“I want to see the bullfight,” I declared.
“Well, I don’t,” all the others declared back.
Cruelty to animals was not on their list of excursions. Neither was it on mine.
Wherever I travel, I like to visit a church. I had tried to enter the old Mexican church with a beautiful giant crown and cross atop. To my deep disappointment, I wasn’t allowed to enter because I had worn shorts instead of slacks or a skirt.
When I thought about the bullfight, I was emotionless, yet it intrigued me, as though I stood at a far, far distance from something important, something I yearned to creep closer toward. I couldn’t explain it any better then, even to myself.
So to persuade my friends, I reminded them a bullfight was part of the country’s culture. I told them, “Think of it as a Hemingway experience. I’m going, with or without any of you.”
They came along.
The tall double doors to the arena opened, and in walked the four matadors, followed by two toreadors on blindfolded horses with mattress-like material folded about their bodies. Last came a man leading a horse harnessed with a wooden cross hitch behind. Each circled the arena, then only the matadors remained. The double doors closed, and a single door to somewhere beneath opened slowly and out rushed a bull in a fury. He charged at one finely dressed matador after another. The bull was savage and rushed at anything to gore out his anger for prior to his release, others had tortured him so he could not hold his head at normal level.
After a few clever turns and swishes of his cape, the matador stood proudly in the center, acknowledging the “ols” of the crowd. The bull waited, head low as he regained breath and strength.
Close encounters ensued between the head matador and the bull until another matador called, “El toro!” In his hands the matador held long, colorful, knifed sticks that he jabbed into the charging bull’s upper flanks. The arena burst with applause.
The first matador dipped to one knee, then opened his vest in a dare. The bull stood silent, his sides heaving in and out like an old accordion. The crowd cheered.
Again the red cape dangled, daring the bull, encouraging him to try to revenge himself. After an unsuccessful attempt, the bull stopped directly in front of me, his sides heaving in pain. With each heartbeat, a little fountain of blood gushed out and ran down his leg. With each heartbeat, life pumped out of him.
The toreadors pranced in. The bull rushed toward the horse and jabbed at its underside over and over. The toreador rammed his spear into the bull’s back, once, twice, more times, until the matador caught its attention.
He had slipped a sword from its sheaf, and while the bull watched, the matador ran the sword lightly down its head to the tip of its nose. The bull didn’t move. The matador stepped back and held his hands high while the crowd applauded and yelled “ols.”
With renewed strength, the bull charged. This time the sword’s blade sank into its back up to the handle. The bull collapsed to its knees, then to the ground.
Another matador walked cautiously around the bull, then satisfied with what he saw, pierced two knives into the bull’s brain. His life was gone.
The double doors opened, and the man led the harnessed horse to the bull, tied its feet to the hitch, and dragged the carcass away. Finally men shoveled any leftover blood into a cart. Only the grandiose matador remained, sauntering with pride to the ravings of the crowd.
Oh, Jesus, I understand now why the doors to the church were closed to me. I see you, dear Lord, in the arena. I see the soldiers who tortured you, see those who encouraged you to keep charging forth in life to stand for what you believed, what you knew was right, knowing all along that you couldn’t win, couldn’t save your own life against such odds. You were supposed to die.
I have often imagined your tortured body on the cross, seen it covered with bruises, scratches, whip lashes, and blood trickling from your wounds.
But this is a new image. With each heartbeat your body spewed a little fountain of blood from your wounds. With each heartbeat your life trickled away. We didn’t know then why you lost. Even with odds against you, we thought you would overcome because you were the one with miracles and power, all the power of the world, and yet like the bull, you died.
Now we see and “catch your blood.” We remember that with each heartbeat came forth a portion of blood for our sins. And we are your living victory.