Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Religious Procession in Macau, China

Thanks to Fr Cyril Law for bringing this video o my attention, and providing this description of the procession in honor of Our Lord’s Passion held each year on the Chinese island of Macau.

The two-day procession of the Senhor Bom Jesus dos Passos (The Good Lord Jesus of the Steps) is part of a more extensive novena in honor of Our Lord in His Agony. The typical southern European devotion has been a fixture on Macau’s religious calendar for at least two centuries. One legend about the origin of this particular statue of Jesus in Macau says that in a deep winter night, the sleeping sexton heard someone knocking on the cathedral door, but did not answer the call; so the Hallowed Guest ended up going to St Augustine’s Church, where the statue is kept throughout the year, to be processed back to the Cathedral once a year and spend that missed long winter night there. Another story claims that after a terrible storm, huge wooden crates were washed ashore, and they turn out to contain mountable body parts that were eventually pieced together to form this miraculous statue. Locals affectionately call it “Daai Yea So” in Cantonese, “The Grand Jesus.”

The night procession takes place on the vigil of the First Sunday of Lent, which almost invariably occurs around the same time as Chinese New Year. It is a rather unique scene to see the buzz of traditional Chinese festivity punctuated by Chopin’s sober Funeral March, accompanying the Via Crucis amidst cartoonish decorations and gaudy red lanterns.

After a conventual Mass on Saturday morning at the Church of St Augustine (built 1591), a Via Crucis in Chinese takes place in the afternoon, followed by the Vigil Mass and the Via Crucis in Portuguese. At 7 pm, the Statue of the cross-bearing Bom Jesus, (veiled in purple lace to symbolize Our Lord being brought to trial), is carried down to the Sé Catedral da Natividade de Nossa Senhora (1576). The Dean of the Cathedral Chapter leads the procession, escorted by the magenta-clad members of the Confraria (Confraternity). The Macau Police Brass Band provides the beating march music to this annual event. The Bishop of Macau welcomes the Statue at the Cathedral and the vigil concludes with a sermon in Portuguese.

On Sunday, the statue is brought back to St Augustine’s Church through the major thoroughfares of the city centre. The bishop, carrying the relic of the True Cross under a canopy, participates in the procession together with the Canons, clergy, twelve children dressed in white, torch-bearers and banner-bearers representing each parish. A young girl is chosen each year to perform the role of Veronica, and sings the O Vos Omnes while unveiling the cloth depicting the Holy Face each time the procession stops for a stational shrine. The faithful all respond likewise in Latin singing Parce Domine with the short refrain Senhor Deus, misericordia in Portuguese.

Click here to see a report on the procession from Macau television. (via Facebook.)

The day procession, from the year 2013.

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