time of the year is one of the most exciting times of the year.
It's the time when Maltese religious culture comes out fully alive
to the wonder of the many tourists
who happen to be around. Inside churches,
celebrations come to life as they make an exception and take a different
approach where colours, ornaments, flowers and an unusually high
dose of emotions take place.
Holy Week commences with the procession of Id-Duluri.
The procession with the statue of the Virgin Mary of Sorrows is
held on the Friday, two days before Palm Sunday. People pace and
pray, some walking through the way barefoot. On that day, many devoted
people fast, literally on bread and water, to join in a tangible
mode in the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin.
On Palm Sunday the people convene in a chapel in
the vicinity of each parish church. The celebrant blesses palm fronds
and olive branches with holy water, then, after incensing them,
distributes them to the congregation. This is done to recall and
represent in dramatic form the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jeruslamen
before His death. Afterwards, the fronds and olives are taken home
and placed in a prominent place to ward off evil.
The people gather again in church on Maundy Thursday
in the evening. At the end of mass, the celebrant carries the Blessed
Sacrament from the high altar to the Altar of Repose, locally known
as Is-Sepulkru. The Altar of Repose is lighted by row upon row of
candles, each rising from a multitude of spring flowers and plates
of sprouting grain. It is a very popular tradition that people from
every rank and class, in couples or in groups, visit Is-Sepulkru
to pray. As there is beautiful Altar of Repose in every church and
chapel, many make it a point to visit not one but seven altars,
reciting prayers intermittently as they move from one church to
The most sought after event of Holy Week is the procession
on Good Friday. The main attraction are seven life-size tableaux
representing the principal moments of the passion and death of Jesus:
Christ at Gethsemane; The Scourging at the Pillar; The Crowning
with Thorns; The Fall with the Cross; The Crucifixion; The Procession
to the Tomb; and Our Lady of Sorrows. The statues are papier mache`
models, most of them richly dressed in velvet clothes, just like
those in Seville.
St. George's Parish in Victoria has kept the traditional
Maltese format of the Good Friday procession for generations, with
the participation of 'Fratellanza' and with various chain bearers
following the statues. The chain bearers, usually men disguised
in hoods, drag chains attached to their heels as an act of penance
or for a vow that they might have pledged. The statue of Our lady
of Sorrows is carried at the end of the procession with numerous
devotees following behind.
Other Gozitan parishes also portray their own form
of Good Friday procession. Worth mentioning for the spectacular
atmosphere created are those of Xaghra,
Nadur and Xewkija
parishes, with the latter regularly displayed on Friday preceding