Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Palm Sunday at the Surabaya Cathedral

a Lenten Special

Palm Sunday was to be our penultimate day in Indonesia. As Catholics, we were to hear mass and this day was a dedicated commemoration of Jesus’ triumphant and final entry into Jerusalem just before he would be persecuted and crucified as a common criminal.

Paul leaves for sale
Palm leaves for sale outside the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia

The mass is observed with much pomp and theatrics in the Philippines. For palm stalks, the preferred Filipino version is the intricately woven and folded palaspas that would be worthy of a feature in origami books. The priest, representing Jesus, would be accompanied by costumed disciples and sometimes would be astride a horse (there are no donkeys in the Philippines as what the Bible said). A full Passion reenactment would also supersede the sermon, almost as a stage play with local actors.

buying palm leaves
Palm leaves were available unfolded

Not in Indonesia, at least not in Surabaya. We chose to hear mass, said in the Indonesian language, at the Katedral Hati Kudus Yesus (Sacred Heart of Jesus) and saw austerity and simplicity. Palms were cleanly cut and unfolded. The officiating priest entered the church the regular way albeit with parishioners brandishing the palm leaves for blessing. Gone too are the costumes. And there were no long passion theatre, only the basic sermon that was short.

palm on the ground
Palm leaves were lined inside the main aisle before the mass

All throughout, soberity persisted and hush prevailed. Regardless of the external presentation, spiritually, Lent is really that for Indonesians, and for the rest of the Christian world.

blessing of the palm
Palms were blessed at the start of the service

view of the cathedral from the choir loft
the Katedral Hati Kudus Yesus in Surabaya looked grand from the choir loft

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Elmer I. Nocheseda said...

I was thinking that the palaspas of Indonesians would be intricate. Or probabaly, this is only in Surabaya.

I never imagined that it would be this simple and plain.

Farl said...

Elmer- My thoughts exactly. We were not able to hear Palm Sunday mass in Bali as we were transiting to Surabaya but by the road, we see several nuns going on their way to church with simply cut palms like what we saw in Surbaya.

Catholics are highly conservative in Indonesia so they probably stick as close to the scriptures as they can (in Jerusalem, the palms certainly would have been just cut leaves). Folded leaves are maybe seen as deviations that would be too close to their past non-Christian culture.