Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Pilar

Helen and I went for a walk this evening and passed by la Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Pilar. Is is a baroque church built in 1732. We had walked past it dozens of times, but had never gone in.

We looked around a bit and noticed that the place was filling up. A few women were doing the Stations of the Cross and then a group started reciting the Rosary. It was then (good Catholics that we are) that we remembered that it was Lent. We decided to stay for Mass.

Being a Catholic is a little like riding a bike. You can feel at home in the Liturgy even if you have been away for a while. Even in Spanish, it was very familiar. We just said our responses in English because trying to remember the prayers and phrases was a difficult enough task without adding the one-the-spot translations.

It is a beautiful and ornate interior with many features you don't find in your local parish sanctuary. All catholic churches have relics--bones or blood or hair--from a martyr or saint for whom the church is dedicated. These are often encased in the altar itself. I was told by my parish priest that this is reminiscent of when the early Christians hid in the catacombs and actually held rituals on the tombs of deceased Christians.

Here there are actual sculls visible behind glass surrounded by elaborate ornamentation. Lifelike full size statues show Jesus and Mary in states of compassion pleading for the souls of the faithful.

Although we are not strict practicing Catholics, we go every year to the Easter Vigil back home. It is a lengthy ritual held at dusk on Easter Eve. It has all the old pagan rituals from millennia past: bonfires, intense, ritual mixing of fire and water, initiation of the converted, and, of course, the ritualistic cannibalism of the Eucharist. It is really kind of cool. I think we'll make a point of seeing what that is like here this Easter


Chas said...

Hey, I think I'm starting to piece this together. All those times we sat around the fire in your back yard... the intense, ritualistic mixing of fire and firewater... YOU'RE TRYING TO MAKE ME CATHOLIC!!

Caroline G said...

Don't let 'em get to ya, Charley. Be strong. I'm relying on my strict Unitarian Universalist upbringing to resist them!

(Strict Unitarian? Is that an oxymoron? My brain hurts!)

Jos said...

Beautiful pics.