Most Christians in the United States, like their fellow believers around the world, have celebrated another Holy Week, the first of the new millennium. (The Eastern Orthodox celebrate Pascha, or Easter, a week later and hence are in Holy Week now.) All too often, once the stirring Easter hymns are sung and the gathered family members have headed back to their scattered homes, the spirit of Easter—a sense of transcending good news, the best news of all—is put away as if in a cupboard with the seasonal decorations. This is particularly true in many evangelical churches, which have long forsaken the liturgical calendar.One way to counter this habit of forgetfulness is to look back at the week just passed and think through it—to stand outside ourselves, as it were. That's hard to do at first. What is there to think about? It's best, sometimes, to work by indirection: start by looking at the way members of another Christian tradition celebrate Holy Week, and from that reflection gain a vantage-point from which to think about our own rituals.If you are going to be in New York this weekend, you can do just that by visiting the American Bible Society (1865 Broadway, at 61st Street), where through April 29th the ABS and the Hispanic Society of America have mounted an exhibition titled "Images in Procession: Testimonies of Spanish Faith."The exhibition features works in a range of forms and spanning several centuries: carvings, paintings, and especially a series of photographs from the 1920s by Ruth Anderson (1893-1983), an American who worked for many years for the Hispanic Society. A handsome catalogue, with text by Patrick Lenaghan, provides historical context.The religious processions shown here are not limited to Holy Week, though that is the most prominent theme. They can be readily dismissed—as manifestations of folk religion only loosely tethered to Scripture—or idealized—as expressions of a faith that bound together the community and structured everyday life in a way that most Christians today would envy. But insight is more likely to come if we can hold these Spanish "testimonies" in the mind's eye together with our own, or imagine ourselves as these celebrants looking across the gulf of time and culture at Holy Week 2000, evangelical-style, in Illinois or Virginia. What would they see, what would they notice, what would they think?
Copyright © 2000 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.