The settings were different. It was Cleveland, not Jerusalem and almost 2,000 years have passed since the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the birth of Christianity.
The crowd on Friday numbered about 100 souls, but more than one parishioner felt the scene on Good Friday was similar to the actual event.
Father Antonio Giraldo described the annual re-enactment as a way to walk with Jesus through Jerusalem to Golgotha, the place of the skull.
“We meditate in all the suffering we have in the world today,” he said. “Jesus still suffers the way of the cross for us today, especially in poor countries where there is war, famine, turmoil, poverty and natural disaster.”
Pontus Pilate (Paulo Sergio Moreno) washed his hands of the matter at the First Station and released Jesus to the chief priests, elders and a near riotous mob who shouted “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”
Jesus (Jesús Felix) was whipped and turned over to them to be crucified and with that, he lifted the sins of all humanity onto his shoulders.
“Today, we still live and suffer the consequences of sin. This is a way for us to join with Jesus on his way to Calvary,” Father Giraldo said. “At the same time, it is a walk of hope because we look to the resurrection at Easter.”
In contrast to the innocent children’s laughter, a group of women followed the procession from a distance, weeping, while Roman soldiers taunted and struck at Jesus with whips made of yarn as he struggled under the weight of the cross.
The crowd on Friday was quiet, except when they pause to reflect at each station. But, two millennia ago, people in the main crowd mocked and jeered. Others may have watched out of curiosity from far away, and maybe in the marketplace, business went on as usual.
Oscar Gosso portrayed a Roman soldier 10 years in Miami, and 12 years in Cleveland. He made all of the garments and props used in the re-enactment. He said the outdoor production is hard work and a small gift he can help give to the parish.
At each station, the congregation paused for reflection. At the Third Station, Jesus fell for the first time. In unison, the congregants said, “Oh Jesus! By this first fall, never let me fall into mortal sin.”
At the Fourth Station, Jesus met his mother, Mary (Marta Giraldo) and the congregation asked, “Oh Jesus! May no human tie, however dear, keep me from following the road of the Cross.”
At the Fifth Station, Simon of Cyrene (Gad Delgadillo) helped carry the cross. Veronica (Mireya Sacrapal) wiped the face of Jesus at the Sixth Station and the participants asked, “Oh Jesus! Thou didst imprint Thy sacred features upon Veronica’s veil; stamp them also indelibly upon my heart.”
After falling three times, Jesus finally completed the short distance to Golgotha, where he was stripped of his garments.
The congregation lamented, “My soul has been robbed of its robe of innocence; clothe me dear Jesus with the garb of penance and contrition,” at the 10th Station and; “Thou didst forgive Thy enemies; my God, teach me to forgive injuries and forget them,” at the 11th Station when the nails were driven into his hands and feet.
Jesus’ death was marked at the 12th Station where the appeal to God was, “Thou art dying, my Jesus, but Thy sacred heart still throbs with love for Thy sinful children.”
And then Jesus was removed from the cross at the 13th Station. Mary caressed the body of her son and the people asked, “Receive me into thy arms, oh sorrowful mother, and obtain for me perfection contrition for my sins.”
Giraldo (Mary) said she really cried as she held Felix (Jesus) in her lap during the re-enactment of the 13th Station. It was her first time to play the part of Jesus’ mother, though she has been part of the crowd that demanded Jesus to be crucified.
“Seeing him like that, it was like I was in Mary’s place and felt her pain,” she said as she held out her hand to show it was still shaking. But, while scene was one of sorrow, there was also a sense of joy because he rose from the dead three days later.
“Yes, it was sad thinking about all that we did to crucify him, but we know that he rose again and it was a beautiful experience.”
The procession ended with the body of Jesus was laid to rest in the sepulcher.
The congregation prayed, “When I receive thee in to my heart in Holy Communion, oh Jesus, make it a fit abiding place for thy adorable body, amen.”
Parishioner Norma Martin said she cried.
“This is my third time here and I get moved every time, especially when they put him on the cross, I start to cry,” she said. “I saw a lot of others crying too.”
Kathy Vassallo said it was her first time to experience Stations of the Cross, “but it won’t be my last. They make it look so real. It made me feel very thankful, because if it wasn’t for Jesus, I wouldn’t be here.”
When asked if she felt like she helped crucify Jesus, she said, “Adam and Eve were the start of it and unfortunately, we were all born with original sin and he died so it could be washed away from all of us. That’s why he died, so we could all achieve a state of sinlessness.”
Father Giraldo said the Stations of the Cross is beautiful to Hispanics who have immigrated to the United States in search of a better life for their families, which is the whole point of coming to this country.
“It is a difficult way to come to this country, especially with no documents. They have to endure all kinds of good and bad things. The good things are that they get to work sometimes. The bad things are the consequences of not complying with the law,” he said.
“Our faith is a way of remembering that Jesus went through his passion for the salvation of the world, and, just to reflect that we are given the same promise of redemption today.
“We identify with his suffering, but we look forward with hope.”