“Something big is about to happen.” Vicky Ann enjoys reminding me, through uncontrollable laughter, that I said this in church on Good Friday. Yes, she tells me, the crucifixion of Christ was definitely something big.
After an incredible sleep in our lovely AirBnB with a truly amazing family (more on our hosts in a future post), we headed to the village’s Catholic church, guided by two boys we had asked for directions. We thought we had missed the 9:00 am Good Friday service, but when we walked in the church there was plenty to see.
The pews of the stone church had been pushed to the side, leaving a large open space in the middle. Men were busy wrapping the body of Jesus just inside the entrance, while others waved incense. A man walked in and started waving a large wooden pole with a spinning board that looked like a flag on the end. It made a loud ratchet sound that echoed throughout the church. Soon an elderly indigenous woman approached the now wrapped Jesus and kissed him before walking around the body and waving incense. She was Mary, and did not seem to be acting, but was living the pain and sorrow that emanated from her as she moved slowly around the body of Christ.
After some time witnessing this somber scene, we took a break from the incense and sat in the stone plaza in front of the church, which was filled with indigenous families from San Juan and throughout the area who had come for Good Friday. Everyone was siting in whatever sliver of shade they could find, and more and more families arrived by the truckload, all dressed in traditional Mayan clothing specific to their villages.
Back inside the church, the body of Jesus was now being tied to a cross in front of the altar. Men carefully tied him up, and over the course of hours, sent flowers, palms, a crown of thorns, and other items up two ladders for the men at the top to arrange them. The noise makers, which I later discovered are called matracas, were now being played by men and boys throughout the church. The sound was almost deafening, and resembled a death rattle. There was never a silent moment.
Vicky Ann and I were both moved and mesmerized by the experience, one that we cannot easily convey through words and pictures. After spending most of the day in and around the church, we headed back to our home in San Juan to rest before the evening processions, stopping along the way to see the preparations. More on that in the next post!