“By the cross we, too, are crucified with Christ; but alive in Christ. We are no more rebels, but servants; no more servants, but sons!” ~Frederic William Farrar
Yesterday was Good Friday. Although there weren’t any typical Good Friday services to attend, much of the town took part in the Fourteen Stations of the Cross. The fourteen stations themselves are events that follow Christ’s path to the Cross from the condemnation by Pilate to placing Jesus in the tomb. I’d heard of them briefly before, but never been in a tradition that used them to outline an entire Good Friday service.
There must have been at least a hundred or two hundred people there as we crowded into San Giovenale, the church designated as the starting location of the processional. As we walked in, we received candles with paper cups around them to keep the flames from blowing out in the wind–a fire hazard if I ever saw one, and some did indeed catch fire. I was expecting a processional similar to the one on the Feast of St. Joseph, but this on seemed different in the way that the people participated. St. Joseph was more of a celebration. This was more of a service, where every part of you is involved in the process. As we lit the candles, the priest (I think…) led the way, with someone carrying the cross that stayed at the front of the procession. Some people had been designated to lead the responsive singing and chanting, or lead the people in prayer. As the cross left, we, with our candles, followed along the outskirts of the town and through the old medieval section. Candles lit the path that we would be following.
Periodically along the way, the cross would stop, and at that point one of the stations would be read, starting with the words “And Jesus said…” This would be followed by either song or prayer. Several times we prayed the Lord’s Prayer, which I’m proud to say that I now know in Italian. While we were walking, there would be a song. At one of the stations, I also heard them suddenly reading a quote from Martin Luther King…I’m not quite sure how that fit into the Fourteen Stations, but it was something about being brothers and sisters and not fighting wars…
The whole procession ended in San Andrea, a church that, like San Giovenale, is super old but I hadn’t been in yet. It was interesting to see some of the people not in the procession leaning out of their windows and watching, and some of the tourists along the side of the road staring at this cultural piece. The final station was read inside of the church.
I think one of the things that strikes me most about something like the Fourteen Stations of the Cross is how much the worshippers participate in the service, making it a much more vivid reminder of Christ’s sacrifice. We physically walked, sang, and prayed in a community. I think this is something that we might have lost a little bit. Good Friday services that I’ve been to in the past usually involve some sort of reflection, but how many of them physically walk around a town as a reminder of the walk that Jesus took to his death for us? It’s not just a routine tradition, it’s part of their worship. And how many of them involve so much of a town that the police comes and lays out barricades so cars don’t interfere? You see that kind of thing for idol festivals in Taiwan, but not for a Good Friday service in the states. And it’s not really questioned, it just is.
Today I spent in Rome, touring the Colosseum and Roman Forum…but more of that later…