Picture this: The sound of wooden clappers rattling and the choir singing motets, or penitential hymns, in the background while the faithful line up as the body of Christ is taken in a coffin. The statues of Christ on the altar are covered with purple or black cloth, too.
All of this might feel like you are watching a Vatican ritual, but this is how Goans observe Good Friday in Goa!
SIGNIFICANCE OF GOOD FRIDAY
Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and His death. Christ was sentenced to death under Pontius Pilate, which, at the time, was the highest form of punishment. He walked on Mount Cavalry and was nailed on the cross, where He took His last breath.
For Catholics, this is a sombre occasion and is observed solemnly. On this day, they fast and avoid any sort of indulgences and merriment and prefer to spend the day in prayer.
BACK IN THE DAY
Back in the day, Catholics had a strong devotion and would follow all customs with dedication and devotion. Nikita Dias, from Margao, recalls that her grandmother wouldn’t even allow her to switch on the TV, and would, instead, sit beside her and pray.
“Just as Christmas is important to Catholics, so is Good Friday. We would not play music or even watch TV on this day as our grandparents wanted us to partake in Jesus’ sorrows by avoiding things that we liked,” says Nikita.
FASTING & MORE
In Goa, Catholics fast on Good Friday. This is mandatory for devotees, however, children, pregnant women and the sick are exempt from it.
You will find a simple meal in most houses which consists of a rice gruel (called kanji or pez in Konkani), accompanied by pickle or salted fish. Sometimes, there is rice and curry, but no fish or meat.
Besides this, many people abstain from consuming meat, alcohol, etc, during the Lenten season.
WALKING WITH THE CROSS
Forty five-year-old Eldon Fernandes shares how Good Friday reminds people that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. “We would often go for the way of the cross in the morning, followed by the Good Friday services. The hymn ‘Aichean ti Sogli Sandta’ is a reminder of how much Jesus suffered on the cross for our sins, and walking with the Way of the Cross was one way to join in Jesus’ suffering," he shares.
Most parishes across Goa hold a Way of the Cross. These are, either, held on the hill which houses the 14 crosses that are the station of the cross. Or it is done in the church compound.
Sometimes, the Way of the cross is held within the church itself, where the Station of the Cross are placed at intervals on the church walls.
During these fourteen stations, various intentions that are put forth. These include personal intentions as well as for the poor and needy, sick and suffering, for the environment, church authorities, and the people in general.
Most devotees make it a point to go to the church as early as 6 am in order to participate in the Way of the Cross.
Good Friday is a public holiday in Goa, and so, most people who were unable to attend Lenten programmes, attend this one without fail.
THE GOOD FRIDAY SERVICE
Parish priest of Immaculate Conception Church, Fr Walter D'Sa states that the Liturgy of Good Friday consists of three parts. “The Liturgy of the Word; the Adoration of the Cross, and Holy Communion,” he says.
He adds, “The priests, wearing red vestments, enter the church silently, and, prostrating themselves on the floor, they pray in silence. Then begins the Liturgy of the Word. The passion narrative is shared."
“After that, the Cross, draped in a purple cloth, is brought to the altar and the priest unveils it part by part three times, each time singing, 'Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Salvation of the world', to which people respond, ‘Come, let us adore Him’,” says Fr Walter.
The reception of Holy Communion is the third part of the Liturgy of Good Friday.
XEMPDDEACHEM PURSANV AT OLD GOA
A unique procession takes place at Se Cathedral, in Old Goa, on Good Friday, which is known as Xempddeachem Pursanv or 'Procession of tails'. Xemppdi, in the Konkani language, means tail.
During this event, the canons of Se Cathedral Chapel wear long black cloaks with pink capes. Their cloaks are long due to the tail, and that is how the procession gets its name.
The canons of Se Cathedral Chapter and the Archbishop whose parish is the cathedral participate in the procession. The procession starts with the rattling of wooden clappers, followed by the singing of penitential hymns.
The procession goes around the cathedral, and after that, Jesus is placed in the coffin and kept for veneration.
This is one of the most interesting traditions, and dates back 400 years.