Blessed Easter! Our Lord is truly risen!
For our experiences of Holy Week in different cultures we have selections from Poland, the Philippines, the Holy Land, Ireland and Honduras and as the finale, a second one from the Holy Land. I think you will enjoy reading these.
POLAND from Mary Van Scot Seton alumna. (Mary also sent a couple wonderful pictures. I don’t know how to do pictures, but I would really like you to see these. If you e-mail me, I will forward the pictures to you. My e-mail: [email protected] ) Ok – here’s Polan
Next is the Philippines sent from Tim Brown a classmate of mine from Christendom.
Since I have a little spare time now I'll see what I can tell you about Holy Week here. To begin with it's amazing to be in a country where the subject is so important! Almost everything comes to a halt, government offices close as do many businesses and almost everyone takes the whole week off. At our parish the priests were warning us on Sunday that if we wanted to go to confession before Good Friday the wisest thing to do is to go during the week before Palm Sunday. The confessional lines are so long during Holy Week it can be a long wait. Our parish will have priests available to hear confessions all day every day this week! Parish life is really different and the things we take for granted in the USA are simply not possible here. One thing is the absence of missalettes. Most parishes are poor and spending what an American parish spends on missalettes, air conditioning, or expensive pipe organs is simply out of the question. Some parishes will use a projection system to project the words of the liturgy or hymns on a screen, but otherwise you simply have to know the words as well as the responses during Mass.
Listing all the traditional practices for Holy Week would be hard as there are so many. The Philippines has so many different ethnic and tribal groups who speak over 70 different dialects! That makes any attempt to summarize things in a short space almost impossible. But I will try to describe some of the more well known ones. One popular custom is the Visita Iglesia, in which Filipinos will visit seven churches on Holy Thursday. This was inspired by the Roman custom of visiting the seven Roman basilicas. The difference is the Filipinos will meditate on two Stations of the Cross in each church whereas the original Roman tradition was to adore the Blessed Sacrament in each church.
More hardy souls may journey to the island of Camiguin where life size Stations of the Cross are part of a climb up Mount Vulcan, which can take about two hours if you stop and pray at each station. Good Friday observances can often begin in the early a.m. in keeping with the tradition that Jesus was actually arrested quite late and thus faced his accusers in the very early morning. So many churches will start Good Friday stations quite early often as early as 2 a.m.
Catholicism here cannot be confined to Sundays. It is absolutely woven into Filipino culture. Beautiful customs include "Pabasa". This is a singing or chanting of the life and Passion of Jesus drawn from the Scriptures. Depending on where you are this is done in a few hours or even longer periods. It is done by a family or groups of families and is sometimes started on Monday of Holy Week. Some will even stay up all night to sing the story of Jesus.
In a place called Quiapo there is the statue of the "Black Nazarene". This is near Manila. Filipinos consider it a miraculous statue with healing powers and enormous crowds numbering in the millions will attend the services in its honor. Twice a year, once in January and again during Holy Week the statue is carried by a group of men on their shoulders through the streets. Devotees will press forward to try and touch the statue which makes for a slow, arduous, and dangerous journey for those carrying it.
As in other places most Good Friday liturgies begin at 3 p.m. But unlike other places, people may gather on the morning of Holy Saturday to meditate about the "Sleep of Christ". These prayer services will often be led by priests. Lent may be officially over in many places on Good Friday but for Filipinos Holy Saturday or Black Saturday remains a day of quiet and penance. The Easter Vigil is held around 8 or 9 p.m. However, it is not unusual for the Mass to last almost 2-3 hours and many Filipinos will remain after Mass and prepare for the next ceremony known as "Salubong" which usually is observed around 2 a.m. Salubong is a Tagalog word which means "meeting". This commemorates the meeting between the Risen Jesus and his mother. Men and women will form separate and very quiet processions sometimes under torch light for this ceremony which varies from place to place. Usually the men will carry a statue of Jesus and the women will carry a statue of the Blessed Virgin. The statue of the Virgin will be veiled with a sheet of cloth however. When the two processions meet, someone playing an angel removes the veil to show the Virgin is now rejoicing at the sight of her son. The two processions join into one and continue to the parish church with singing and often a marching band. After Easter Sunday liturgies Filipinos celebrate with feasting on lechon (roast pig) and well, quite a few other dishes such as fish, rice, and fruit. Lechon is not just roast pork but an entire pig! I have to say most Filipino pigs are very skinny compared to American ones. Hopefully, that means the pork is leaner and healthier but I'm not sure about that! Grocery stores will re-open in the afternoon so that everyone can buy their Easter feast. Well, I hope this gives you some idea Pete, it's really a big country here and it's hard to cover all of it. God bless and take care. My best to you and your Mom, you are both in my prayers every day.
