Saturday, March 31, 2018

Good Friday: Dedication, Disappointment and Hope

This post is dedicated to the people who work behind the scenes without recognition to make the Holy Week processions a success. 

If you've been following my posts, you know that for a considerable time, I've been looking forward to Good Friday in León, Spain.  As an American who has shown a deep interest in the traditions of the cofradías (religious brotherhoods) and their celebrations of Holy Week (Easter Sunday and the nine preceding days), I was honored to be invited to participate in some very important processions, to actually wear  the hood, tunic and cape of the Brotherhood of the Seven Words of Jesus on the Cross as I march with them; and on Good Friday, to participate in carrying one of the giant religious floats (pasos.)

I marched in a solemn processional on Wednesday night at midnight.  Please see my post: A Personal Reflection from an American in a Spanish Holy Week Procession.

I marched in the Solemne Vía Crusis Procesional (Solemn Way of the Cross Processional) on Holy Wednesday at midnight.  (You can click on photographs in this blog for a larger view.  Return to a normal view by using the "escape" or "esc" key.  (Photo by Ronny Gunzenhauser.)

You can also see previous post about my experience with Holy Week in the Blog Archive on the right of your screen if you are on a PC or Mac.  My coverage starts of March 8, with my post:
Being There: Easter is Coming -- So, I'm Going to Spain...

However, I won't keep you in suspense any longer.  The event that I had been looking forward to, was cancelled at the last minute due to the threat of rain, snow, and high winds.  Despite that it was not raining when the decision was made, it was the correct decision because an hour later there was heavy rain mixed with snow, in addition to wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour.

I waited inside the tent for a decision on whether we would march or whether the procession would be cancelled.  The paso behind me represent the seventh word of Jesus on the Cross:
"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."
Gospel of Luke 23:46

 Had the procession proceeded, I would have helped carry this paso.

 (Photo by José Luis de Paz.)

After the decision to cancel the procession, we were directed back into the church for announcements, prayers, and some of the marches that would have been played if the procession had gone forward.

The view from my window about an hour after the procession was cancelled.  The white streaks against the road are a mixture of rain and snow.

It is important to understand that many devoted and dedicated people work for a full year in order to make the processions of Holy Week a reality.  They are fully aware that a sudden change in weather can negate everything for which they have sacrificed to give the  Brotherhoods and the faithful an experience that is both meaningful and spiritual.  It can be devastating. I saw tears shed when the announcement came that the procession would be cancelled.  Yet, many of these same people will be here again next year in hopes of better weather and an experience to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ.

Behind the scenes, many go unrecognized.  They are rewarded simply be being part of something they consider of great importance.  A few days ago, I stopped by the tent in which the pasos were being assembled, repaired, and made ready for the Procession of the Seven Words of Jesus on the Cross. A couple of dozen people were involved in at the moment I stopped by.  I assure you, they represented only a small fraction of those who have worked to make the procession something to be remembered.

Volunteers work tirelessly to prepare the pasos for presentation.

Note the feather duster resting on the paso to the left.  Volunteers make sure that everything is perfect and no detail is too small.
A representation of Christ on the cross lies on the floor of the tent, waiting to be assembled as part of a larger display.

This representation of a Roman soldier gambling for the robes worn by Jesus, waiting to be mounted on a platform.  It is extremely detailed, as are many of the other carvings.

A procession is an exercise in logistics.  Nothing can be forgotten or left out. The people who make the processions happen are experts in preparation and staging.

When it comes to a procession, rain can easily bring disappointment, especially for those who have worked so hard.  But for the faithful, Easter is a time that proves that disappointment is not eternal. The rains come, but hope follows.

For me, it was a disappointment not to be able to bring you a first-hand account of carrying a paso in the Procession of the Seven Words of Jesus on the Cross.  However, because I think you might find it fascinating, below I've included my coverage of the 2016 procession in its entirety.

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(originally published March 26, 2016)

This is the fifth in a series of posts on Holy Week in León, Spain.  I'll have more information and photographs in subsequent posts.

I attended two of  the three major religious procession on Good Friday.  It's impossible to attend all three unless you cut one short, as the last two take place at the same time.  Yesterday I reported on the Procession of the Pasos. Later in the day came the Procession of The Seven Words of Jesus on the Cross. This procession is conducted by the Brotherhood of The Seven Words of Jesus on the Cross.  In the days before the procession, I monitored the progress, as volunteers and members of the brotherhood assembled, cleaned, repaired and decorated the pasos (floats).  It is a major endeavor and takes a great deal of planning, coordination, and labor.

Members of the Brotherhood and city officials proclaim the upcoming procession from the balcony of city hall on the Thursday before the event.
(You can click on photographs in this blog for a closer view.)

León's mayor (farthest on the balcony) and other officials speak as members of the Brotherhood, some mounted on horses, and the public gather in the plaza below to hear the proclamation.

Horse-mounted riders lead the procession on Good Friday. 

There is no paso (float) for the first words of Jesus on the cross.  A banner simply proclaims:
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."
Gospel of Luke 23:34

The first paso proclaims the second words Jesus spoke:
"Today you will be with me in Paradise."
Gospel of Luke 23:43

Paso of the Third Word

"Jesus said to his mother: "Woman, this is your son."
Then he said to the disciple: "This is your mother."
Gospel of John 19:26-27

The Fourth Word
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34
Detail from The Fourth Word

The Fifth Word
"I thirst."
Gospel of John 19:28

Detail from The Fifth Word.  Flowers are an important element to all of the pasos.

The Sixth Word:
"It is finished."
Gospel of John 19:30

Closer view of The Sixth Word.
Detail from The Sixth Word.
By the time the Paso of the Seventh Word passes San Isidoro it is turning dark.

 The Seventh Word:
"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."
Gospel of Luke 23:46
I think this very focused post is fitting leading into Easter Sunday.  In six pasos it gives a visual representation of the entire Passion on the Cross. 
If you would like to view the other parts of this series, they can be found here:
Part 1: Preparing for Easter Week (Semana Santa) in León, Spain – An Unexpected Surprise of Tradition, Legos, Family, Pharmaceuticals, Food & Drink
Part 2: Holy Week in León -- Family, Tradition & Food
Part 3:  The Holy Week Processions of León -- Faith and Optimism for the Future
Part 4:  Procession of the Pasos: Twenty Photographs to Help You Understand Holy Week in León on This Good Friday

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I will be blogging about Holy Week from León and much more in the upcoming days.  If you would like to follow along and receive a notification when a new post appears, please subscribe by clicking here and entering your email address.

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