Salvadorans carry Christ through the streets

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In El Salvador, the feast of the Transfiguration, knowns as Divino Salvador del Mundo, is marked with a procession beginning at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in San Salvador — the capital city. The parade finishes at the cathedral, where a statue of Jesus robed in red stands on a tall globe. As the people sing, Jesus descends into the globe, and then rises, dressed in dazzling white. 

José Reyes, a parishioner of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Falls Church, grew up in El Salvador, but never lived close enough to San Salvador to see the procession firsthand. This makes it more impressive that he and his son, José Jr., with the help of friends and family, made their own globe for the parish. 

“That was something that my son had to invent because we only had images of the globe that we found online,” he said. They ordered the statue of Christ from El Salvador, then built around its measurements. “He made an iron structure, then he covered it with pieces of aluminum. My whole family (helped) with this project that took us about three months to finish,” Reyes said.

José Jr. painted the globe a light blue and then friends took three days to add all the countries. The orb sits on a hollow base containing a lift mechanism that slowly propels the statue skyward. Much like a jack-in-a-box, the pieces of the world open to reveal the Christ figure inside.

The globe stood in front of St. Anthony Church Aug. 4 with a picture of Blessed Oscar Romero — a Salvadoran bishop a martyr — on its base. In front of the globe, Guatemalans from Alfoconce Alfombras created a colorful sawdust carpet of the Savior of the World image. Members of the Hispanic community ate pupusas — tortillas stuffed with cheese or meat — and watched traditional dances before Mass was celebrated by Salvadoran Bishop Elías Samuel Bolaños Avelar. 

After the final blessing, the statue of Jesus was carried out of the church, loaded onto a truck, driven across Route 7 and took its place at the start of the procession. People, too, crossed the street and began processing through the nearby neighborhoods. Bishop Bolaños; Father Matthew H. Zuberbueler, pastor; Father José E. Hoyos, director of the diocesan Spanish Apostolate; and other priests led the way. Teenage girls waved orange and yellow fans alongside the men shouldering the statue of Christ. Onlookers sat on their front porches or peered out their windows to see the crowd and listen to the Salvadoran hymns. 

As the sun set, the procession returned to St. Anthony. Men lifted the figure of Christ off the dais and placed him in the base of the globe. Camera phones flashed as the statue rose from within the globe, first in red, then a second time in white. 

“The procession is an opportunity for evangelization, but what I like the most is the representation of the Lord's majestic (ascent),” said Reyes. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018

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