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Ceremonia de Reseña o Vísperas

The Ceremonia de Reseña o Vísperas in Quito’s Catedral is one of the oldest and rarest ceremonies in the Catholic Church. The centuries-old procession happens the Wednesday before Easter, Miércoles Santo, in only three churches in the world: in Sevilla, Spain; Lima, Peru; and Quito, Ecuador. The procession, consisting of six priests and the Archbishop, represents the life, death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Way back in the days of colonization, Lima’s Catedral operated beneath Sevilla. Quito, in turn, operated under Lima. Given the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, the Ceremonia de Reseña o Vísperas is only allowed to be practiced in churches given permission from Sevilla. Witnessing the Quito ceremony is a chance to see this rare religious service driven by centuries of history.

The procession begins with the six priests filing into the front of the Catedral. Their elaborate black robes represent the collective darkening of humanity due to sinning. They are followed by the Archbishop, who wears a purple robe. Initially, the six priests, flanked by two altar boys bearing lit candles, walk a loop around the outside edge of the Sanctuary. The Archbishop follows last, surrounded by altar boys. The altar boys carry a small, square tent which represents protection of the church from evil. The Archbishop carries a small cross, said to be a relic from the original cross on which Jesus died.

After completing a full lap around the perimeter of the sanctuary, the six priests arrive at the front of the church and kneel with their faces to the floor. This represents the death of Christ. Thus begins the second part of the ceremony. It is thought that the inspiration for this part of the ceremony was derived from the funeral traditions of the Roman Army.

A major feature of the ceremony’s second half is the solid black flag with a red cross on it, which symbolizes the powers and wisdom of Jesus. The congregation sings a hymn as the Archbishop waves the flag over the altar. The altar represents the body of Christ and the waving of the flag is intended to pick up the merits of Christ. The Archbishop then turns around to face the kneeling priests (and the congregation) and waves the flag over the priests.

The kneeling six priests, covered by their black robes, resemble a large black space. This blackness is meant to symbolize mankind’s sins. At the end, while singing the final verse of the hymn, the Archbishop hits the flag three times on the floor and the six priests rise to their feet, symbolizing the resurrection of Christ.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Ecuador: Holidays and Fiestas, Good Friday, New Year's Eve, The Day of the Dead in Ecuador, Fiestas de Quito, Fiesta de la Mama Negra and Carnaval .

03 Sep 2012

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