Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy cow, it's Holy Week!

a display in the window of a hair salon

The streets are adorned with huge crosses, purple banners, and Jesus is everywhere!  There's no excuse for forgetting what time of year it is here in Braga.  Yes, the shop windows display lovely chocolate eggs, hand-decorated jelly beans, and almonds covered in zillion different coatings, but many also display heart-wrenching crucifixes draped in purple cloth and decorated with flowers.  Barber shops, jewelry stores and clothing stores all have religious displays. 

the Stations of the Cross procession 

Holy Week events began last Saturday.  We went to a Stations of the Cross procession that evening and a Palm Sunday procession the next morning.  On Saturday night, 6 men in robes carried a large statue of Jesus on a platform through the streets.  It was silent except for the sound of the men banging sticks on the ground in sync as they walked.  It was truly haunting.  There are huge Stations set up around town, and Saturday's procession took us past each one.  A priest lead prayers at each stop and the crowd sang mournfully as we walked.

Palm and Olive Branch Sunday

On Palm Sunday we carried olive branches as we walked a short route to the cathedral, the de Braga.  I'm not sure why we had olive branches instead of palms, but we are used to the fact that events in Portugal often generate more questions than answers.

Our Lady of the Little Burro Procession
on Wednesday night

Wednesday night there was a 'parade' of scenes from the Old and New Testaments, leading up to the time when Jesus began his ministry. All the big names were there; Noah, Abraham, Moses, Herod... The highlight was a live donkey bearing a large statue of Mary being led through the streets by Joseph.  There were a few scenes involving snakes on crosses and severed heads that we didn't quite understand. Otherwise, it was a good Biblical review!

pint-sized participant
a severed head adds some mystery to the Old Testament
portion of the procession

On Holy Thursday there was a procession marking the judgment and imprisonment of Jesus. The procession was led by 3 white horses and followed by men in black hooded robes walking barefoot through the streets (while dodging piles of horse poop). Some were carrying large rattles that made the spookiest sound. This dates back thousands of years to a time when men would walk through the streets of town announcing the names of criminals and their crimes. Others carried baskets of flaming pine cones, recalling the night when Jesus was captured and taken into custody.  The sounds of spectators trying to warn participants about the horse poop added a bit of humor to the otherwise somber procession.

At exactly 3pm on Good Friday, cannon shots were fired from 12 different locations around Braga.  Eric and I were both stunned and it gave me goosebumps.

'Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth'

The procession on Good Friday began the same way as Thursday's but this time the rattles were silent and the flames were extinguished - the work of the captors was done.  There was a heavy mournful feel as banners were dragged through the streets and a coffin bearing a shrouded statue of Christ was held high.  A large statue of Mary with a sword in her heart brought the message home.  This was the final public 'production' for Holy Week.  On Easter, church bells will be ringing LOUDLY as they do every Sunday morning here, to call people to church to celebrate the resurrection.

Our Lady of Sorrows

Wishing you a joyous Easter, blessed Passover and happy spring!

~ Peggy

1 comment:

  1. Easter mass at the cathedral was nice. Eric handled the copious amounts of incense and flying holy water like a champ.

    After Easter masses, priests roamed the streets with groups of young people dressed in white who were carrying small adorned crucifixes and ringing hand bells. They stopped at any house, apartment or business that had flower petals and/or rosemary branches scattered outside their doorway. They went inside and offered a greeting and a blessing. We could hear those bells ringing for hours! It was neat!!