The Whole of Holy Week

Happy Easter Monday! ¡Ha resucitado! ¡Ha resucitado en verdad! You can probably figure those out. I've already shared how I spent the first part of Holy Week in the Dominican, but you might be wondering what Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the pinnacle, Easter Sunday, were like here. 

First, a few pictures of my feeble attempts at decorating. 

I've seen people put palms behind wall crosses like this and always wanted to try it! I plan to enjoy it as long as I can; it's slightly more shriveled than this now but still green. 

GLITTERY bunting courtesy of mom, who makes sure my house is adorned for all US holidays. 

Refreshingly, stores weren't overrun with bunnies and plastic eggs (or, unfortunately, chocolate ones in pastel-colored wrappers) in the weeks - and week - leading up to Easter. Rather, Semana Santa (Holy Week) was the buzzword. Before you applaud Dominicans for their piety and lack of commercialism, allow me to explain. In popular culture, Semana Santa doesn't connote a penitent observance of the last days of our Lord's earthly life. Rather, it means 

a) kids are off school; 

b) most businesses are closed for at least a portion of the week; and      
Friday was the first time I have EVER seen the botanical garden closed. I (successfully) tried again Saturday morning, and ran into this processional on my way. I saw something similar on my street Friday afternoon. 

c) family vacations (roadtrips to the beach or mountains) are common. The police were out in full force. A car dealership I drove by Monday en route to the capital had a sign that said something like "Official Vehicle of Semana Santa." I'm pretty sure Judas & co. didn't show up in a Kia, and Jesus didn't throw His cross in the back of a Hyundai, so I'm not sure what that means. And finally, a fellow missionary related to me that, leaving the grocery store upon picking up rotisserie chickens for Sunday's church potluck while wearing a suit, the cashier said "Have fun at the beach!" 

I spent the latter part of the week in God's house. Cordero de Dios had a Maundy Thursday service with Holy Communion as well as a Good Friday service (at 10:30 am, which seemed odd compared to the evening Tenebrae services I've grown used to). I felt out of place not wearing black. It's not like I had on pastel flowers or anything, but next year, black it is. Saturday, our regional chaplain officiated an English-language Easter Vigil in the regional office. I'm partial to sunrise services personally, but you can't belt out Alleluia-laden Easter hymns and NOT smile, and I loved the traditional Baptismal remembrance component. 

Sunday morning, I had a full car of fellow churchgoers. We plowed through our normal adult catechism study, before beginning Easter worship outside with the lighting of the Paschal candle:

The kids acted out the Gospel reading from John (below) and sang for the congregation at the conclusion of the service. 

Later on, I had Easter dinner at my friend Kelsey and her roommate Jess's apartment. They had invited me - along with about a dozen other people, so it was cozy - about two weeks ago. Those plans meant I missed a missionary family BBQ that I learned about much later. Apparently, they missed me, too; I got THREE text messages to see if I was OK between last night and this morning!

Some schools are still closed today, but it's back to work for us OIM missionaries. "Work." For us, that means back to seeking ways to ensure that Christ's Easter victory is widely proclaimed in its truth and purity. The joy of the resurrection doesn't end with the last Alleluia of the closing hymn, or even 50 days from now when we transition into Pentecost. It's something I can and should continually draw on for encouragement as I daily recall dying to self and rising with Christ in Baptism. Sort of like the glitter from my bunting that I'll probably still be finding bits of on the floor next Easter...

Until next time, blessings!