Friday, April 03, 2015

Holy Thursday: oil, water, Eucharist

When the parish began planning what to do for Holy Week in the villages, I asked Padre German where he wanted me to go. He told me to go where I wanted. But I insisted and so he sent me to three of the most remote and poor villages. So I celebrated Holy Thursday and Good Friday in Agua Buena, El Bálsamo, and Delicias in the municipality of Dolores.

Thursday started out with a trip into Santa Rosa de Copán for the Chrism Mass, the Mass where the bishop blesses the oils of catechumens and the sick and consecrates the Sacred Chrism used in Baptism, Confirmation, Ordinations, and other special consecrations.

Two Communion ministers asked me or a ride and so I took Gloria with her son Eliú and Marco Tulio with his son Darlin.

They, with other communion ministers had visited villages where there is no communion minister, to bring communion to the sick and, if possible, to have a Celebration of the Word with Communion. I was humbled to hear how far they had gone and how much time they had put into their visits. On one day, Marco Tulio had walked four hours to go to two communities, accompanied by his son and another young man from their village.

The parish had encouraged each village to have a collection of basic food needs this week to give to families in need in their villages. Marco Tulio told me how El Zapote de Santa Rosa had gathered almost one hundred pounds of beans, rice, and other food. The generosity of the poor always surprises me.

The Chrism Mass was long – but there was one part that really touched me. The priest who carried in the Oil of the Sick had been very ill – with cancer, I think.

Bishop Andino and Deacon Manuel de Jesús distributing communion
I got to see a number of friends who live in Santa Rosa and also some priests I know but didn’t stay around after Mass since I had to get out to the village of Agua Buena.

 I got to Agua Buena about three pm and we started the celebration a little later.

Key to the Holy Thursday celebration is the Washing of the Feet.

Several places in the parish had the custom of re-enacting the Last Supper, complete with crackers and pop (or so to you non Mid-Westerners), followed by the washing of the feet.

Padre German and I decided that this practice should not be continued, especially where there are Communion ministers to distribute Communion.

In addition, I explained to the people that the washing of the feet is not a drama or an enactment of a past event. It is reliving what Jesus calls us to do. I consider the Washing to the Feet to be a sacramental – a sign that helps reveal the presence of God in our midst, but decided not to use that terminology with people here since it can easily be misunderstood. Yet they did understand that it is not a mere drama – it is a call to serve.

In Agua Buena they had 11 boys ready for the foot washing and were looking for another. I suggested they find a young woman – and they did.

I had the privilege to wash their feet. I noted the stubbed toes, probably due to ill-fitting shoes. And these were young people in their early and mid-teens.

After I washed the feet of the twelve, I decided to encourage others to come forward to wash the feet of others or let their feet be washed. 

It took a while for someone to step forward but finally a good number of men can forward.  Later, with a lot of encouragement, a number of women had their feet washed.

 Finally, realizing that I was being the most reluctant of all, I took off my shoe and let my foot be washed.

While I was encouraging some to come forward for the foot-washing, a woman commented that she was so sinful. I reminded her that Jesus washed the feet of both Peter and Judas. After a few minutes, she came forward to have her foot washed.

At the end of the celebration, at 5:30, I placed the Eucharist on the altar and invited the people to spend time on the next few hours, in slice with Jesus. I explained this was a way of accompanying Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. I told them that we could do this for two hours if they wanted. It ended up being three hours of quiet prayer by many members of the community.

At first, there was only one person praying before the altar. I wondered if the adoration would end early. But I was astounded by the incredible stillness one man maintained while praying on his knees before the altar.

But gradually people started arriving in groups of five or ten. The church was a real place of quiet prayer. Someone later told how important it was for them to have the opportunity to spend time before the Eucharist.

I went in and out of the church, spending some time in the area around the church talking with folks. I think I was a good source of entertainment for some guys when we saw a huge spider.

At about 8:15 the church was half-full. One of the lay leaders told me that we would end at 8:30 pm.

I decided that it might be good to have a closing prayer and so we prayed a shortened version of Compline, the night prayer of the church.

I soon went to bed.

So this Holy Thursday was full of little wonders, little signs of the presence of God and of faith in the people.

It was also a day when I challenged two guys who were living with a woman outside of marriage and had kids to consider getting married.  I have no idea why I have started this gentle encouragement to marriage, but I also continued this on Friday in another village.

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