Though he was an atheist, the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano (1940–2015) knew several pastors and lay Christians who were imprisoned by his country’s authoritarian government in the 1970s and ’80s. This story is based on their accounts.
Nineteen seventy-three. Montevideo, Ninth Cavalry barracks. A rotten night. Roar of trucks and machine-gun fire, prisoners facedown on the floor, hands behind their heads, a gun at every back, shouts, kicks, rifle blows, threats. …
In the morning, one of the prisoners who hadn’t yet lost track of the calendar recalled, “Today is Easter Sunday.”
Gatherings were not allowed.
But they pulled it off. In the middle of the yard, they came together.
The non-Christians helped. Several of them kept an eye on the barred gates and an ear out for the guards’ footsteps. Others walked about, forming a human ring around the celebrants.
Miguel Brun whispered a few words. He evoked the resurrection of Jesus, which promised redemption for all captives. Jesus had been persecuted, jailed, tormented, and murdered, but one Sunday, a Sunday like this one, he made the walls creak and crumble so there would be freedom in every prison and company in every solitude.
The prisoners had nothing. No bread, no wine, not even cups. It was a communion of empty hands.
Miguel made an offering to the one who had offered himself. “Eat,” he whispered. “This is his body.”
And the Christians raised their hands to their lips and ate the invisible bread.
“Drink. This is his blood.”
And they raised the nonexistent cup and drank the invisible wine.
Source: Voices of Time: A Life in Stories. Copyright 2006 by Eduardo Galeano. Translation copyright 2006 by Mark Fried. Published by Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt. By permission of Susan Bergholz Literary Services, Lamy, NM. All rights reserved.