Holy Week is a huge deal in Spain. Go here for a quick overview before proceeding. :) http://granadamap.com/santa/
We've been told in our culture class that thousands of tourists come to Granada for this event. The streets are always packed and the processions are the main attraction. Our culture teacher did a good job of preparing us for what Granada was going to be like this past week.
I wanted to go to one of these processions to experience it for myself. I took the three interns (Gaby, Sarah, and Grace) and we decided to attend the Silence Procession the night before last. Because things don't start until late at night, I didn't pick up the other gals until 11:00pm. We grabbed a quick supper (yummy shawarmas) and headed downtown. We parked on a side street about 10 minutes from the center and walked to find a place to wait for the float to pass by. We were fortunate enough to find a great spot on a main street and didn't move so that we could get good pictures and stuff.
We waited there about and hour and a half. Then all of the sudden the lights of the street turned off and we knew that shortly the procession would go by. I was amazed at the number of people involved. Men, women, children - it was a hard to guess how many were actually involved. Easily 100 or more in total. I had mixed emotions about it all. It was sad, intriguing, idolatrous, inspiring, reminiscent, fascinating, exciting, chilling, moving, empty, overwhelming, train wreck-ish, final.
For the most part the crowd was silent. The streets got dark to represent the death of Jesus and when the float arrived carrying "Jesus" I was impacted by the reverence and solemnity of the crowd. Some of those in the procession were dragging chains and crosses and were barefoot, meaning that they, in their personal lives, felt that they needed to suffer to go along with Jesus' suffering. This was the saddest part for me -- to know there is a "life option" yet so many continue to choose shame and death.
And that's what impacted me the most. As I took in the whole event happened as I compared it to my own life, I was surprised at the similarities. I was watching a real-life portrayal of my own heart/mind/soul.
I compare myself to others. Pride creeps into my heart and my words. Jesus' suffering becomes all about me instead of all about His Glory. I shackle myself again to flashbacks of things I've said or done. I worry. I doubt. I second-guess. I fear. I trudge along burdened and heavy. How many times have I, Rebekah, chosen chains of shame and guilt when Christ offers life.
Pure life. Abundant life. Eternal life.
Matthew 27: 51-52 "At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life."
Jesus' death brought instant life.
And from that moment forward Jesus' business has been all about bringing life to the dead or dying. Pray for me, for those of us working here, that we might be life-reflectors of Christ to those who are dying without him.
I love my mom's potato soup. I love it. It's creamy, simple, has yummy rivlets, and is perfecto if you put a dab of butter in the center of the bowl just before consuming it. Delish. I was craving it and decided to make a pot, inviting the two interns, Sarah and Grace, to come and eat lunch with me and Gaby in my apartment last Monday afternoon.
It was a delightful lunch and afternoon, finishing the special day event off with a little apple crisp and a generous scoop of a la mode. Oh yeah, and Venezuelan coffee. Could this day get any better?!?!
Nope, it couldn't.
Gaby and took Sarah and Grace home and when we came back we were faced with a horrible reality. Gaby's keys were in the door to our apartment......on the inside. My keys wouldn't work because hers were already in the lock on the other side. I knocked on our neighbor's door to see if we could climb over the wall that separates our patios, but the knocking echoed throughout the empty apartment. Now we know we don't have neighbors across the hall.
Gaby: We could call the firemen. At the Police Headquarters they said that we can always call 112 in case of an emergency.
Me: I don't think this is a real emergency.
Gaby: How else are we going to get into the apartment?
I prayed out loud that the Lord would make the keys fall out of the lock on the other side. To give Him a hand I gave the door a quick shoulder pounding. I don't think He appreciated the help. The keys didn't budge.
I mentioned that maybe we could climb up to our balcony from the street. We live on the second floor and we could maybe climb up the windows that are below and enter that way. Then I remembered the blinds. The "persians" as the Spanish would call them. They are blinds that are on the outside of the the windows that you can raise and put down from inside the window. They protect from heat and from cold, and I had lowered them 30 seconds before taking Sarah and Grace home.
This wasn't looking good. I could almost hear the sirens of the bomberos....
I had sent a text to my friend Jorge, who responded with a greeting but was working and so he couldn't chat more.
Gaby: Maybe we should ask a neighbor if they have an idea of what we could do.
Me (still bummed the keys hadn't fallen out of the other side): Well, go ahead.
She walked to the other end of the hall as I listened with my ear to the door for the sound of keys falling to the floor. Nada.
I watch Gaby explain to the neighbor what had happened and he put his shoes on and came down to see what had happened. Danny, our new hero, came down with a piece of plastic and worked tirelessly to release the switch. But our door was closed really tight. Danny was sweating. I was apologizing. Gaby kept turning on the light. (the hall lights are on timers). We continued in this cycle for 30 minutes.
