Saturday, April 22, 2017

Military Moments (with Amanda): Semana Santa as an Outsider

I am so excited about these weekly Blog post from Amanda -- our chaplain's wife when I lived in Turkey. These"Military Moments" posts allow her to discuss and share ideas and stories from military life. 

When we moved to Spain, we knew we would get to see things we'd never seen before.  I had no idea one of them would revolve around Easter.  Here in Spain they have a unique way of celebrating the last week of Lent, leading up to Easter.  Called Holy Week or Semana Santa.  I found a link on wikipedia that will explain more about the processions and what everything means, but we have a friend who is a priest at these two churches that I have pictures of below, and I'll tell you what he said it means.  Wikipedia article is here.

As we walked down the street to the first church San Miguel, we saw many of these red banners.
 Each of these processions or pasos are sponsored by a fraternity or brotherhood.  They work all year, but especially in the last months leading up to the pasos getting everything ready.  The pasos start in a church and walk around the entire city.  The ones I attended this year were in the city of Moron de la Frontera.  Each of the pasos tell a story of the Passion of Christ.  They follow the events of Holy Week in the New Testament of the Bible.

There are always at least 2 "floats" in the procession.  One is Jesus in whatever event that paso is showing, and the other is Mary.  Jesus goes out first and is followed by Mary.

Let's talk about the people around them.  The people who lead the processional are all paying penance of some kind.  It is very personal and only between them and God.  Because of this, they cover their faces.  The hoods they wear (called Capirotes) look familiar to those of us from the United States, but for a very different reason.  Let me just say that the Spanish tradition came first and their manner of dress was stolen by the people who used it to do horrible things.  So, the hoods are worn to hide their identity so they can pay their penance in silence and in a more personal way.

Here are people inside the church putting on their capirotes and getting ready to walk.

The doors are open and the processional is about to start.  People are lining the streets to see the floats.

Jesus is bound and his float is wooden with purple flower petals on the bottom.  It is beautiful.

Closer look at Jesus and the intricate carving of the wood.
Mary's float is predominantly silver and all of those candles will continually be re-lit all evening as they process.

How do the floats move?  They are man-powered.  Meaning there are rows and rows of men under there and they are literally carrying the floats and walking around the city.  They are very coveted spots and it is a great honor to be able to carry these icons around their city.  They spend every weekend of lent practicing carrying the floats, and we happen to be lucky enough to see one.

There are extra men walking behind them to switch out when it is needed.  These floats weigh over 2,500 pounds.
The way they all stand up with the float is wonderful and if you get the chance to see if on video, you should watch it.

They have left the church and are starting the procession.  It will last for at least five hours, maybe longer.  Everyone outside claps as soon as he is out the door.  

On Wednesday, we went to a different church to watch the procession.  This time Jesus was depicted in the Garden, praying and asking God to remove the cup from him.

More intricate wood carving.

We went to the balcony to watch everyone getting ready
They walk along with the incense and a band plays outside as the floats come by.
Walking out with Mary
Re-lighting the candles before going outside.
The most unique thing about this church is that the doors are too small for the floats to get out with the men walking.  

They have to carry it to here, then get down on their knees and go out the door on their knees. It is a truly powerful thing to see someone worship in a non-traditional way. In our world, there aren't many ways we can use our bodies to worship, and they truly are using them here. We watch as they precariously balance all that weight while bending on their knees and then scooting out the door. They then have to all stand back up and begin the long, five-hour process of allowing their fellow citizens to worship this way as well. It was something I'll never forget and has made my Easter celebrations much more profound.

Opinions expressed in guest posts are not necessarily those of the station manager (i.e. Wendi!)

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