Parishioners re-enact Passion of Christ at churches

Hispanic parishioners take part in the re-enactment of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday at Holy Ghost Church. Photo by Bill Brewer

Hispanic parishioners take part in the re-enactment of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday at Holy Ghost Church.
Photo by Bill Brewer

The Passion of Christ came to life on Holy Thursday and Good Friday as actors re-enacted Jesus’ last hours leading to his crucifixion in dramatic portrayals at Holy Ghost and All Saints churches.

As it occurs in many Spanish-speaking countries, re-enactment of the Passion, or Living Stations of the Cross, is an annual tradition conducted by amateur actors and is done as a tableau or acted out with dialogue.

Many parishes, such as St. Thérése of Lisieux in Cleveland and St. Thomas the Apostle in Lenoir City, have observed the Passion in that format. But in the last three years, parishioners from three Knoxville churches have joined together to form an acting team that prepares for the Easter event months in advance.

The team is made up of more than 60 parishioners from Holy Ghost, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, All Saints and members of the Juan XXIII ecclesial movement. Observation of the Passion began at Holy Ghost on Holy Thursday night, with a re-enactment of the Last Supper, the prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane, and the arrest and judgment of Jesus.

On the morning of Good Friday, the drama continued with the sentencing by Pilate and Herod, and praying the Stations of the Cross, led by Father John Orr, Holy Ghost associate pastor. The culmination of the presentation was the crucifixion and death of Jesus on the morning of Good Friday.

More than 250 Holy Ghost parishioners, including some English-speaking parish members, attended the productions.

On Good Friday afternoon during the rain, the re-enactment team gathered on the grounds of All Saints Church, where more than 300 people followed Father Miguel Vélez Cardona as he led a rosary and the Stations of the Cross. People came from across the diocese to be a part of the Living Stations, including Madisonville, Athens, Alcoa, Lenoir City, Pigeon Forge, Morristown and Knoxville.

They observed the holy day in a traditional Hispanic way, with re-enactors recreating the Passion of Christ. As Father Vélez approached each Station of the Cross, a narrator recalled the details of each scene, which then was acted out by the team. Although prayers, narration and dialogue were spoken in Spanish, English-speaking participants followed along, too.

Families participated together, some in costumes of the era. As Jesus was “crucified” in the re-enactment, some children and teens appeared awestruck and knelt. The re-enactors portraying Jesus and the thieves were tied to 12-foot wooden crosses that were hoisted vertically and secured in the ground. The actors, hands and feet secured to the wooden beams by straps with fake blood for effect, hung for several minutes.

Drivers traveling by Holy Ghost and All Saints slowed to get a look at the dramatic event and a few honked their horns. At All Saints, the spectators included Father Michael Woods, pastor of All Saints Church, Father David Carter, diocesan vice–chancellor and associate pastor at All Saints, and Father John Appiah, also an associate pastor at All Saints.

The Holy Ghost team began the tradition in the Diocese of Knoxville three years ago under the direction of Antonio Dianas. Last year, the Stations of the Cross re-enactment expanded to All Saints, with a group of members of Juan XXIII ecclesial movement also participating. New to the production this year was the addition of more than 40 new costumes made by Mrs. Irene Castillo. Also, spectators at the locations were encouraged to wear costumes and become part of the “crowd” following Jesus through the ordeal.

The actors hope other faithful, in addition to Hispanic parishioners, participate next year at either location. Rain and cooler temperatures appeared to enhance the re-enactments by adding drama to the events, underscoring the meaning of the Passion of Christ to those who witnessed it.

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