Sunday, 13 April 2014

Semana Santa begins

We had a quiet Saturday, shopping, getting ready for the arrival of Kath, Anto and Rhiannon on Monday. I also spent time on preparing Good Friday sermons, hoping to get as much ready in advance, for what will be a busy week.

We went to Alhaurin this morning for the Palm Sunday Eucharist. Members of the congregation brought palm and olive branches from their gardens for the procession, and we had the individual palm crosses which were weaved by the craft group members last Monday. As we arrived, there was a still crowd around the grounds of the cemetery chapel, dispersing slowly from an earlier funeral. I blessed and then distributed palm crosses in church, then we went outside for the Palm Gospel reading and procession singing 'All Glory Laud and Honour' We stood next to a shallow ornamental pont in the grounds, reminiscent of a baptismal pool, except for the conversation of frogs which accompanied the reading. We circled around the chapel exterior and then made our grand entrance, perfectly timed so that we only had to sing the hymn through once. Lay preacher Gareth Marsh narrated the St Matthew Passion reading with vigour, and a congregation of two dozen joined in the responses with enthusiasm.

After a coffee and chat in the local bar, we headed for home and lunch. Then in the evening, I took the train into Malaga to watch and photograph the evening processions. I was greatly impressed by their size and scale. Half a dozen cofradias paraded their tronos - usually one of the Blessed Virgin Mary and another depicting a scene from the passion of Christ. Each throne requires fifty or more people to carry it. They are ornate and very heavy and frequent rest stops are necessary. 

Each cofridia procession is accompanied by a wind band with 50-100 musicians, and scores of hooded Nazarenos, or penitentes of all ages and robed servers of both sexes. It's a whole community activity in every respect, with each cofridia needing several hundred people for each trono, not to mention supporters in the crowd to achieve its pupose. Participants are disguised in their robes for the purposes of anonymity. There is nothing sinister about this. Those engaged are not there to parade their own egos, but to harmonise them and work together to uphold the subjects of their faith. There's no threatening body language, no weapons or shields, only religous banners and staves bearing emblems. Uniformed police are noticeably absent from the steeets. The entire atmosphere is serious and peaceful. Children not taking part are carried in arms or wander around with their parents, enjoying the festive character of the occasion. 

I stood at the end of Alamada Principal, one of two large thoroughfares closed off and equipped with stands and seating for hire for spectators, and wanderd around the side streets as processions approached. I saw only half of the cofridias processing during the evening,  but these included 'Peter's denial', 'Jesus meeting the women of Jerusalem', and 'The Expiration' Jesus' death on the cross, each was followed by a trono with a sorrowful Blessed Virgin of equal grandeur. I didn't stay long once the sun had set, aware that I'd had a long day. It was fortunate that the train station is so near the processional route and the trains so frequent. I was home for supper just after ten, after an moving unforgettable evening. You can see the photos I took here. There's rather a lot of them.

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