Feliz día de Pascua!

Today is Easter Sunday a day of rejoicing, following the most of sorrow filled

day of Good Friday.

Today for Christians around the globe is also a celebration of the Christ's

resurrection from the dead.

With his dying came His enduring promise of our eternal life.

A day to celebrate with joy and thanksgiving.

The Gloria in Excelsis or "Glory in the highest" and the Alleluia "Praise the Lord",

both traditional expressions of praise return to the traditional church lexicon.

Expressive words of joy that are removed from the liturgy

at the beginning of Lent reemerge.

The kneeling is done away with on this special Sunday. 

Replaced with standing as a symbol of rising and resurrection.

All the purple sheets that once shrouded and hid the crucifix, statues,

and the alter throughout Lent are removed.

Lent which is traditionally celebrated in most

Christian religions is meant to be a time of penance and deprivation.

Some of my family members gave up eating all meats, some only each Friday

leading up to Easter, some gave up their biggest vices.

In our village the sanctuary is beautifully redecorated

with white banners, and flowers, especially Easter lilies.

White is the symbolic or liturgical color of joy and holiness.

Many of the women and children of the village spend days painting,

and  elaborately decorating, confetti filled egg shells

(the egg symbolizes rebirth or renewal).

They share their brightly colored eggs with their loved ones,

who after Easter mass as a custom will eat a big meal and then chase each

other cracking the confetti filled eggs on any unwitting guest.

I am not sure where the Easter bunny came from but I've read that this custom

originated from an ancient Saxon spring festival.

The Saxons, I read would adorn their villages with rabbits carved from wood.

This custom I am glad never reached our village.

Our church, which is a traditional Roman Catholic church, celebrates Easter

as the resurrection of Christ with special services, prayers, psalms and chorus hymns.

As does most of Latin America, the special procession also honors

the Virgin Mary or the Virgen de Guadalupe.

Today Protestant as well as many Evangelical churches Churches hold Easter

services that include Communion, special sermons and often times Easter plays.

Easter to me has always been about the celebration of the rising

of Christ to the heavens.

Another reminder of our heavenly calling, and of our mandate to always

try and have a closer conversation with God through Jesus.

Like many villages, towns, and cities throughout Latin America our village

also puts on its symbolic passion play.

A lot of the women, children, teenagers and men will this past week (leading up

to Easter Sunday) abandon most of their normal routines.

Their lives as housewives, farmers, ranchers, laborers, and students 

will have been put aside. 

The one goal is to come together and take seriously the roles of actors

that will represent the roles of Jesus, of the Virgin Mary, the Nazarenes,

the twelve apostles, the guards, and even the onlookers of the very town of old.

The purpose for the day is to give one's "all" to the passion that is God.

The portrayal is pretty realistic, filled with much of the same anguish, and courage,

yet played out with a great deal of genuine devotion, and sincerity.

Although the event itself last only a day, the preparations began several months ago.

The main organizing committee comes from the church laity, school leadership,

the municipal government and some of the well respected village elders.

Together they choose the actors in the village who will play the three main

roles of Christ, Mary and Pontius Pilate.

The selection for the role of Christ is one that goes to the young man who has

lived up to his devout religious and exemplary community responsibility.

His preparation will be an arduous one, because of the great need to be physically

fit to be able to bear the whipping and carrying of a 150 plus pound wooden cross

for the entire route leading to the edge of town and a small mount. 

The other important role is that of the Virgin Mary.

As with the role of actor playing the role of Christ, the girl selected meet

certain requirements such as having an exceptional moral character.

There are no special tailors or seamstresses, and anyone handy with thread,

and a needle are called to action.

Everyone helps to produce the wardrobe, many families sacrificing to buy

the needed materials to make their costumes, as are the props,

and a few of the village carpenters will volunteer their time and materials in building

the three different stages.

After the early morning service, the church bells begin to toll.

This loud rhythmic clanging announces the procession of the Nazarenes.

A Nazarene is anyone who has to fulfill a religious promise (una manda),

usually out of gratitude for having received a miracle or having been cured

of some difficult illness, for having had a good harvest, maybe the birth of a healthy child,

or for having stopped some addiction.

Every Nazarene holds themselves accountable, and this special day is when they

will openly hold themselves more accountable to their resolve.

They are fulfilling a promise with a whole village as their witness.

You can easily identify who the Nazarene is by their outfit, a crown of thorns,

a purplish colored tunic, and each one carries a homemade cross.

This procession is quickly followed by the actor playing Christ,

and his carrying of a much larger wooden cross.

For the actor representing Jesus, the training and culmination of months of work,

and spiritual preparation has come.

He will begin and end the long trek carrying more than 200 lbs. on his shoulders.

First he is brought to a mock trial in the lower edge of the village's plaza.

Here he will be whipped (simulated but after hours of this along the route the actor will

have bled and sufferred numerous bruises), and will also be sentenced to be crucified.

As the sun set this evening he will have traveled over five miles.

The actor now truly suffering from the load on his shoulders, the pain from the whipping,

the extreme heat of the day, the dust, and continued jeers along the way.

He will journey the entire path alone…struggling with his heavy cross. 

The young woman who represents the Virgin Mary follows with anguish,

and in heartfelt pain.

Tears can be seen streaming down the faces of many of the actors,

and among many of the village spectators.

The final and most emotional moment takes place on the top of the mount

at the edge of the village.

There a lone crucifix stands.

The rugged and steep path to the top is a difficult one to climb even without a

200 pound, 14 foot wooden cross. 

Here will be the culmination of the play, and the crucifixion.

This long held tradition is a big part of the identity of a small village

founded in 1645, in a territory once occupied by the Opata Indians.

Here 367 years ago the Spanish Jesuit missionary Cristóbal García came

 and founded a settlement that he named Santa María de Baceraca.

In this Opata indigenous language the name means,

"a place where water can be seen."

May you always be at a place where your thirst can be quenched,

by the water that through faith you always see.

Feliz día de Pascua!

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