Engaging with Christ’s Passion

Festividad de San José – Triana

As many of you know, Anna and I have just returned from a break in Andalusia in southern Spain. We arrived in Triana, a small village in the hills, on the day that they were celebrating the Festividad de San José (the festival of St Joseph) sensibly transferred to Saturday so that everyone could enjoy a good party then a four hour procession and then another party (all this of course after starting with a Festal Mass at 12 noon).

According to those in the know, there are such events regularly in towns and villages around the region mark particular saints’ days but of course everywhere has a full programme of events to mark Semana Santa (Holy Week). In Velez-Malaga (the nearest large town to where we were) the celebration of Semana Santa is recognised as one of the most impressive in the whole of Spain.

Along with everything you would expect of a fiesta (including amazing food and drink), there are processions, much like the one we witnessed in Triana, which become ever more grand throughout the week – starting on Palm Sunday and culminating with the Resurrection procession on Easter Day. The processions are accompanied by bands with crowds carrying candles. There are also huge floats (tronos) weighing up to 5,000kg, carried by large numbers of people, that depict scenes from the events in the week leading to Christ’s death and Resurrection.

Good Friday trono – Malaga

From time to time the crowd are become silence and the procession pauses while a saeta is sung. A saeta is an acoustic religious song (often in Flamenco style) sung from a balcony accompanied by wonderful guitar playing. After the saeta, the band start up again and theprocession moves forward. These processions seem to be able to blend celebration with sombre reflection and at the same time are also incredibly beautiful and moving.

This year along with other local churches we are once again holding a Walk of Witness from Kincardine Church in Ardgay to Creich Church in Bonar Bridge. There will be no huge tronos (just a rough wooden cross carried by one person), nor a band (just the voices of the pilgrims), but just like the people of Velez we will be marking the events of Christ’s last week, in Scripture, in prayer and in song (though maybe not in a flamenco style), as we pause from time to time along the road. When we arrive at Creich Church we will also be ‘partying’ with hot cross buns and coffee!! You are all of course welcome to join us and to bring your friends (we start at Kincardine Church in Ardgay at 10:15am).

Walk of Witness – Ardgay/Bonar

It is interesting to experience and reflect on how different cultures mark the milestones of our faith. We all start with the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and throughout Holy Week we engage with a number of important events as we reflect on our faith and on the life of Christ, before finally emerging blinking into the light of Easter. Although the Resurrection is a fundamental part of our Christian belief, there can be no Resurrection without all that precedes it, including of course the brutal execution. Conversely without the Resurrection, Jesus was just a good man who was unjustly put to death in a brutal, inhumane and horrendous manner – something that sadly happens daily around the world.

I would therefore encourage you all to engage with some of the events and services during Holy Week – Stations of the Cross in Dornoch on Monday or Tain on Wednesday, our service in Dornoch on Maundy Thursday with its reliving of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, sharing the last supper with them and then retiring to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and our moving reading of the Passion from John’s Gospel in our service of Tenebrae or Walk of Witness on Good Friday all tell the story of what happens between Palm Sunday and Easter Day and help us to really understand what our faith is about.


procession costumes – Velez-Malaga

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