The last week of Lent is also Semana Santa. Elsewhere, hundreds of people are pouring into city streets. They form a massive crowd outside the church – each and every church. Each church is responsible for a different part of the story each day of the week.
At the first church, the story begins with Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. Proceeding from the church, dozens of strong men carry a wooden float with the image of Jesus on a colt that is decorated with palms. Others in the procession sing praises. A marching band plays a well practiced song. At various points, the procession stops below a balcony where songs are sung about the story each float shows. Images of people, like Mary, are also brought out … she is mentioned as having been at these events in three gospels, it is only fitting for her story to be told as well.
The second church continues the story on Holy Wednesday with the leaders plotting to kill Jesus. We talked about this at church. The Southern Baptist teaching is that the people were fickle to praise Jesus when he came into town and cry for his death in under a week. Lets not forget that there are two groups of people in this story, the average person and the leaders. There are two sets of leaders as well, religious and political. Jesus rode into town, threw out the money changers in the temple, and took every opportunity to insult the religious leaders. He challenged their way of life and threatened their power. This could not go unpunished. The religious leaders stirred up the regular people to the verge of a riot. The political leaders were anxious to avoid rioting and acceded to their wishes. The people probably loved Jesus, but they feared the power of their leaders even more.
The next church features the Last Supper. The story continues to be sung and read to the crowd. Emphasis is placed on the role of Judas Iscariot who agrees to betray Jesus. The procession continues with penitents, men wearing ancient robes and pointed caps, lamenting their own sin. The happiness of the first few days begins to fade into mourning as the weekend comes into focus.
Following these events, Jesus is arrested, the trial takes place, and ultimately Jesus is sentenced to be crucified. The image that is carried out is that of Jesus on the cross. This part of the story ends with Jesus death. Jesus is placed in his tomb. The disciples mourn his loss. The women prepare their preparations to prepare Jesus … but this is a Sabbath, nothing is permitted.
The last day is Easter, technically it is the start of the week after Holy Week. It is also the start of so much more. Sadness is turned to joy. The Resurrection takes place. I wish we had a Semana Santa celebration like theirs. Too easy is it to spend all week making Easter baskets and hiding dyed eggs that we forget about the events leading up to Easter. What traditions do you celebrate to center this holiday on Jesus? How do you end your last week of Lent?