I knew everything would be new…but….. What a wonderful experience! I drove up to MocoMoco from El Alto on Wednesday morning, accompanied by Clare Lassiter, a former Gateway Vincentian Volunteer from Virginia. Clare is here in Bolivia now, studying Spanish at Maryknoll before beginning a two-year stint as a Franciscan Lay Missionary. Maryknoll is on vacation for Holy Week. The drive up was rainy and cloudy, and when we got to Mocomoco, the Toyota 4Runner was its usual dirty, muddy self. We made a nice soup and relaxed until Diego (C.M.) and Flora (our partner in ministry here) and her kids arrived.
Prep started immediately — we hadn’t yet decided who was doing what and when, but I had prepared myself. Diego had prepared a schedule of who would preach and preside at what. I would preside at Good Friday and Sunday Mass, he at Holy Thursday and the Vigil. We would alternate preaching. Things here are a little more “loosey-goosey” than at St. Vincent’s in G-town! Clare and I prepared the Easter Candle, sun-straightening an older warped one and redecorating with acrylic paint. Thursday morning dawned a spectacular clear blue, we got the church clean, and waited for the young folks from catechesis to arrive for an all day program, consisting of a great mixture of sports, catechesis, music and liturgy prep. The Triduum is oriented to the townsfolk and especially the young people, so everything is in Spanish (The kids speak Aymara but can’t read it). We headed to the cancha played baseball with adapted rules (6 outs, for example, and no foul line for the little ones) and then dodge ball — a favorite. Back to the church for mid-afternoon dinner, then drumming practice (processions have drums to involve the kids) and more liturgy prep. Clare took pictures all day (and Friday and Saturday too) until her battery went dead. She’ll send me them for posting soon. Right now, only Saturday is up.
The Liturgy was raggedy, but prayerful. It was honest. It was transparent. The children sang with gusto to tunes that only rarely resembled what Diego or I were playing (guitar — the regular choir is composed of catechists for surrounding communities, and they only come in on Sunday — for many it’s a four hour walk to church). Footwashing and a reverent reposition of the MBS, followed by a Holy Hour with catechesis, meditation, faith sharing and music capped the day.
Friday, we were up early again to prepare for the pilgrimage to “calvary,” a chapel high above the town at about 4500 meters. We prayed the Stations of the Cross as we climbed. The kids drummed as we walked between stations. I don’t know how you drum while walking a sixty degree stoney incline, but they did it!
At the top, we shared a meal — everyone brings a little something, we spread some aguayos on the ground and just dig in. Then, baseball again. they love it! We headed down at around four in the afternoon, and prepared for the evening’s service (Good Friday is at 7 PM here, because the day is filled with farm work.). The service was lovely, veneration of the cross was beautiful. We left the church, led by our drummers carrying the life-size Jesus in his sepulcher, and the Holy Sorrowful Mother, dressed as a campesina, and walked through the town praying. Then, back to church to watch Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. We had a little meeting in the house with some folks from the town to prepare for tomorrow’s “Last Testament of Judas.” (more on that below.)
Saturday morning and afternoon Diego led a reflection session with our university students (who had returned from la Paz the night before) and some of the older teens, while the rest of us cleaned the church and prepared for the Vigil. The new fire was kindled at eight, we sang, processed (no drums) into church, were strengthened by the Word, renewed our promises (no adult baptisms this year), celebrated the Eucharist and chanted Cristox jiwiwa, Chrsitox janiwa, Christox Kutininiwa! — Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again! Here’s a link to pictures so far…
Then, the Judas moment arrived. During the day, some of the men visit all the houses, asking for a contribution for some sweets and gifts for the kids. Anyone who doesn’t contribute, gets written up in Judas’ “Last Will and Testament”! We gathered in the plaza, and Judas (in effigy) arrived on his burro. We paraded around the plaza, and at each corner, one of the men read parts of the testament, poking fun at some of the town notables and politicos. Hysterical. At the end, sweets and little gifts were given to all the children, and we dragged Judas off to burn him in effigy 🙁 His stomach exploded on cue (the men had placed large firecrackers in his belly) and the fun was over. As he smoldered, we headed back to church for hot chocolate to end the night at about 1 AM.
Sunday morning was a joyous Easter Mass, in Aymara and Spanish, with our choir. It was also local election day, so the town was filled with life and hope for things new. The liturgy had predicted it. If we live with him in his dying and rising, new possibilities appear in the mundane. There’s hope in Bolivia these days, and much hope in the young people who are the present and future church here. Alleluia! We sat and watched as the people exercised their right to vote, and had a wonderful afternoon barbecue joined by Cyril (C.M.) from Italque and Violeta, a wonderful woman who works with the development projects there. Holy Communion. Off we went in the dusk back to El Alto under the clearest, star-filled sky I have ever seen. Alleluia, Alleluia!