By Thomas Ryder
In 2013, I visited Seville, Spain during its famous Holy Week, when a magnificent, centuries-old reenactment of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ takes to the streets.
Passion Week in Seville is a ray of hope for Christianity in a world that has become a Babel of dissenting ideas and beliefs. What a wonderful experience to see people of faith, multitudes prayerfully following mile-long candle processions through the night, and three-ton floats with life-like representations of the Passion of Christ and the Suffering Virgin.
For the Catholic Spaniard, nothing but the best is used for the Lord and His Mother. So the floats are artistically covered in silver and gold, and the various statues of the Dolorous Madonna wear mantles of embroidered beauty, thought only possible in heaven.
More than seventy confraternities, some several centuries old, process through the streets of charming Seville during Holy Week. An authentically popular movement, the confraternities are composed entirely of laity. Thus, what I witnessed was genuine devotion and piety rising to heaven like incense in this age of the iPod.
I saw an entire city put aside earthly concerns, and, for a full week follow its Redeemer and its heavenly Mother, day and night through the streets of ancient Seville. If ever I felt Catholicity, it was in the middle of the night, pressed on all sides by a crowd waiting for Christ and the Mater Dolorosa to pass. But you had to have been there. . .
Love and sorrow, life and death, blood and tears, flesh and spirit, earth and eternity, were there at dawn under the moonlight as all waited for the long procession of Jesus del Gran Poder to pass. It is an amazing Faith that gives the title “Of the Great Power” to one condemned to die. As all eyes focus on the end of the street, first the shadow of a figure bent under a cross appeared around the corner, then the holy Face and bearing. A superbly carved statue of a virile Man, his expression is heart-grabbing. Preceded by a musical band that played a tune at once solemn and strong, He slowly passed through a profoundly respectful crowd.
Suddenly a “saeta,” an improvised song, broke out, a man singing from a balcony with all the passion his heart and lungs could muster: “. . .because Christ lives. . . I have seen Him, I have seen Him walking through the streets of Seville. . .”
Half an hour later a second float approached covered in decorative gold. One hundred lit candles only allowed viewers a glimpse of the outline of a Mater Dolorosa. As the float passed, the blaze made it difficult to focus on the beautiful, tear-stained face of the suffering mother, a sword plunged into her heart.
“Why so many candles in front of her,” I asked of the person next to me.
“So she can’t see the suffering of her Son, who goes ahead,” is the simple, love-filled answer.
As I flew back to the States, thinking of the great loss that it is for the world to have abandoned the true Faith, I felt as if an angel whispered a thought: world powers come and go, each convinced that it can do away with God, but, in the end, Truth remains and Christian Civilization, sublime and sacred, will once again reign supreme.
Never doubt it.