..one fine morning, on Quasimodo Sunday, a living creature had been deposited, after mass, in the church of Notre- Dame,”
Quasimodo geniti infantes, alleluia: rationabiles, sine dolo lac concupiscite, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Translation- Like newborn infants, you must long for the pure, spiritual milk, that in him you may grow to salvation, alleluia.
1 Peter 2:2
If you are unable to attend Easter mass in Colina, Chile the Low Sunday mass comes to you, by the thousands, on horseback. The church celebrates the breaking of bread, the Eucharist, with those who are not able to attend Easter mass by way of a procession unlike any other in the world.
With the participation of over 3,000 Chilean cowboys or huasos Colina’s celebration is considered the largest in the country and since this custom is unique to Chile, the world. In fact it continues for the following two Sundays in neighboring villages. According to oral history this tradition dates back to colonial days when Dominican priests in an effort to offer holy communion to the disabled, elderly and ill required the escort of huasos not only as guides but as guards against thieves.
The name of the celebration Cuasimodo hails from the Catholic tradition of naming a mass after the first words of its introit. An introit being the first portion of the processional psalm chanted at the beginning of mass.
On this occasion the huasos do not wear their traditional wide brimmed hats out of respect for the holy sacrament. Instead they wear scarves on their heads and capes mimicking the priest’s attire. Once varied in color they now dress in predominantly white and yellow to reflect the papal colors. These colors are also visible in the decorations welcoming the procession to each parish.
When they do arrive you hear them before you see them. Thousands of hooves pounding the earth accompanied by the repeated cry of “Viva Cristo Rey” – Christ the king lives.
There is no photograph that one can take to capture the magnitude of this event. Any one image will only represent a moment’s worth of people passing by. It is truly a “Holy Marathon” in that it begins at sunrise and ends at sunset. The huasos hold the flag of Chile with one hand and a bottle of water in the other, deftly hidden under their capes so they may have a sip while the priest gives his blessing at one of the many stops.
And then there are the children.
All whom dress up to honor their loved one who is riding on this sacred day. Families wait eagerly on the sidelines to wave at, take photos of and then send the children off to ride with their huaso.
During his visit to Chile in 1997, Pope John Paul II called this holiday “…a treasure of the people of God.” It is and one that they generously share.