Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Holy Week 2016 in the Mountains

Norma attending the Easter service in Xochitepec
To say, “I believe in Jesus Christ…who rose from the dead,” then, is to say I believe that the Resurrection goes on and on and on forever. Every time Jesus rises in our own hearts in new ways, the Resurrection happens again. Every time we see Jesus where we did not recognize him before—in the faces of the poor, in the love of the unloved, in the revelatory moments of life—Jesus rises anew. But that is not all. The real proof of the Resurrection lies not in the transformation of Jesus alone but in the transformation awaiting us who accept it. To say, “I believe in Jesus Christ…who rose from the dead” is to say something about myself at the same time. It says that I myself am ready to be transformed. Once the Christ-life rises in me, I rise to new life as well…Resurrection is about transfiguration.
                                                         —from In Search of Belief by Joan Chittister (Liguori).  

Children in Alcamani playing during Holy Week

This transformation/transfiguration spoken of by Joan Chittister is nowhere more evident in the mountains of Guerrero than during Holy Week. All of the villages have their customs and traditions; it is rare that there be no procession on Palm Sunday or celebration of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday or via crucis (way of the cross) on Good Friday.
Palm Sunday procession in Xochitepec
Veronica wipes the face of Jesus in the via crucis in Pozolapa
Of course, there are often differences. For example, it is not uncommon to have a “washing of the hands” ceremony on Holy Thursday rather than the washing of the feet. The same sense of service and loving-kindness is shared. And the bread and wine used by Jesus at the Last Supper often becomes tortillas or crackers and Pepsi or juice in the villages.
Foot-washing service in Llano de la Parota
This year hundreds of young people (and a few not so young) from other areas of Mexico visited the mountains during Holy Week and lived in different villages. I spent the week in the parish of Xochitepec, where every one of the 26 villages of the parish received such a contingent of young people. These young people coordinated the Holy Week services with the local leaders, and they visited families, and they interacted with children, youth, and adults.
Young people journeying to the mountains in the Mission Mexico truck
One group of young people in Aguaxoco: Bart, Ita, Edgar, Edilberto, Coco
My admiration for the sacrifices endured by these young people is beyond measure. They had to adapt to local ways of living in an area of scarcity, and everyone not only endured the experience—they loved the experience. If church is about community, they built community. If church is about love, they witnessed to love.
Children in Aguaxoco participating with the young people from Tlapa
I was privileged to accompany Father Vicente, a Missionary of the Holy Spirit, as we went around during the week to see how the different groups of young people were doing. It was amazing to see the joy not only of the young people, but of all of the members of the villages where the young people were living.
Father Vicente is in his first year of service in Xochitepec. The past four years he was
studying Canon Law in Madrid, Spain. Just a little contrast...
Of course, Vicente and I couldn’t “hit the road” without our favorite copilot, Ramiro, an architect from Mexico City who comes each year to Xochitepec for Holy Week. Ramiro is a great artist, and he brought with him all kinds of paints, paper, brushes, markers, crayons, etc. The joy he brought to hundreds of children who were able to express their creativity in color was immense. I daresay that most architects spend Holy Week vacationing at some beach; Ramiro and his wife, Beatriz, and their daughter Maria, and Maria’s boyfriend Eduardo spent the week helping to bring transformation to the lives of the indigenous people in this impoverished mountain region.
Ramiro—an incredible human being!
Painting in the village of Plan Ranchito
It was a most tiring but rewarding week. Resurrection hope was rekindled in the lives of many. Lives—of the young people visiting? of the people in the villages? mine?—were hopefully transformed and transfigured. Hopefully all of us are strengthened in our resolve to work for and witness to the new life that every human being should be joyfully experiencing. That is my wish for all of the people who read this note. Happy Easter!
Jesus crucified between the two thieves in Pozolapa
New flame—new life—kindled in Xochitepec
Easter morning in Xochitepec

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