Next comes Ireland via Mrs. Scheetz’s sister with an add on by Mrs. Scheetz.
I emailed Mary Tim with your question about Irish Easter Traditions… I don’t know if it is something you needed to know a few weeks ago when you first asked me… but this is her response..
Most of the Easter customs are also done in other countries. Easter eggs particularly large hollow chocolate eggs with sweets inside are very common. There is the custom of using Easter water. Many people bring home a bottle of the newly blessed Easter water. It is then used for sick people or animals or the garden. Also the custom of getting up before dawn to see the sun dance would be very Irish. It is said the sun dances on Easter morning, though that is not as common in post Christian Ireland… The water and the choc eggs would be the most common exclusively Irish customs now. God bless – Happy Easter
I wonder if the “sun dancing” on Easter Sunday morning has anything to do with the Easter Fire that St. Patrick lit on the hill preempting the pagan’s ceremonial fire that had always been lit first on Easter morning.
Next comes the Holy Land from the experience that Dr. and Mrs. Carroll had.
The following is taken almost verbatim from the journal I kept on our 1971 trip to the Holy Land:
HOLY WEEK IN THE HOLY LAND April 4-11, 1971Palm Sunday: We took the bus to the Mount of Olives. The procession began at Bethphage, where Jesus mounted the donkey. We picked up palm branches and then marveled at the variety of people who were there—every conceivable nationality, all ages, priests and nuns, school children, even hippies. The procession began with the blessing of the palms by a bishop. Then a contingent of school children began the actual march—many, many of them walked by us, out the gate, up to the top of the Mount of Olives and down the other side. Then everyone else filed out, with the bishop and many priests at the end of the procession. We were fairly near the end, and there must have been thousands of people walking.
We walked in two rows, roughly single file, singing “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna, Filio David,” in honor of Christ our King. We didn’t follow the exact route of Christ, but it was roughly similar, down the Mount of Olives on a rough rocky road and then up the side of the hill on which Jerusalem stands, through the Lion Gate—also known as St. Stephen’s gate (site of his martyrdom), as church bells heralded our passage. The procession lasted about an hour and a half and ended just inside the city walls in the courtyard of St. Anne’s Church, where the bishop blessed us with the Eucharistic Christ while we saluted Him with our palms.
Holy Thursday: The first event of the afternoon was the Holy Thursday washing of the feet ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The patriarch of Jerusalem enters in a solemn procession and twelve young seminarians take seats in front of the Holy Sepulchre. The Gospel passage describes the foot washing in John’s Gospel is chanted. Then the patriarch re-enacts this episode by washing the feet of the 12 young men. The Pater Noster is recited and then the procession leaves the Basilica.
In the evening we went to the Church of the Flagellation, where the Holy Week liturgies were celebrated for English speaking pilgrims by Franciscans. Along with about two dozen other people we had the privilege of assisting at the Mass of the Last Supper. Then we followed one of the Franciscans out through St. Stephen’s Gate, under the full moon of Passover, to an isolated spot in the Garden of Gethsemane. This spot was not the landscaped area that surrounds the church, but rough and rocky, probably more like the original site. The priest read to us from St. Luke’s account of the agony; then we all sat in silence meditating. Then the priest and several others spoke on their meditations. Finally, Father offered a prayer on behalf of all of us, and we made our way back into the city.
