Today is Maundy Thursday and as I prayed the Holy Rosary this morning, whilst walking our small dog in a park in the capital of Spain, Madrid, I was aware of a great hush in this city, usually hustling and bustling at 8 o’ clock in the morning.
A great hush, as this Catholic country is already deep in preparation for these Holy days that follow.
Last year, my first Easter spent in Spain, I was deeply moved. Deeply moved by the seriousness and solemnity expressed by the Spanish people throughout Holy Week.
It is tradition for the churches in this country to process with joy around the local streets of each parish on Palm Sunday.
It is also usual that throughout Holy Week, flocks of people gather on the streets to honour the Sacred Mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Just as with the commencing ceremony on Palm Sunday, a series of processions occurs, in parishes everywhere, from great cities to small towns, bringing to life this very Holy Mystery.
Last year, on the eve of Maundy Thursday, after the Feast of the Last Supper had been celebrated, a procession was led by a priest through the streets of the coastal town where I stayed.
The sound of a solitary drum echoed mournfully through the town, heralding the coming of the procession. Behind the drummer, was a float, carried by penitents in traditional violet.
Covered with blue irises, it supported a large statue of Our Blessed Lord, bleeding from the scourging, crowned with thorns and dressed in the purple robe of mockery. Stooping forward, he was heavily burdened by the weight of the cross.
This was the second of the great processions, awakening folk to the reality and meaning of this, the greatest of weeks within the liturgical year.
Video on My Journey to His Sacred Heart—Article Continues Below
Then … the drum was silenced, the float stood still, a bell was rung and the priest began the first of the Stations of the Cross, broadcast across the town. The procession continued in this way throughout the town, until the last of the Stations had been honoured and the procession came to rest within the church.
The following night of Good Friday, the priest led another procession, again with penitents in purple. But this time, two floats were carried.
The first supported the crucified body of Our Blessed Lord, laid to rest in a tomb. And, behind Him came a float supporting His Blessed Mother, Our Lady, Her heart pierced by seven swords, weeping tears of grief as She looks on to the crucified body of Her Son. His death, Her tears together with the solitary beating of the drum could not but find tears of mourning in a sorrowful people.
The serious and mournful qualities displayed by these pious processions penetrated deeply into my heart and spoke to me of the religiosity of this once great Catholic country.
Although there are many who still attend Mass here in Catholic Spain – and I have to say that even daily Mass is very well attended – I fear that the desire for cultural heritage is in many respects often greater than true faith. That there is an automatic quality of simply doing that which has always been done in Holy Week, rather than a display of true religious fervour.
Yet, this moving display does not fail to kindle lost knowings of piety within the heart. I for one, was so very deeply moved by this Spanish procession that my heart still feels the tenderness evoked by the solemn beating of that drum.
May this Sacred and Holy Week not simply be memorable for each of you. But, may it truly reach the depths of your soul, with the incredible and unfathomable Mystery of the Sacrifice of Our Lord at Calvary and His Rising above death with His Glorious Resurrection.
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