Saturday, April 23, 2011

Blessings - Holy Friday

Oh my aching back and legs and feet …

But what beautiful things we’ve been able to do this week.

Yesterday was Good Friday. It is called Holy Friday here. And it is a very solemn day.

We got up early to be ready to leave for Alejandria. Foolish me, I thought we would be driving. But no. It was explained that we had no place to leave the truck safely for 5 or 6 hours so we would be walking.

What??   5 or 6 hours?

We walked into the Alejandria the back path way. It is about 35 minutes DOWN hill. Much of the walk is through a coffee farm. It had rained a bit off and on this week so it wasn’t too dusty (which is slippery on this very steep path) but it was damp. And the fallen leaves on the path were mucky. And slippery. But Alisha, Cecilia and I made it safely and without falling. And we all had our things to carry: chicken salad for the sandwiches for the community, mangoes (both green and ripe) and lots of bread for the sandwiches. Carrying things adds an unusual balance to our walks and ties up hands that might otherwise need to grab onto a passing tree to stop a fall!

We arrived to ‘town’ and Alisha and I were invited to go for a walk down the ‘main’ street (dirt road, of course) to view the works in progress for the Stations of the Cross that we would be walking later. Families were decorating with flowers both real and hand made, seeds, dirt, ashes, colored salt, branches, their finest table-cloths, candles, and the photos to represent their Station.

10 year old Marvin (Cecilia’s son) was our guide. After we saw most of them we headed back to Cecilia’s house to rest a bit. We were offered tamales, pan dulce and coffee while we waited. But we didn’t rest for long. Within 20 minutes, we were ready to head towards the starting point of our walk. This is at the far end of Alejandria – to the east. The first altar was set up under a tree. There we found Balmore working with the group of youth who were to do the readings and reflections at each Station. We waited for a few more people to show up – only about 10 minutes – and then Balmore did the initial reflection.

He talked a little about truth. How each one of us believes we speak the truth even though our thoughts and words on the same subject may be very different. We all have our own perspectives. But in reality, there is only one truth: the truth of the Gospel and Jesús - which is God’s truth.

He talked a little about this day being a solemn day. That when a loved one dies hardly anyone smiles. We are all in a state of sadness and mourning. And we are silent and reflective. And so we should be today.

Then the first young man read the scripture for the first Station followed by the reflection and then finally the prayers. We slowly made our way, singing, to the next Station where another youth read the next passage, reflection and prayers. And so on to the end.

In all it took about 2 hours to complete. At each Station people either knelt or stood: old and young; babies who could not walk and old folk who could barely walk.

It was beautiful and moving.

We ended up in front of Blanca and Balmore’s house. The final reflection and Station is in the open space at the crossroads in front of their home.

Afterwards, everyone was given a sandwich and a baggie full of a fresh tamarindo drink. And little by little people went home – the last ones leaving about noon. We stayed at Blanca’s house till about 1:45 and then we headed back. Fortunately, we did not walk the same way we came. The ladies decided it would be easier on our knees to walk via the road. (And I was thinking if we got lucky, a truck would drive by that we could hitch a ride with!!).

Blanca, Cecilia, Idalia, Alisha and I walked down to the river in the ravine then back up the other side to the main road to begin our trek. It is about 2 miles from this point to the door of the Pastoral House. And it is all uphill. But it is not a steep, narrow and slippery path. And we were lucky that it was cloudy – and luckier that it didn’t rain. We made it back to the house before 3 p.m.

We did cheat – at the cemetery we hopped into a ‘moto-taxi.’ All 5 of us and the driver crammed into one. Blanca, Cecilia and I in the back seat and Alisha and Idalia on either side of the driver in the front. (Alisha and Idalia and the driver in a seat intended for one!). The poor moto-taxi struggled valiantly up the two very steep hills to town!

So we made it home to rest a bit. We knew that later there would be a procession for the internment of Jesús. We thought it would start at 6 p.m. – but found out before we left the house that it would start at 7.

This starts at the church – and takes a very long and extremely slow walk around town – ending up back at church. There were probably between 700 and 800 people walking. It is lead by the alter-youth, commission people carrying banners and the priest. Then there are 20-25 men carrying Jesús in the ‘casket’ on their shoulders. 4 women carry Mary behind this. And behind Mary is Saint John being carried by 4 men. With the casket, they literally inch their way along the procession. It is a slow and rocking motion they take. This is a heavy item. Throughout the procession, men rotate in and out to help carry this statuary. There is a huge circle of rope keeping the crowds from getting too close to the statues and the people carrying them. This is held aloft and in a huge oval/rectangle by Red Cross people and Commandos (like paramedics), and other church volunteers. There is a truck following this roped off area, in which there is a generator for the lights on the statue and the speakers for the music and prayer. In a truck behind the generator truck are the very big and very loud speakers. Inside the truck are the ones leading the prayers, giving the reflections and leading the singing.

This procession lasts at least 4 hours. It began about 7:15. We stayed with it for about 8 blocks which took a little over an hour. Then we cheated a little and cut across a couple of blocks to meet up with it again as it went by. We waited (blessedly sitting on a curb) for over a half hour for them to get to us. We joined the procession again for 3 or 4 more blocks, took another ‘cut across’ to wait again – but finally decided that we could go home after sitting for a half hour. We were back at the Pastoral House about 10:30 or so. And the procession was only about half done. (Side note: I was awoken about midnight by the procession as it turned the corner near the Pastoral House on its final 3 blocks to the church – so it was probably 12:30 a.m. by the time it was all said and done …)

I felt a little ‘guilty’ about leaving early. But we were certainly not the only ones!! And many people do the ‘short-cut and wait’ routine and many people join the procession at all points of the journey. When I said with a half-joke/half-guilt ridden seriousness that God sees us taking a short cut – Blanca said “God sees that my knees hurt” …

I am thankful for a compassionate and forgiving God.

Blanca and Marvin

Mauricio (L) and Elmer (R)

Marvin, Christian and Elmer - "ash" art

Humble Stations of the Cross

Final touches by Patricia

Blessings for the community

The first Station

The walk

Solemn reflection

Rosa (Cecilia's mother)

Chepe - who could barely walk - and had no shoes

All ages in reflection.

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