Posts Tagged ‘Viernes Santo’

In Oaxaca the penitents gathered…

Purple hooded penitent

in front of Preciosa Sangre de Cristo on Good Friday…

3 black hooded penitents

preparing for the Procession of Silence.

Purple hoods behind black hooded penitent

For those who are wondering, “What’s with the hoods (capirotes)?”  The answer can be traced back to the Middle Ages.  Members of lay religious charitable organizations (cofradías) would don the masks and hoods to guarantee anonymity and promote humility in their service.

From the Holy Week in Seville, Wikipedia page:

At the heart of Semana Santa are the brotherhoods (Hermandades y Cofradías de Penitencia),[1] associations of Catholic laypersons organized for the purpose of performing public acts of religious observance; in this case, related to the Passion and death of Jesus Christ and to perform public penance.

The brotherhoods, besides the day-to-day work in preparation for the processions, also undertake many other self-regulated religious activities, and charitable and community work. Many brotherhoods maintain their own chapel, while others are attached to a regular parish.

The Spanish brought the tradition to Mexico and penitents continue to play a major role in the Viernes Santo, Procesión del Silencio in Oaxaca.

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And so Viernes Santo (Good Friday) began…

Mass said, a Vía Crucis (Stations of the Cross) procession through the streets of my neighborhood.

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The back of the official 26th anniversary t-shirt for the Good Friday, Procesión del Silencio, doesn’t come close to telling the tale.

Back of T-shirt: Face of Jesus; text "1986 Procesion del silencio 2012"

Images of belief add texture to the ritual procession of mourners grieving the crucifixion and death of Jesus, as related in the New Testament of the Christian Bible.

Close up of a bleeding Jesus head and torso on a cross

But it’s the eyes of believers…

purple hooded face with only eyes showing

that gives the narrative a silent voice.

Virgin Mary statue with halo from shoulders up.

And, grieving mothers everywhere understand.

Profile of a woman wearing black veil and glasses.

No matter where one lands on the belief continuum, it’s hard not to be moved.

(ps)  For lots more terrific photos, take a look at Chris’s posting, The Procession of Silence.

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Man in purple hood, leaning against large wooden cross.

Mary with praying over Jesus

Jesus seated; head leaning on hand; on arm resting on knee

In front of Preciosa Sangre de Cristo Templo on Viernes Santo (Good Friday), waiting for the Procesión del Silencio (Procession of Silence) to set off up the Álcala, down Garcia Vigil, and back up the Álcala to Sangre de Cristo.

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More than one norte americano has asked, “What’s up with the KKK-like hoods?”  Ahh… a reference question for the librarian!

Purple hooded men carry a Jesus statue

They date back to 15th or 16th century Europe.  Members of lay religious charitable organizations (cofradías) would don the masks and hoods to guarantee anonymity and promote humility in their service. The Spanish brought the tradition to Mexico.


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The Procesión del Silencio departed from the Iglesia de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo and proceeded up the Alcalá to Gómez Farias, where it turned left and left again and down García Vigil to Independencia and then back up the Alcalá. Once the procession began, fellow blogger Chris (Oaxaca-The Year After) and I left the masses on the Alcalá and positioned ourselves on a wall overlooking García Vigil, for an unobstructed view.

Out of respect for what is being commemorated, tradition calls for participants and spectators to remain silent, save for the solemn drum beat and haunting sounds of a chirimia that herald the procession’s arrival and continue to play as the faithful from various neighborhoods and churches carry banners, crosses, and images of the crucified Jesus and his grieving mother through the streets of the city.

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Spectators, participants, and the ever-present vendors waiting for the Procesión del Silencio…

Dad holding baby girl

2 red hooded participants waiting.

Participants and spectators

Altar kids lined up
White hood participants waiting

Woman vendor holding basket of candy.

More to come…

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I opened the front gate this morning to find the sidewalk had morphed into an Estación de la Cruz.

Station of the cross on the sidewalk with Jesus and Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.

Worshipers prayed, recited the appropriate devotions, and then slowly moved on.

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