I began writing this post on Good Friday, which is called Viernes Santo (Holy Friday) here in Latin America. It is the holiday that is set aside to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. And in fact, I am writing these very words as I sit at my desk within my apartment here in Marinilla, Colombia, and the building I am living in just happens to be named Jesús Nazareno.
Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a BIG deal in all of Latin America, and here in Colombia is no exception. It is estimated that 86% of Colombians identify as Roman Catholic, and in this little Catholic town of Marinilla I’ve heard that as many as 95% of the community is Catholic. Other than a few Protestant churches and a congregation of Jehovah Witnesses, Catholics rule here. Marinilla is also well-known throughout Colombia for its extensive Semana Santa celebrations, programs, concerts, activities, and much more. This town also has a museum filled with nearly 3,000 crosses, crucifixes, and Christ figurines, which they claim is the most extensive collection in the entire world.
I am very appreciative of my Catholic upbringing, however I have never been one who is enamored with pageantry and pomp and circumstance, so at times this week I have wondered how many parades of Jesus statues throughout the town does it take to make people more devoted to God? Every day there is a different parade, sometimes multiple parades, making a slow procession to the Catholic Church that anchors the central plaza. Many people line the parade route, but there are just as many people in the bars and restaurants drinking beer and eating food as the parades pass by. Some of the parade participants seem focused and even devotional, but others look bored and tired and ready for it to be over. I guess that for the true devotee, if all this activity deepens your devotion, I want you to know that I am happy for you. Perhaps there are others who are sitting on the fence and just kind of living indifferently toward God, yourself, and your fellow human being … if these celebrations awaken your spirit, I am all for them. There may even be many people here who are put off by all this fuss, and who view it as an inconvenience and as a false show of righteousness … to you I say that I hope you will not let it discourage you from connecting more deeply with your Source. I myself am very grateful for the opportunity to be here to experience Semana Santa in Latin America, and I have enjoyed it … however, I honestly don’t know whether it has been for me a truly spiritual experience because I think that I am more inclined to sense God’s presence in stillness and quiet.
I wonder what God thinks about all of this? I expect that God honors and blesses it all, if for no other reason than the fact that this is what people want to do here at this time of year in this part of God’s world. God obviously made a multi-color, multi-racial, multi-religion, multi-cultural, and multi-lingual world … and I believe that it is all beautiful in God’s eyes. Not beautiful in the sense that anything that anyone does or believes contributes to a better world for all, but beautiful in the sense that God’s infinitive love is truly beautiful.