Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday Walking

Tonight I rest tired feet after walking in both Good Friday processions.  First comes the Via Crucis, Stations of the Cross.  It's a fairly short procession in mileage, perhaps half a mile, but slow and in its Good Friday version very elaborate.  We all walk, men in the middle, women on the sides, following the statue of Jesus carrying the cross that, in turn, is carried by eight men.  The stations, beautifully decorated, come about one per block - but because I was in the middle of the procession we often stopped for one station when I was looking at the altar for the previous one.

There was a long pause at the 4th station, where Jesus meets his mother - a long pause so that the statue of Maria Dolorosa, Our Lady of Sorrows, could come up and bow before Jesus (women carry the statue of Mary).  She's followed by St. John, carried by men.  Then at the 6th station Veronica (women again) comes out to wipe the face of Jesus and, in a little magic trick, reveals his image.  They all fall in line - Mary, John, Veronica - as we complete the stations, stopping at each station for a reading, a short interpretation, and prayer.

Finally we all came into the church where Jesus, Mary, John and Veronica took their places in front of a purple curtain that hides the altar (it will be dramatically pulled away during the Easter Vigil tomorrow night):
This procession took about two hours, from 10 to noon, in very hot sun.  Water sellers were doing a brisk business - I was glad I'd remembered my water bottle.

Then after a moving Celebration of the Passion and Veneration of the Cross - and a quick supper - I returned for the Santo Entierro.  I've never gone on this procession before, but this was the year for walking.  This time the men - I hope it was a new group, but I'm not sure - were carrying a heavy wooden coffin topped by a glass case holding Jesus, dead.   For quite a while, hearing a motor noise, I assumed there was a truck of some kind doing the carrying, but when I drew closer I discovered that this was a rolling generator following along behind so the coffin - and Mary following behind - could be brilliantly lit.  We walked from the church, over several alfombras (carpets) of bark and colored salts that had been created in the afternoon to be walked over by the procession:
It turned out to be a long walk - from the church, over several alfombras, then down along the road that leads to the hospital and the graveyard (we paused and prayed at both places) and back up the hill into Suchi's El Centro, and back into the church, where Jesus came to rest.  As we were getting close to the church, I began to worry about the men carrying Jesus, who looked almost spent - but they made it.  Then the coffin was placed on a rolling base and slowly steered down the aisle.  It was almost too big to fit, and at one point there was an ominous crunch, some quick consultations, and a bit of redirection accompanied, of course, by "dé le!" - the ubiquitous Salvadoran male language for directing cars, trucks, or stuck floats. 

The procession was probably about 3 miles in total, a good walk and a slow walk, which is good for me!  As I walked, I thought how much I will miss these processions next year when I'm back in the U.S.  Politely sitting in church - much as I love creative liturgies in the U.S. - doesn't have the same body power as walking in noonday heat and evening darkness with your friends and neighbors, following Jesus.

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