It was evident that Danny wasn't going to win the match with the door. He knew it. Gaby knew it. We all knew it. We began to discuss other options, and he said something about it being too bad that he couldn't get in through the balcony. I told him he could get up there and that the glass door was open, but that we had the problem of those wonderful persians.
Super Danny said that the persians weren't a problem.
We went outside, he scampered up the windows and began pulling up on those blessed persians with all his might. They gave way little by little and Gaby went back inside. I cheered on from down below and as soon as Super Danny had enough space, he crawled into the apartment. Moments later he opened the front door and we thanked him over and over and over and over and over and over again.
I told Super Danny that at least I was right -- leaving keys the door keep the intruders out. He said his wife always likes to leave the keys in the door as well. But he doesn't like it because of.......well, because of what just happened to us. We all chuckled and we felt a new bond was created.
The next day I quickly made up some cookies and Gaby and I took them down to Super Danny and his wife, Ascension. His wife greeted us and had little two-month-old Super Danny Junior in her arms. She couldn't believe that we had given them cookies and said that Danny was happy to help.
After the whole ordeal was over, we were glad that it had happened because it gave us an opportunity to meet our neighbors, make a memory with them, and bless them through it as well.
And now I know why God just didn't simply make the keys fall out. Cue the music, Garth, and let's everybody sing together nice and loud: "sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers" :)
On Wednesday Sarah didn't go to Culture Class because she wasn't feeling well. So it was just Gaby and me. We were going over the Top Ten National Holidays here in Spain and our teacher began to tell us about a holiday that happens around Easter. It's called Romería del Rocío. Here is a short explanation of the holiday found on the internet:
More than a million people and close to one hundred different brotherhoods enjoy the wonderful festive atmosphere of this pilgrimage to the village of El Rocío. The celebration combines religion and fiesta. Hundreds of thousands of people come from all over Spain, and even abroad, to make this annual pilgrimage to the Blanca Paloma Shrine in the village of El Rocío, 17 kilometres from the town of Almonte (Huelva province). Over the week before, the different Rocío brotherhoods set out from their bases in Huelva, Seville, andCadiz, amongst other provinces, in order to get to the village of El Rocío by the Saturday, and to enjoy the events which run through to the Monday. The most traditional way to do the pilgrimage is on horseback, by carriage or on foot, dressed in flamenco clothing. By day, the brotherhoods advance in festive spirits, singing flamenco, while by night they camp out and organise parties around the bonfire with singing, dancing, food and drink into the early hours. As they arrive in the village of El Rocío, pilgrims pitch their camps and await the arrival of the remaining brotherhoods. On the Saturday there is a parade where they present themselves with the simpecado (the association's standard) before the statue of the Virgin Mary, while the church bells ring. On the Sunday there are various religious acts and that night nobody sleeps, in anticipation of the weekend's most exciting moment: the “jumping the fence”, when the people of Almonte jump over the fence to bring the statue of the Virgin out of the shrine and parade it around the village on Monday morning. Once the procession is over, the brotherhoods start the return journey with their minds already on next year's pilgrimage.
After a quick explanation of the holiday we were then shown a video of the event -- the jumping of the fence -- where men grab hold of the statue in hopes of being healed or of healing a family member by clinging to this statue. The men fight for position to be near and to touch this statue. This happens every year.
I wanted to cry.
I swallowed a lump in my throat as I watched these people desperately trying touch this statue; I wondered what was going through Gaby's mind as she watched this. I wanted to leave class and find a corner to hide in and cry.
After watching this video I decided that I would try to lead the conversation a different direction and so I said to our teacher "I have a question. I'm learning more and more about Catholicism since being here in Spain. Can you explain to me how this holiday fits in with the Catholic belief/devotion to Mary?"
It wasn't her answer about all of the various virgins and saints that impacted me. As a matter of fact, I already had a pretty good idea about how it worked. But I wanted to hear what she had to say about Catholicism because I assumed she was a Catholic. It was the certainty with which she spoke that impacted me. She said "Well, Catholics believe -- WE Catholics believe in Mary -- that she was the mother of God. That she was pure and without sin. And because she is the mother of God she is the most direct way to God, right?" And then she went on to talk briefly about the virgins and saints. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Jesus' words went flying through my mind and soul. My heart went out to my teacher. I swallowed hard again.
After class the first thing out of Gaby's mouth as we exited the building was "I just wanted to cry in class today." She said she wanted to show her in the Bible where Jesus said that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that we only get to God through Him. I said I felt the same way and we talked about heaviness of class that day. That for those of us who know the Truth -- how hard it is to watch those who are blind to it. Neither of us felt that it was the appropriate time to contradict our teacher, but we took time to pray for her and ask for wisdom on when to speak and when to be silent.
Here is a link to the video we watched. The video is only 4 minutes long, but the first minute or two you get the idea of what happens.
So, yeah, this week we had somethin' to cry about. But I guess as long as tears produce prayers and eventually other Christ followers, hand over the tissues.