Christ has risen! Lent is over and now is for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection! We decided to hang out another week in La Paz to attend the Holy Week masses and services at the local Cathedral. I have been told that most Mexicans take two weeks off during this time, called Santa Semana (Holy Week), to go out to the coast and party. La Paz is a popular destination during this time and as a result saw increased police presence on the malecon, the main road along the coast.
Our Holy Week church attendance wasn’t as we would have liked but we made good attendance overall. We missed Maundy Thursday because our watches weren’t set correctly. We were disappointed to realize our errors during dinner on Thursdays. Too bad we didn’t get to see how Mexicans celebrate the washing of the feet.
Nonetheless, we made Palm Sunday mass which was the Sunday before the Holy Week of Easter. Usually in the states, palms are given to you at the church. Here in Mexico, there are vendors outside the church selling highly decorated palms to be blessed. For 20 pesos, I bought a small one. Before entering the church for mass, the congregation gathered outside for the blessing of the palms.
Highly decorated palm fronds and crucifixes made from palms.
Since we missed mass on Thursday, we were determined to do good on Friday (ha ha, get it?) by attending church twice that day. The bulletin said Vis Cruz (had no idea what this meant) will start at 9AM. Well, not much was happening at church at that time so we decided to walk around for a while. Then we heard chanting in the church and found out it was the Stations of the Cross. We joined in at around 9th station. Better late than never, right? The night before, I made copies of the Spanish missal along with the English missal, from The Breaking Bread, so that we can figure what to say somewhat intelligibly. Not understanding mass is really unfortunate. We are getting better at what to say when but we are still missing the full understanding of the homilies. This is bad for two reasons: 1) I’d like to know what the priest is saying when he starts getting really loud and fast in his speech. It must be something good and 2) some of these homilies last 30 mins so it would be nice to understand why the priest has so much to say.
Saturday Easter Vigil started at 8PM with the blessing of the fire outside of the church. The congregation gathered around a bonfire while the Easter candle was light from the blessed bonfire and the candle was also blessed with the inscription of alpha and omega (signifying Jesus as the beginning and the end) and the current year on the arms of the cross. From that main Easter candle individual candles were light. As each candles were light our hope and our salvation that epitomizes Jesus’s resurrection was being light in our hearts. The symbolic tradition of blessing of the fire and lighting of the candle is so rich on so many levels for me and heightens the importance of Jesus’s resurrection in Christian faith. Once the candles were blessed they were blown out and the church lights came on.
Then the readings came. Normally nine readings from the Bible are read from the Old Testament and the New Testament, highlighting all that God has done for us. In La Paz, only four readings were read. Then, the baptismal vows came. Also different from the states, no one was getting newly baptized. In the states, the members of RCIA (Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults) who have been studying and discerning to become catholic for most of the year are initiated as Catholics during Easter Vigil through baptism, confirmation, and then first communion.
Finally, we had our celebration of the Eucharist. I am most moved during this part of the mass. Knowing that Jesus died for me and that I have just received Jesus’s body makes me feel intensely grateful and blessed.
At our vigil mass, there was a large group of teenagers seated together. Here in Mexico, kids and younger people are especially encouraged to shake the priests’ hands during “exchange of peace” part of the mass. This night, the large group of teenagers all went up to the alter to hug and kiss the bishop as a sign of peace. One normally says in Spanish, “La paz de Jesus” meaning “the peace of Jesus” be with you. As the mass concluded, the same group of teenagers sang exuberant songs including the motions. The bishop came out and sang with them for a while. He was obviously was very pleased by the young people’s energy and love for Jesus as I was.
Easter Sunday alter at Catedral De Nuestra Senora De La Paz (Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace)
To finish the celebration we attended the Easter Sunday mass. Many kids were dressed so beautifully in their whites and much joy was present throughout the mass. Having been to quite a few masses in Mexico now, I noticed that the hymns sung during mass are quite different from the states. There are basically two types in the states: traditional hyms and the modern Christian music. Here in Mexico, the songs sung reminded me of popular children’s music by Elizabeth Mitchell or Lisa Loeb. With simple and innocent melodies, their music reminded me of the verse from Mathew 19: 14 – Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” We should be more like children when we approach Jesus.
Invasion of the Easter Egg Eyes.