Friday noon, none too soon, it seems.
My Reflections--My reflections this morning bear on Carnival and“Playing ‘Mas”, that activity where painted bodies and mud-caked faces coagulate, to mingle with the crowd in fashioned revelry and staccato music—the band, the band, the marching band and then the calm of an Ash Wednesday,the Lenten period, the return to normalcy, characterize the Carnival.Brought to the Caribbean by the Europeans, Carnival, or festival of the flesh, was impacted by African art forms of dance, and self-expression of feathers, bead sand paintings amidst unrestrained revelry.The essence of ‘mas’ is mimicry,about being somebody that we are truly not, of appearing in another form,nicely bedecked for the occasion.
Life is a Masquerade--Life is a ‘mas’, a masquerade.How often do we‘play mas’ in our very lives as Christians, displaying one here and another therein our own fits of fashioned revelry?The world’s a stage, and we make our own entrances and exits (Shakespeare).Hence, there is a tension and a struggle between the persons we want to be, and the persons that we are, the struggle to overcome the taint of sin, the essence of the Christian journey.Yet there is one “Mas Liberator” that can free us, to permit us to encamp away from the masquerades, for while Carnival comes once per year, ‘playing mas’can become a daily routine of practice.
The ‘Mas Scene--In Ezekiel 8, sets of ‘mas players’ are unveiled.The visions of chapter 8 point to Jerusalem and Judah, and chapters 9-11 present the “MasLiberator ‘in person.Ezekiel’s vision takes him from the river Chebar, an exiled prophet along with his fellows, to a scene of that remnant left in Jerusalem.He sees the temple where the Shekinah glory still, somehow, presides, and starts at the North entrance—there is the God Astarte,that paramour of Venus, planted for all to see who would come to worship the true God, that taunting mimicry.
The Mas Crowd--Ezekiel travels to the inner court where the Levites are wont to assemble and many are gathered, in violation of the regulation, and then his eyes traverse the outer court.There is a mixture of color and revelry, of priest and people, the former conducting the ordinary business of the day, of listening to people and administering advice, in full view of the heathen idol, implanted by Manasseh at an earlier time. Then, there are the priests’ quarters, and verse 7says “And he brought me to the door of the court, and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. And he said unto me, “Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here”.
The ‘Mas’ Players Leaders-As Ezekiel enters the room (verses 10-11), he sees the seventy leaders, members of the Sanhedrin, led by Jaazaniah, the son of the chief scribe,with his censer, offering up incense, being what they werenot—only the Levites were ordered to offer up incense.The walls are meanwhile painted with Egyptian idols, “of every form of creeping things and abominable beasts”—the administrators playing ‘mas, saying “the Lord seeth us not...” (Verse 12).
The ‘Mas Women”--Then Ezekiel looks further, toward the North gate again,near the god Astarte, and there are young women gathered, bowing to Tammuz, that Phoenician god of fertility that died and rose again. The cult of Tammuz represented licentious and idolatrous and promiscuous prostitution where the female worshippers gave themselves over to debauched practices.
The Mas Men—the Young Men. Then Ezekiel looks again, between the temple porch and altar and sees twenty-five young men, backs toward the temple of the Lord, and facing east to the sun god, worshipping.
Conclusion--This is the time when the merits and demerits of Carnival will be hotly debated for the encamped, whether at home, watching the scenes on television, or thinking about what they are missing at the numerous church camps around. The greater significance is probably not the event of Carnival,but our own return to normalcy, to the ‘mas’ of everyday life, to the holes in the walls, to the faces turned toward the gods of attraction and revelry and fashion and secular materialism, for it is the ‘mas’ in the midst of normalcy that is to be decried, rather than the once per year mas, in terms of comparison. As you worship this weekend, may we seek the ‘Mas Liberator” who can free us from the debauchery of sin and shame.May our private lives be consistent with our public demeanour at home and abroad, in the period before Lent and after Lent, for the work of sanctification is a lifetime and leads to glorification.I3am justified through the imputed righteousness of Christ, immediately and instantly, for His good credit covers all my debt, and I begin to live a constant life of “staying out of debt” by his continued credit extension (imparted righteousness), for I cannot do it on my own.My life becomes sanctified daily and leads me to the time when I won’t need credit any longer, since I will be glorified and be with Him.Today, all of us, as masqueraders have hope—wedon’t have to wait until Lent, we can have that hope now, this moment. May God bless as you amass His treasures at this ‘mas’ time.God the noble smiles on us yet, as He eventually did with restored Judah.