An Easter Procession

16 Apr

Christians around the world celebrate Holy Week and Easter, commemorating the final days of Jesus Christ—his return to Jerusalem, his crucifixion, and his resurrection. Families attend church services, hooded penitents take part in processions, and artists and families decorate Easter eggs. In Catholic Passion plays, participants depict Jesus’s trial and death.

In Malta, a predominantly Catholic country, each village celebrates Easter in its own way. Dana and I had not seen a Passion Play before this. The reverence and dedication of the people of the village in this spiritual work was moving. Many of you know much more about this than we do. I will try to describe our experience on Good Friday evening and Easter morning in Naxxar.

Naxxar is known for its traditional procession, a silent Passion Play that moves through the streets of the village on the Friday evening before Easter. On Good Friday the solemn procession tells the story of the crucifixion. The village prepares by draping buildings in black banners. The village is in mourning. The church bells toll with a slow, doleful chime.

Individual houses along the pathway of the procession create tableaux to show their reverence for this day of sadness for the Catholics of Naxxar.

In the procession the events and people leading up to the crucifixion are portrayed. Jesus, Moses, John the Baptist, Judas, the Pharisees, the Roman soldiers, Pontius Pilate, Herod, the thieves, Mary and Anne as well as penitents and all of the local people who are there to support the church. There are two bands playing dirges that set a tone of sadness.

Ten large (10 to 12 foot) statues carried on elevated platforms by village men in white with purple capes tell the story of the last days of Jesus’ life. The men sway together in rhythm to bear the weight of the heavy platforms. In step, supporting the platform, the men in the back with arms wrapped around each others’ waists move slowly from the church to the street.

 

From beginning to end the procession takes over four hours from the first sounds of music until the last person returns to the church.  Some of you may have heard of the tradition of “penitents” in your communities. They are confraternities of Catholic men dedicated to a Brotherhood of Jesus. There are penitents in this procession. Their clothing may surprise you as they dress completely in white with white hoods covering their heads. Several of them walk the four hours with bare feet and very heavy iron chains shackled to their ankles to offer up their suffering in the name of Christ.

The conclusion of the procession is an elaborate gold bier. The observers are silent as it moves down the street concluding the ceremony.

 

One Response to “An Easter Procession”

  1. Barbara Werren April 16, 2017 at 7:20 pm #

    Wow! Beautiful pictures of an amazing celebration of people who are really into Easter…but where are the eggs and bunnies? (Just kidding…)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: