“In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.” (Luke 24:22-23)
“But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb.” (Luke 24:11-12a)
My husband and I had the opportunity to spend Holy week in Spain this year. The Semana Santa celebrations are community-wide events. Throughout the week, life sized carvings of Christ are carried though the streets (by 20-30 men) on large platforms lit with candles. Hundreds of black-cloaked men and women called penitente (the penitent), slowly and silently follow the processional through the streets accompanied by full marching bands playing the saddest, most solemn music I have ever heard. On Maundy Thursday the life sized carving depicted Christ bound in the garden of Gethsemane, on Good Friday morning it showed Him carrying the cross, in the afternoon they carried the carving of Christ on the cross. Saturday’s procession was perhaps the most somber the carving of Christ’s dead body, laying lifeless in the tomb. The images of those processionals leave clear imprints in my mind, but it was the music that seemed to hit my very soul. The somber funeral drudge seemed to capture the feelings of the women as they watched Jesus die, the pain of Peter as he wept bitterly, and even pointed to the sadness of the Father over His children’s sin. It was heart breaking.
Each day we stood for hours; waiting for and watching the processions. Saturday night at midnight the large cathedral in Seville was full of worshipers. We streamed in from the darkness into the huge stone building. The mood was solemn and somber. The sermon was in Spanish so I wasn’t able to understand all of it, but over and over I heard the words esperanza (hope) and vida eterno (life eternal). The service was one of waiting faithfully trusting and waiting in the hope of eternal life. The service concluded with the ancient tradition of baptizing a baby on the eve of Easter. It was as if everyone there was waiting to celebrate but unable to realize it yet, still looking forward and waiting.
We walked back to our hostel in the dark, the somber mood of the night permeating our conversation and mood. We talked about how sad it was that we would not to be able to see any more processions. We climbed the stairs to our room, prepared our luggage for tomorrows departure and quietly went to bed.
Very early in the morning, before I was fully awake I began to hear music in my sleep. I have never heard music more full of life and joy. It started quietly and distantly, but slowly got louder and louder. I blinked opened my eyes to the light of dawn and the crescendo of vivid trumpets and crashing drums outside my room. I ran to the window there was another procession! I could hear it and see white-cloaked figures, but that was all. I couldn’t see the processional carving or tell which way it was going. I woke up my husband and we rushed to the door. Throwing on a jacket and grabbing our luggage, we raced down the stairs and onto the street. We couldn’t see where the procession was, but we could hear it. We hurriedly followed the sound of the music. We desperately wanted to see the processional carving; nothing else seemed to matter but the need to see Jesus. We cut through alleyways and around corners in the early light, guided only by the sounding trumpets. As the music got louder we knew we were closer and we began to run, no longer dragging our wheeled luggage, now it was just flying behind us as we sped closer and closer to the music. We turned a corner and there He was! Lifted in the air, over the heads of the crowd, was the carving of the Risen Christ! His arms were out and one foot was above the ground, as if He was just stepping from the tomb. We dropped our luggage and our jaws in pure, excited amazement…realizing that we were not the first sinners to run to the tomb, and that this was not the last time we would awaken to trumpets and the coming of Christ.
He is risen! HE IS RISEN INDEED!
Published April 2006