A blessed Holy Friday to all my non-Orthodox friends. In San Antonio, Holy Friday is relived in the most beautiful and meaningful tradition with the annual Passion Play. For 250 years San Fernando Cathedral has been staging the Passion Play, taking over the streets of downtown San Antonio with the Holy Friday remembrance of our Lord’s death.
Since I’ve been working downtown for close on 20 years (more than half of that right next door to the Cathedral), I’ve seen it quite a few times. It is powerful, visceral, and tearfully emotional. When you’re in that crowd, walking along with the weeping women, the Roman soldiers whipping and yelling at the staggering and tired thieves and our Lord, you’d swear it was Jerusalem 33 AD. Never mind that you’re standing in front of traffic lights, businesses, cops controlling the crowds of tourists and faithful. The feeling of reality makes you flinch when the whips strike bare skin or pretend nails are driven into Christ’s wrists with the striking of hammer blows. You’re walking the streets of Jerusalem and standing at the foot of the Cross with the Virgin Mary.
Since early this morning, the Play’s participants have been gathering behind the Cathedral, preparing for the event. When I was in a different building I could look out my window and watch people in suits going to work, walking down the sidewalks with guys dressed in Roman soldier outfits, carrying oversized spears and fake swords, the women dressed in tunics and cloaks. Totally odd, but in a town like San Antonio nothing like that seems so out of the ordinary.
The Play starts locally at 10 am when the trial of Jesus is held in Milam Park about 4 blocks from the Cathedral. Then the Cross is carried through the streets of downtown to Main Plaza, where the crucifixion takes place. About noon, Christ cries out “It is finished” in Spanish and the Cathedral bells begin to ring. It sends shivers down your spine to hear.
Tune in to watch the Passion Play live on local TV station WOAI, beginning at 11:00am Central. If you can’t get the live feed, here is a link to the 2007 Play (scroll to the bottom right). I’ll post pictures of today’s Play when I get them downloaded tonight.
Peace and blessings to all as we enter the time of our Lord’s life-giving death and glorious Resurrection.