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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkNews from Around Banderas Bay | March 2008 

Celebrating an Ancient Easter Ritual in an Old Mexican Town
email this pageprint this pageemail usJOY! - PVNN

Click HERE to read more about Joy's San Sebastian Adventure
Good Friday is the day Christians mourn the death of Jesus Christ. This year it falls on a full moon and the Equinox, a power filled day that equals night: An intense time whichever way you look at it.

I am in San Sebastian, and I have arrived at the church just in time for the eight o'clock service.

Jesus is not hanging from the cross, he is lying under a white sheet surrounded by candles, the statue of Mary is by his side, praying. Every other statue and picture is covered in purple cloth. The pews are set up around the scene so that Christ and Mary have people on every side.

As the bell tolls, the citizens of San Sebastian begin filing into the church, I am seated at the end of the last pew so I can watch everything around me. The priest does not stand behind a pulpit, he sits with his parishioners; they read from the bible together.

An ancient woman swathed in traditional black sits next to him, her worn face peeping out from under a lace shawl, she is dwarfed by his 6' frame. A young woman in jeans stands up to read the next bible passage. More people arrive, the back of the church is packed and there is a crowd out the door. There are dozens of children from tiny babies to teens, they are all unbelievably well-behaved.

The priest invites the crowd in to fill the spaces behind and on either side of the tableau, which is hidden from sight as we stand. A pure, poignant voice begins to sing. As the last note dies away she begins an invocation call and response. Spanish words ebb and flow in (to me) an unintelligible murmur that sounds like waves pulling at the rocks on the beach in Vallarta. We sit and she sings again.

A woman in the middle of the congregation rises and begins to speak "Santa Maria..." she is saying the rosary, after each line the congregation responds. Now it's the turn of a young man to lead... this is truly a community affair, what a beautiful thing to see people praying together this way.

Two wonderful crones in black lace mantles arrive and room is made for them in the pew next to mine. They have surely stepped out of a history book. I long to photograph their faces but I could never be so rude. A wide-eyed toddler makes her way to them knee by knee until she is gazing up into their wrinkled faces. She is wearing a fuzzy pink full-body sleep suit, and the contrast between ancient and modern is striking. They see only wonderment in each other's sparkling eyes.

In front of the crones is a row of mustached working men hardened by 20, 30, 50 years in the agave fields. Their whole lives etched on their weathered faces.

Everyone kneels, a different chant begins. The energy has shifted, I stop looking and listening and feel into it. The words are like prayer beads salving the collective spirit.

A glass coffin is brought in and placed next to Jesus. The sheet is removed, and he is transferred to the coffin. Six pall bearers step forward to carry the coffin out of the church, four men lift the statue of Mary behind him.

A young girl beating a drum leads the procession, everyone files out. I am walking next to the coffin, watching, feeling, amazed at the depth and the power of this ritual.

Mary is no longer with our procession, the crowd has split, half went with her on a different route. We walk solemnly through the narrow cobbled back streets, holding candles, chanting, changing pall bearers every few minutes.

Finally we reunite at a corner where she stands waiting for him, a crowd behind her also chanting. We merge and the jolt of it brings tears to my eyes, HUGE energy in this, orbs everywhere, I can see them even without the camera.

We walk around the square and back through the arch into the church again. Another jolt as we pass under the arch. The figures are returned to the heart of the church and the side of the glass coffin is let down. Each person files past and reaches in to kiss or touch the figure inside.

I join the queue, towering above the tiny Mexican woman in front of me, the only white face in the building. I touch the wound in Christ's side and stand in front of Mary for what feels like a long time, tears running down my cheeks.

Easter only really meant chocolate eggs until tonight. This simple ceremony, these simple people, this humble place, has touched me more than I can say.

Click HERE to read more about Joy's San Sebastian Adventure
JOY! Is an internationally acclaimed life transformation coach, famous for her unreasonable success in helping people move through their challenges with her unorthodox approach and emPOWERment tools. For more information, visit her website or call 044-322-129-1128.

Click HERE for more articles by JOY!

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