Good Friday: We attended the Way of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa, beginning about 11 AM in the courtyard of an Arab school, which is on the site of the Fortress Antonia where Pilate condemned Jesus to death. There were hundreds of pilgrims there, divided into groups according to language. At each station, usually marked by a chapel, the priest read a prayer, we prayed Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be, and we sang a verse from Stabat Mater. Stations 10-14 are in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We assisted at the Good Friday Liturgy in the Chapel of the Flagellation, attended by many pilgrims.
Holy Saturday: Today we rose early to attend the 6:30 AM Easter vigil service and pontifical High Mass at the Holy Sepulchre. Apparently the Patriarch of Jerusalem has special permission to celebrate the Easter vigil service early. The service and the Mass (Latin Novus Ordo) was celebrated at an altar set up in the space in front of the tomb of Jesus.
We attended the Easter Vigil service at the Church of the Flagellation, climaxed at midnight by the Mass of the Resurrection.
Easter Sunday: We had to catch an early plane, so did not attend Easter morning Mass. But we rose at 5 AM to take a dawn walk to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and prayed at the site of the meeting of the Risen Christ with Mary Magdalene.
Next we have alumna Maria Verry Coates telling us of her time as a missionary to Honduras. Maria also has pictures which you can see at:
“La Semana Santa durante mi mission” In 2009 I was celebrating La Semana Santa in Honduras, and with each special Mass and service this year I find myself back at our parish church of San Jose Obrero. We began Holy Week with a mile long procession to remember Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. Led by a dozen altar boys and our beloved pastor, Padre Ricardo, we walked around the neighborhood with our large palms, singing and praying. The church was filled to overflowing, and many of the old ladies waved their palms for the majority of the Mass. We celebrated Holy Thursday with many of the children at our house. Rita and Regina read from the Bible and explained what happened on Holy Thursday. Then Memo washed the feet of each child while I led the singing. It was a beautiful blend of shyness, joy and singing. Good Friday was amazing. It was already blistering hot as we left our casa around 9:30 to the starting point of Via Crucis. With several hundred people we made our way through the streets, climbing to a high point of the city. Dozens of adults from the church were in costume: there was Christ, Mary, Roman Soldiers and sorrowful women and the thieves. As we came to each station, one of the priests read the Scriptures and spoke about the station that we were watching it depicted before us. The most beautiful moment was the crucifixion. Christ hung above the whole city as we watched in teas. It was truly beautiful. The Easter Vigil was awe inspiring. The entire band from El Camino (a Catholic movement incredibly popular in Latin America) was there with over a dozen guitars and as many other instruments. The church was overflowing with people singing and dancing in their seats. And I loved every minute of the nearly four hour Mass! What a blessing to have celebrated such an important aspect of my faith in an entirely different culture. The Catholic Church is universal! How cool is that?
And now here is alumnus Chuckie Ibay’s .
Stuck In Holy Land During Holy Week and Easter
Everything that happened to me during my stay in Holy Land during the Holy Week of 2008 and beyond were all unexpected to me, at least that’s what I thought before all of the events started to give light to my connection to what transpired here almost two thousand years ago.
By God’s Grace, I was selected to compete in the 12th Arthur Rubenstein Master Piano Competition in Tel Aviv March 10 thru March 21st, 2008. This means my mother and I will be spending our Holy Week in Holy Land and if I make it to the second round, we will spend also our Easter in Jerusalem. With the competitions happening during the height of the Holy Week and Easter until the Octave, we have to think how we can fulfill our religious obligations with no Catholic Church around Tel Aviv. Below is how relevant our experience started to unfold of what happened around that area of Holy Land two thousand years ago.
All competitors(gladiators) were housed in one hotel floor and were not allowed to wander around Tel Aviv especially during the night until competition is over. My competition was scheduled on Holy Thursday in the afternoon. We asked a security guard(Centurion) where we can attend a Catholic Mass that morning. He said there’s none close to the hotel but a Nigerian Bishop set up a friend’s residence as a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament so he could say Mass that day. He gave us the address which is several miles away but my mother cannot walk that far. We called a taxi so we could visit our Blessed Lord and attend Mass that day before the competition. The taxi driver wanted to charge us 60 Shekels to go to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament (the driver charged us 30 more than Judas to go to Jesus).
