Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Semana Santa

Holy week in Sevilla begins well before the middle of March. I had heard talk of it since I arrived, but right around the beginning of February I turned a corner late one night on my way home and ran into this. The shock brought to mind a combination of some kind of medieval torture ritual and the local vagrant being made an example of in the town square, one day in the stocks for stealing a loaf of bread. No- this was the prelude to Semana Santa. A grid formation of 25 men carry a statue of Jesus Cristo that depicts some point of passage during his final week, the trial, the flogging, carrying his cross, his crucifixion, burial, and finally the resurrection.

There are two floats per Paso (passage in English)...the second is the Virgin because in the Roman Catholic tradition, Jesus is most often accompanied by his mother.

During Semana Santa there are on average 5-6 Pasos a day, but on the biggest days, Thursday and Friday, Pasos run all day and night. Each one lasts for hours on end as thousands of Nazeranos (or penitentes--sinners) wearing the traditional robe and head-piece to conceal their identities, precede and follow the main events (Jesus and Mary). Some Pasos have a marching band accompaniment that adds a morose or conquering affect to the procession. Others are silent. With crowd cooperation, all you can hear is the shuffling of the men's feet.

In the wee hours of the morning, on the night of his death, surrounded by thousands of people, we stood in silence and watched as an carefully and intricately sculpted image of Jesus hung on the cross. It was haunting and beautiful and very personal, yet so communal. People held their children. Otherwise rowdy and obnoxious teenagers stood still. All attention was focused on our Savior. I prayed for the people surrounding me, that this rapture would move beyond tradition and culture and right to their hearts and souls. And, it was finished.

Over the next two days the enthusiasm seemed to fade in the city, which gave Easter a strangely anti-climactic feeling- exactly the opposite of what I am used to. Anique and I went to mass with her Senora and had the privilege to worship in another language and tradition. I appreciated the experience so much, but did miss the joyful worship of the churches at home.

My comprehension of Spanish is still lacking quite a bit, but I almost felt lucky for that fact during the service because the few phrases that the priest repeated were really the only thing that stuck with me. I meditated on these words, as the others naturally drowned out. "Siempre estoy contigo." Always I am with you. At the end of the service as we exchanged "Paz contigo" (peace be with you) with the warmth of a strangers cheek and a light kiss, I remembered the first time I went to a Catholic mass, and felt strangely at home as sometimes the slightest similarities and memories can evoke. As they began the Lord's Prayer, the cadence the same, I whispered the same in English and instinctively turned my hands upward, not realizing at the time the power that memory can have.

Christ has risen..... verdaderamente ha resucitado.


|| davidjay || said...

let's dress up like those guys for the next Obama rally!


Deyl said...

verdaderamente ha resucitado!

DJ is so cultured :)

Layne Wilson said...

I find myself lost in your words that you choose so well. What a wonderful writer you are. I miss you very much and I am so glad that Spain has taken you in its warm and historic arms. Keep in touch and know I am thinking of you.

Kitty Cat said...

It has been a really long time since I've glanced at your blog and tonight was just catching up on some I haven't read in a while. I really loved this post. Your description was beautiful.

I pray you're doing well!

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