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Posts Tagged ‘pan bendito’

Last night I joined in the Oaxaca tradition of visiting seven churches (la visita de las siete casas) on Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday).  According to Wikipedia, “The tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday probably originated in Rome, as early pilgrims visited the seven basilicas as penance.”  Last year I missed it, albeit for an excellent reason, as I spent much of Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Teotitlán del Valle with the family of Porfirio Gutierrez.

This year, my first stop was just around the corner at Templo de San José, where I bought my pan bendito from a couple of women selling small bags of the traditional blessed bread from a little table just inside the front door.  The entrance to this church is small and it was crowded with parishioners trying to get to the mass that was in progress, so I opted not to stop to take photos.  As I exited and made my way across Jardín Socrates (packed with people enjoying nieves), enroute to Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, there were more blessed bread vendors set up in Soledad’s atrium.

The doors to the Basilica were closed and the “traveling” Soledad was standing under a giant tent in the atrium.  However, I followed the faithful to a tiny side chapel where a miniature image of Soledad appeared, behind iron bars and glass, like an apparition.

My next stop was along Calle Independencia — at Templo de San Felipe Neri, where I was met with gridlock.  I joined the crowd in practicing patience and persistence as I navigated my way to the entrance, which was also serving as the exit — for some unknown reason the side door was closed.

Less than a block away, my next destination was the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.  It took almost ten minutes to wind my way through the masses of people (tourists, vendors, performers, and other Jueves Santo pilgrims) crowding the street and the Alameda.  A mass was in progress and the pews were packed — even in the side chapels, it was standing room only.  However, it was here, amidst thousands, I had the good fortune of running into a dear Oaxaca friend I hadn’t seen for many months.

Leaving the Cathedral, I met the same foot traffic jam when crossing the zócalo to Templo de la Compañía de Jesús.  However, once there, leave it to the Jesuits to have the entrada y salida (entrance and exit) logistics worked out!

Exiting the “salida” door, I took a side street to avoid the zócalo and Alameda.  By this time darkness had fallen, the uneven and potholed sidewalks had become even more treacherous, and so taking care not to also fall, I headed to Templo del Carmen de Abajo.  Though not crowded, it too had separate doors marked for entering and exiting.  And here, too, I ran into someone I knew — this time a new acquaintance from Palm Sunday in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.

I couldn’t even get near the doorway of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, so I gave up on that visit and turned towards Templo del Carmen Alto and, on my way there, ran into one of my neighbors!  Even when it’s filled with tens of thousands of tourists, it’s a small world in Oaxaca.  Once at Carmen Alto, I joined a throng of people walking down the main aisle, when a procession, led by an incense swinging altar boy, came up behind us asking for permission to pass — the gal behind me had a very close call with the incense burner.

I had visited seven churches in seventy minutes and, by the time I left Carmen Alto, my feet were sore and hunger and home beckoned.  However, I was left with warm feelings of having greeted friends and been out and about with the people of my adopted city.

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Yesterday, under a full moon…

and clutching our “pan bendito” (blessed bread), we began our pilgrimage.  Jueves Santo (Holy/Maundy Thursday) tradition calls for visiting 7 churches (la visita de las siete casas) in the city with one’s pan bendito, which must be kept to offer to guests, should any grace our doorstep.  This all relates back to Jesus’s Last Supper, which this date commemorates.

3 buns on a plate

First stop was the nearby Templo de San José, where palm fronds were also distributed and believers used them to brush up and down the statue of Jesus.  Hands also ran down his legs and then were used to touch one’s face.

After emerging from the side door of the jam-packed church, we set off for Templo de San Felipe Neri (whose picturesque dome can be seen (left of center) on my blog banner-head).

Altar with candles and lights.

Next stop was Carmen Abajo

Altar with JHS on banner above altar

followed by the far right side chapel of the La Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.  A plaque at the entrance of the chapel read, “El maestro esta aqui y te llama” (The teacher is here and calls you) and the multitude seemed to be heeding the call.

Altar with red banners reading, "De este pan no morirá; El pan de vida eterna"

We then strolled across the zócalo to the Jesuit, Templo de la Compañía de Jesus.

Altar with candles and flanked with yellow and white floral arrangements

We changed direction and headed north up the Álcala.  Big mistake!  A mosh pit (Chris, this WAS a mosh pit) surrounding a Tuna band that was playing in the middle of the street, causing gridlock and bringing us to an abrupt stop.  Eventually, following our blocker (my son, the lineman would be proud), we eventually found light and continued up to Preciosa Sangre de Cristo Templo, where we had earlier spent 1-1/2 hours (and it was still going on when we left!) at a mass where the priest reenacted Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper.

God in a cloud above a lamb on an altar, draped in red cloth.

Strolling across the Álcala to Santo Domingo was much less challenging. The aisle to Santo Domingo’s main altar was blocked and we were routed to a side chapel.  Hurray, we did it — this made seven churches visited!

Gold encrusted altar

However, though bleary-eyed (as evidenced by the photo below), we opted for just one more, Carmen Alto.

White bearded man hovering in the clouds above lighted candles

Home beckoned…  and sleep came easily under the watch of the moon, now appropriately encircled by a halo.

Full moon with halo shining from behind clouds

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