Holy Week was a special time in the mountains of Peru. Celebrations centred on a folding figure of Jesus – like a giant action man or puppet. On Palm Sunday he sat astride a real donkey for the procession into church.
On Wednesday in Holy Week the kneeling Christ figure was carried in a clockwise direction around the main square. His grieving Mother, dressed in black, was carried aloft in an anti-clockwise direction. They met in the middle where the masked bearers bobbed their statues up and down in recognition to each other.
On Good Friday this same figure was nailed with arms outstretched to a massive cross. Later in the day masked bearers took Jesus down from the cross, folded his arms by his side, and laid him in a glass sided casket. This in turn was paraded through the streets before being displayed in a niche in a side chapel of the church. There it remained for veneration until the following year.
During my first Holy Week I was disappointed that only three or four people attended the Easter Vigil – in sharp contrast to the throng participating on Good Friday. After the Vigil I found an old lady kneeling at the tomb of the dead Christ. She was weeping. I was about to scold her for not appreciating the reality of the Resurrection that we had just celebrated. But I stopped myself. This lady bore the scars of poverty and oppression – a typical story of early marriage, an abusive husband and an endless string of children dying in infancy. It dawned on me that her suffering Christ was a familiar friend. Theirs was a bond I could never share in my comfortable life. I rushed to get Good Friday over with, she identified in a more authentic way with the victory of the Crucified One.