* * *
A huge stage was set in the center of the town. The area though well decorated still bore a picture of gloom. A crowd had gathered and taken their place on the ground, wearing a shade of black and white, the color of mourning. Pagans too had gathered in huge numbers to witness the Santos Passos or the Passion of the Christ, a proceeding depicting the last hours of Christ Jesus, the savior of the Christians.
Local Christians dressed in biblical attire were standing waiting for the Santos Passos to begin. Jesuit priests and seminarians were also dress in Apostles garbs and seated at a long table.
An orator stood at the edge of the stage and cleared his voice aloud. The crowd went silent. The orator looked around as the crowd settled down and waited in silence for the Santos Passos to begin. The royal family was not expected at this place. The orator knew that they would join the procession at St. Ignatius Church. He once again looked around. A soft murmur passed through the crowd. Across him, he saw the crowd part slowly and Rosalin walked through gingerly. Right in front of the stage, a chair was arranged for her to sit. Rosalin walked over and sat down.
On cue, the orator began. ‘Friends, we are here to witness an enactment of a very important story that happened for real hundreds of years ago. A story that changed our ancestors’ lives, our lives and which will effect the lives of our future clan. A story of a Man whom we all revere and look upon as our Savior. The Man whom we all know as Jesus Christ.’
The orator took a deep pause. ‘Friends, as we watch our fellow brethren enact the Santos Passos or the scenes of the last hours of Jesus Christ, let us all reflect on our own lives and change it for the better. Let this Passion touch our lives so that we may better understand the love of God and the sacrifice that His Son made so that our sins may be forgiven.’
The orator paused again and turned around to look at the artistes on the stage. From the other side of the stage, the curtains parted and Fr. Kane walked out dressed as Jesus Christ. He wore fake beard and moustache to authenticate the role. Seeing him with this make up, Rosalin felt herself smiling.
The choir behind the orator seeing Fr. Kane walk out on the stage started a Gregorian chant. The heavy choir sound reverberated across the town as they sang the passage of the bible. Fr. Kane walked to the center of the stage where his disciples were seated at the table. As the choir sang, the scene of the Last Supper slowly unfolded in front of the crowd as they watched pensively. They saw Jesus wash the feet of his disciples and when he had washed all the disciples’ feet, he sat down for the supper. He broke bread with them. The crowd had no trouble understanding the choir’s Latin chant as the orator kept translating them in the local language as the choir took a break after each act of the Last Supper. And when Jesus aka Fr. Kane broke the bread and gave the wine that resembled his blood, the choir sang, ‘I tell you solemnly one of you shall betray me.’
Fr. Kane halted for a brief second as his eyes met Rosalin’s. Her eyes were moist. She looked away and blinked her eyes in quick succession to dry away those telltale tears.
The scene changed. The background gave away to a garden location and as Jesus prayed in the garden in the night, the disciples slept. Jesus finished his prayers and woke his disciples up and as they turned to leave the garden, Judas kisses Jesus and betrays him. The soldiers capture Jesus.
The crowd watched mesmerized, as the new acts slowly unfolded in front of the eyes. And then came the scourging at the pillar and as the whip mockingly slashed against Jesus’ body, Rosalin winced in pain. The crowd was not aware but she knew that the whipping was happening for real. Their eyes met again and the truth hit her hard. He was atoning for her sins. Pain and anguish filled her heard. Tears loomed large in her eyes.
Jesus is condemned to death and the procession leaves the town. Jesus carried the cross across the streets of Goa that now signified the streets of Jerusalem towards St. Ignatius Church that signified Golgotha outside the Jerusalem city.
Thousands thronged the streets as the huge procession passed through occasionally stopping at stipulated points to enact the acts of the passion – the falling of Jesus, the sneer from the crowd, the wiping of Jesus’ face by Veronica. And as Jesus took each step painfully, Rosalin kept her pace with him walking from the sides, her eyes never leaving his face. She knew Fr. Kane was going through a lot of pain and yet he bore the heavy burden with a smile on his face. She knew in her pregnant condition, she shouldn’t be walking too much. But her pain was no match for the pain that Fr. Kane was bearing for both of them. Occasionally, Fr. Kane would look at her briefly and seeing her teary face, smile in assurance. But her tears wouldn’t stop. But then most of the crowd that lined the streets too were crying pitifully for this icon of the Man they revered and looked upon as their Savior.
They now reached the last leg of the procession. The royal family had already taken their seats in front of the mound created in front of the St. Ignatius Church. The procession slowly came up to the mound and the crowd stood up in reverence as Jesus carried the cross. The soldiers then stripped him and nailed him to the cross with ropes and then lofted the cross on the mound. The choir sang with full frenzy as Jesus uttered his last line, ‘Father forgive them for they did not know what they doing.’ The choir’s voice reverberated loudly and slowly and slowly the pitch came down in a deadly silence. There was a deep silence as tears flowed freely from the eyes of the massive crowd that had gathered to witness the Santos Passos. Rosalin stood at the base of the mound and looked at the face of Jesus tearfully, her hand folded in offering as she said a silent prayer.
From behind the huge crowd and perched atop a tree, Kishen watched the proceedings with deep concern. His eyes scanned the crowd. Amongst the thousands who had gathered to witness the Santos Passos, he realized that most of them were pagans and the thought disturbed him immensely.