This Good Friday, I thought I would share some thoughts on Easter in Spain. There is a Spanish word, Pascua, used for Easter. But the word is also used for Passover and for Christmas. To be clear that it is being used for Easter, you properly follow “Pascua” with “de Resurreccion” (of resurrection). But the term most often used for Easter refers to the whole week, and that term is “Semana Santa,” or Holy Week. Semana Santa is important in Spain, and many towns have religious processions each day of the week. Sevilla is the most famous Spanish city for its celebration of Semana Santa. One year I attended the festivities in Sevilla for Semana Santa, with one of my best friends, who is from Sevilla. One of the processions on Good Friday (they call it Holy Friday) had a Paso of El Cristo de la Buena Muerte (The Christ of the Good Death). Paso can mean a step, but also refers to the stages of the Passion of Christ, where “passion” means the sufferings of Christ before His crucifixion. In this case paso refers to platforms or floats carried on the backs of dozens of men in these processions, with scenes from the Passion of Christ, or other sculptured figures of Christ or Mary. (Back in February I talked about Good Passion.) This statue was made by Mesa in 1620, which was confirmed with the discovery of a document from 1620 saying so, when the head was removed in 1983. Here is a picture of the Christ of the Good Death. One of the things I found difficult to understand when I moved to Spain was that there were many different statues of Christ and of Marry, each with a different name. After all there is one Christ, and there is one Mary, but the many different sculptured representations of them have unique names. I had a conversation with my good friend from Sevilla on the meaning of the name the Christ of the Good Death. This friend said that we all aspire, or should if we think about it, to have a Good Death. He went on to say that a Good Death is one where you go quickly, maybe in your sleep, with no pain or suffering. You see, his sister-in-law had gone through a slow painful death from cancer. Another friend from Spain shared with me one time that the reason he could have one-night stands with other women, even though he loved his wife and baby son, was that life was short and he felt he deserved to enjoy it while he was still young. His sister-in-law had also experienced a slow painful death from cancer, and it prompted him to reflect on his own mortality. Some years later this same friend died slowly from cancer, at a relatively young age.
Back in March I talked of the legend of Don Juan, which deals not only with a womanizer, but reflections on death and mortality. The most popular version in Spain has Don Juan repent and gain salvation. And the actual person of Miguel Mañara from the 1600’s in Sevilla, has many parallels with the Don Juan legend. He was a womanizer who in later life repented and dedicated the rest of his life to serving the poor with the Hospital de Caridad. Two famous paintings in the chapel of this hospital (photos in my post) deal with recognizing that death is no respecter of class or wealth.
That all brings us to why there is a Christ of the Good Death, and why we call today Good Friday, even though it is the day we recognize as that of the crucifixion of Christ. Christ’s death was a Good Death, not because it was quick and painless – it was anything but that. No, it was a Good Death because He was willing to die for us, to offer us eternal life if we would accept His free gift of grace.
Some say that the term “Good” Friday comes from the original meaning of “good” of pious or holy. But again, the day Christ was crucified and died for us was good because His love for us was great enough to make that sacrifice for us. This was not only Good Love, but the Best Love, the best example there is of love for someone else. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8) And actions speak louder than words.
Now we look forward to celebrating Easter on Sunday, the day He rose from the dead and conquered death, overcame death even for us. Someone who was recently invited to come to an Easter church service replied that they didn’t want to seem like a hypocrite – only attending a church service on Easter. The reply given was “fine, then come back to church with me the week after Easter too.”
He is risen.