Maundy Thursday. A holy day of obligation when I was little, but certainly not a holiday universally celebrated in Virginia Beach.
Maundy is derived from the above Latin. Yes, I am of such an early vintage that Mass was still conducted in Latin. That doesn’t mean I understood it. I thought novum do vobis has something to do with Nabisco vanilla wafers, which would have been a welcome substitute for the dry hosts adhered to the roof of your mouth at the Communion rail.
But here in Zaragoza, where we landed on Wednesday, Holy Thursday is big, the launch into a four-day holiday weekend. Thursday is commemorated as the day of the Last Supper, when Jesus informed his apostles one amongst them was about to betray him.
Thursday, we woke to the sounds of drums and horns. The streets surrounding us were jam-packed with hours-long processions of cofradias, fraternities of lay people, most now including women, who maintain traditions in their parishes. And, Holy Week is their time to march solemnly wearing cone-shaped hoods, capirotes, shielding the individualism of the penitentes.
There were several major differences in the cofradias’ marking of the holy day in Zaragoza compared to what we witnessed in Cadiz three years ago. One was footwear. We did not notice any barefoot penitentes here, but it is a cooler climate.
Another was the method of porting floats through the streets. Most saintly figures were gliding along smoothly on floats with wheels modestly hidden below their skirts. Few cofradias require teams of bulked-up costaleros to hoist floats upon the backs of their burly necks and sway back and forth as they parade through the streets. The only paso we saw being transported in that painful fashion last night was of the Last Supper. This change probably sent scores of chiropractors out of business.
Also, there are so many women participating, and most seem more than willing to don practical black walking shoes to do so. Sorry, podiatrists. Only a few women stick to their traditional roles, wearing black dresses and lacy mantillas while parading in heels. Numerous ones appeared hobbling painfully at the end of their route. I can’t imagine attempting that, particularly as I have liberated myself and thrown all high heels out of my house.
Mandatum novum do vobis…. “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”