Good Friday in Antigua, Guatemala

Here are some further insights into our time in Antigua during Holy Week 2014.

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St. Joseph Cathedral at night. It faces the small park in the center of the city.

The first church was built about 1541 but suffered several earthquakes throughout its history, so it was demolished.

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La Merced Church, located three blocks north of the square (park).

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A floral and fruit tribute to Jesus, in Merced.

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As you walk to La Merced, you pass under this arch, an iconic symbol of Antigua.

Now we come to our experiences on Good Friday. In the morning all the men in the procession wore distinctive headdresses, different from those worn earlier in the week.

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I saw four processions. As on the other days, each procession is sponsored by a different church or school.

FIRST PROCESSION. By La Merced Church.

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You see many local Mayan women wearing their typical elaborately embroidered blouses.

Carrying the float is hard work, so you rest when and where you can.

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Later, I learned that this procession involved 7.000 volunteers as carriers, replacing each other at intervals. Can you imagine the work of coordinating this?!

SECOND PROCESSION. By St. Joseph Cathedral.

This one began at 3:00. As usual the processions began inside the church, and the float was carried out into the street.

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For this procession the purple robes are gone, and the carriers wear black, for mourning obviously. We are standing on the cathedral patio, looking out on the huge crowd in central park.

Later Genesis and I went for a walk and, by coincidence, were on hand when the float was carried backwards into the cathedral.

THIRD PROCESSION. By Christ School. Earlier in the day a bystander told me that this would be the most elaborate procession of the day. It started at 3:50 PM on the outskirts of town and is to end at 1:50 AM tomorrow. We saw it after dark.

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I was speechless. A very long float – ornate gold and silver work , giant candelabra, and four seated figures that I guessed represented the four gospel writers, but I can’t be sure.

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And in the center Jesus, as if buried, in a gold and glass coffin.

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And giant silver angels guarding the rear.

Not far behind this float and its band was another elaborate float devoted to Mary. All in silver, glittering brightly, with candelabra and other candles. The candles all had electric lights, not actual flames.

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I would have to agree with the bystander who told me that this would be the most elaborate procession of all.

 

I joined the pilgrims, behind the Jesus float. But in about an hour I returned to the square in order not to miss the…

FOURTH PROCESSION

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The photos are not ideal, but the spiritual impact was profound.

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The body of Jesus in a shroud, in a glass case, is carried by statues of mourners dressed in dark gray. In front of this are several broken-down columns and capitals and weeping angels. I took this to be a sign that heaven and earth were mourning the death of Christ, as if the end of the world had come.

Behind the body of Christ was a striking figure, of which I could not get a clear photo because of the night and the massive crowd. I had to ask a bystander to be sure what this figure was. It represented God the Father, reclining, stretching his hand toward the dead Son.

Always, following the floats and bands, night or day, are the street vendors. Most of them are not selling religious items, but food and toys.

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Foam geckos are a favorite item. I bought one for the girls.

For me, the spiritual impact of the processions  was profound.

Here is my observation: You can miss the real Jesus in the Holy Week processionals. You can find the real Jesus in the Holy Week processionals.

 

 

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