Latino version of Holy Week takes three days to tell in Forest Grove
By the time the Romans finished flogging Jesus in Forest Grove, blood had puddled on the floor of St. Anthonys Catholic Church and spattered over the first few rows of spectators, as Christianity mixed with Latin American culture last week in a vividly acted Passion Play.
For the third year in a row, more than 35 volunteers from St. Anthonys Spanish-speaking congregation acted out the New Testaments account of the Easter story, from the last supper Jesus shared with his disciples, to his capture in the Garden of Gethsemane, to his trial before a Roman government official and ending with his crucifixion, burial and resurrection.
The drama took a total of three days and was performed before a packed, standing-room-only crowd of about 200 each night.
It included many of the gory details so popular in Passion Plays across Latin America: Jesus crying out in pain as Roman soldiers whip him, blood splashing with every lash and also streaming down his face as they place a crown of thorns on his head.
St. Anthonys performance didnt go quite as far as some, said Rafael Manriquez, ministry coordinator for the 400-member congregation. Manriquez joined it 11 years ago, when the congregation was only half that size.
In some parts of Mexico, Manriquez said, the flogging is real and they actually put a real nail through the palms on the hands when the time comes to nail Jesus to the cross. Ive heard from my parents, he said.
The bloody details are important so people can remember what he went through for us, Manriquez said. How hard he was hit and he suffered on the cross. Its important for the faith to remember.
According to Christian teachings, Jesus sacrificed his life as a way to forgive people for all the bad things theyve done and to take the punishment they deserve onto himself.
St. Anthonys pageant began Thursday with the Last Supper, where the 12 disciples eat with Jesus (played this year by Filegonio Ramon Estrada), who then washes their feet to demonstrate his message of love, service and humility. Parents quickly shushed those children who giggled at the strangely intimate sight between two grown men.
When Jesus told his apostles one of them would betray him, the children in the audience pointed and whispered, trying to guess which one was Judas, the traitor. Adults, meanwhile, quietly murmured Qué bueno at various parts of the spectacle.
After the grisly flogging, the Roman soldiers led Jesus off-stage, hands tied, while the crowd sat motionless. Even the children stopped squirming. Moments later, a public-address announcement instructed everyone to assemble outside, where Filegonio struggled under the weight of a giant wooden cross.
Preceded by inspirational music piped from a van and accompanied by a dozen angelitos (children dressed as angels), Filegonio staggered across Elm Street past an astonished-looking woman who stopped her car for the procession and onto the baseball field in a nearby park.
There, Filegonio screamed as Roman soldiers nailed him to the cross.
Manriquez doesnt know of any neighbors ever calling the police about the screams, but he says some of them now come out to watch the show including congregation members at nearby St. Bedes Episcopal Church.
The final leg of the show started at noon on Sunday inside the church and depicted Jesus rise from the tomb.
In Mexico, Manriquez said, every little town has its own Passion Play and some shut down business for the whole week leading up to Easter. In western Washington County, he knows of Passion Plays at St. Anthonys, where many people have Mexican and Guatemalan roots, and also at St. Alexanders Church in Cornelius.
Its a lot of work, said Manriquez, who has separate committees and leaders to handle everything from decorations to makeup to prayers to fundraising to lighting and more. There is even a hanging Judas committee dedicated solely to handling the part of the play where the traitor Judas hangs himself from a tree outside the church.
Edilberto Garcia, who played one of the apostles, had been rehearsing it seemed like every day since February, according to his daughter, Monica, who attended with her Anglo boyfriend.
The work is worth it, said Manriquez. We want to bring the community together.
For the first time this year, DVDs of the show will be available to congregation members. A lot of people asked for it, Manriquez said. Especially the actors.
Jill Rehkopf Smith contributed to this story.