Fat Tuesday to Friday of Sorrows

This year, Christians of Western and Greek Orthodoxy will celebrate Easter on April 20, 2014, and that won’t happen again until April 16, 2017. The reason they don’t always fall on the same date is that one uses the Gregorian calendar, while the latter follows the Julian calendar. Regarding preparation for Easter, western Christians partake in Lent, while Greek Orthodox Christians refer to this season of hope as the Great Lent.

Another tradition that dates back to the Spanish Colonial Period is the Viernes de Delores or Friday of Sorrows (Our Lady of Compassion). This is a time to remember Mary, the Mother of Christ, who upon witnessing the death of her Son suffered profound sadness. As far back as the 12th Century, the service took place the Friday before Palm Sunday. To make it official, in 1727, Pope Benedict XIII added it to the Roman calendar. But in 1913, the date moved to September, 15, and was newly christened the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows.

However, many cultures still commemorate the older feast day during Holy Week. For example…


Panama: In the historic town of Nata de los Caballeros, a procession follows a mournful picture of the Mary. This image depicting the Mother of Jesus, tearful and broken-hearted, dates back to the 16th Century.

ColumbiaHere, Mary is joined by Saint John (“Woman, behold your son” John 19:25), and Saint Augustine (the Doctor of Grace who wrote City of God in the mid-fourth century).

Albacete, Spain: The city shines at dusk by the many lamps that illuminate the Via Crucis (Latin for Way of the Cross) of Lights.

Avila: The home town of St. Teresa draws people to a solemn walk where men wear the Carmelite brown coat.

The village of Serradilla: The faithful of this Spanish city have for centuries followed a procession of paper lanterns that light the Via Dolorosa (way of suffering).

Mexico: Many villages and towns glimmer with shrines dedicated to the remembrance of the great suffering.

And these are only a few places that hold such solemn assemblies.

After the parades and carnival of gluttony often associated with Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, many people still prepare for the coming of Easter by denying themselves the pleasures of the flesh. If you also commemorate this season of Lent, you join a throng of millions who have gone before you, and many who will come after, while the promise of Easter awaits.

“Now fled the days, and dead the ways,

When dawn was welcomed so;

When soul of Spain with birds refrain

First watched the morning glow.” ~ Fray Angélico Chávez


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