Sometimes I think it wouldn’t hurt Protestants to learn a thing or two from our Catholic brothers and sisters. This is Holy Week … Semana Santa. Every day of the week, a cofradía (a confraternity – a brotherhood made up of laypeople who promote the church) or hermanos / hermandades (a fraternity) will march out of the church carrying a paso (a large wooden float with an image of Jesus in a Bible scene or an image of the Virgin Mary, they are decorated, covered in gold, and considered to be among the finest religious art in existence – they are a cultural treasure. Some of the brothers will be wearing nazareno robes and capirote hats – tall pointed hats with a mask attached to them. It is an ancient costume – worn for hundreds of years to allow the penitent person to remain safely anonymous. They will slowly march through the streets, carrying this massive float, accompanies by musicians, by singers, by incense, and by a crowd of onlookers who are waiting to hear the story – what the paso represents. Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) features an image of Jesus on a donkey. On Monday, another brotherhood from one of the other churches will carry a different float – from their church, to the city center and back. It takes hours – as they stop to tell the story, to switch out the brothers carrying the float with others who are fresh and their muscles are not tired. On certain days of the week, women are expected to wear black mantillas – black lace veils that are often secured by combs – as a sign of morning for the Lord. This tradition appears in scattered historical accounts going as far back as the year 1350 – over the centuries it has changed bit by bit. At first, women weren’t exactly allowed to be part of the processions. In 1984, four women secretly dressed up in nazareno robes and capirote hats and joined the procession. It wasn’t until much later did they inform the brothers that they had participated without causing a disruption in the proceedings. By the next year, a cofradía had voted to allow women in processions. Soon, many other cofradías also voted to allow women to participate. Just five years ago, a woman stepped up and lead the procession of her cofradía.
I first learned about Holy Week while watching episode two “el comienzo” of Destinos an Introduction to Español: https://learner.org/series/destinos/watch/index.html?ep3 @15:00-16:30. It fascinated me to see so much religious devotion on public display. It’s even more amazing to watch the proceedings on Youtube channels and live streams – but I think being there would be the best thing of all. It got me to wondering why my church doesn’t seem to make that big of a deal of Holy Week. At most, we have Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, but the rest of the days of the week are just like any other. We don’t really celebrate the whole story – one day at a time.
Holy Week in Seville: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Week_in_Seville
Holy Week in Spain: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Week_in_Spain
More info about Semana Santa Traditions: http://www.exploreseville.com/events/semana-santa.htm
So, I guess the question is – how are we going to make a big deal out of Holy Week this week? Any thoughts?