The night of my competition, the concert hall(praetorium) was packed, mostly Jewish. I was directed to sign my name to the registrar(Levite) and pay my dues, cash only. There are 11 Judges(Pharisees) who will judge us and one Lead Judge(High Priest) for tie breaker. After the competition, we were hauled up in the stage to announce who will continue on the second round. There are plenty of clapping and whistling when a name is announced. I was one of the first to be eliminated and therefore had to be released(I knew Barabbas was happy at this circumstances, but I am not). I knew this is it for me and had to go home to America(Galilee) and life goes on. That night we packed to go home the following day, Good Friday. There was a snag on our return flight, we can’t go home until after 2 weeks after Easter. Talk about getting stuck in Holy Land? During Holy Week and Easter Season? How blessed can we get. The following day, the competition director talked to us and learned of our situation. He offered me to perform at their gala in Elat(near the Red Sea) before the competition finals and that was Easter Sunday. Since I am not in competition anymore, I selected some of my favorite songs from my previous concerts. They told me I could perform anything I want so I sang “Fiddler on the Roof” ( I don’t know if it was a wise choice to sing it here). I learned from locals here that historically, Herod used this place for his vacation resort. When I finished singing Fiddler and did a little rock and roll twist on it at the end, it was received with tremendous applause and whistling(I am not sure if it is for me but one big guy with semi-automatic hanging on his shoulder told me, my song really brought the synagogue down). After the performance, they drove us back to our hotel only to learn we could not sleep there anymore because our lodging expired and had to book to another hotel on our own. My mother and I don’t have enough money to stay in a hotel and we don’t have reservation anywhere and we haven’t gone to Mass for Easter Sunday. It was already 5 pm and we don’t know where to go. We still have 2 more weeks before we can fly back to USA. The security guard told us he knew some Franciscan nuns at the Terra Sancta Convent in Jerusalem. He made a call but there is no available room for us(this sounds familiar of what happened to a couple long ago). The Jewish Guard drove us anyway to Jerusalem and brought us to the convent. The nuns took pity on us and gave us a small room for lodging. It was freezing inside the room and there’s no heat(how much more than the Holy Family endured that night, at least we have roof and warm soup from the sisters). We told the nuns we haven’t attended the Mass for Easter. It was already 8 at night. They brought us to the chapel where St. John the Baptist was baptized. The nuns were able to get a priest that night to say the Mass at the chapel. The following day, Easter Monday, the nuns took us to Bethlehem and introduced us to a priest who was saying the Mass that day. When the priest heard me sung at the Mass, he invited me to come back the next day so he could bring me to a music school for the blind. He wanted me to play for them so I could inspire them. Now, it’s coming into light why I am here, maybe not so much in winning the piano competition, and why was my flight back delayed for 2 more weeks. After hearing my playing in the school, a young woman(her name is Nili, blind, 20 years old and serving in the Israeli Military) introduced herself to me and at that time her mother was with her. The mother told me, she saw me in Israel national TV broadcast during the competition and she said everybody in the family was rooting for me and did not realized she will meet me in person. The mother told me she will organize a small concert in her house and will invite her friends to hear me play. The next day Nili and her mother pick us up to drive us around Israel just like we did together in 2000. That night, they drove us to the house of Nili and the house was very small but it was packed with people mostly friends and relatives of Nili. We sang and played together that night and they were delighted and they told me, for them, I was the winner on the competition no matter what.. (They new I am a catholic and none suggested for me to become a rabbi, otherwise I will be called “Rabbi Ibay”) Three days before going back to USA, the family of Nili visited me again and with many shaloms, they bid goodbye and promised to continue our friendship. (little did we know we will see them again sooner). One day before flying back to USA, we received a call from the director of the competition committee inviting us to come back May 5 of that year to play in Jerusalem for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of Israel independence. They chose another musician to play with me, an Israeli young woman who was one of the winner in the competition. The director, Miss Idit Zivi told me that the US President George Bush and his wife Laura will be in attendance. I said to myself wow…God must have really planned something for me here. To make the story much shorter, I came back to Israel again, my new Israeli friend Nili and her family came to visit me in our ho