What is so good about Good Friday? It certainly is a valid question. Assuming that this isn’t the consequence of a positive-thinking monk ahead of his time, chances are its origins lie elsewhere, though no one seems to know for sure. You would think they would, but sometimes that happens. The exact source of what is probably the most commonly used world in the world “O.K.” (and all its variations) is unknown, and this word has been with us for less than 200 years. As for Good Friday, the theories have been mainly narrowed down to two: it either has to do with an earlier connotation of the word “good”, which meant “holy”, or is a mutation from “God’s Friday”. I am inclined to believe the former, but who am I really to say?
In any event, around the world Good Friday is considered the most solemn and serious day of the Christian calendar. Even the stock market takes the day off. InSpain, after two nights of ongoing processions commemorating the final hours of Christ, things roll on. In fact, inMadrid, this the day when the most parades will depart from their churches. The problem is, most start basically at the same time, so I had to do a little picking an choosing. I decided on two: the silent procession leaving the Santisimo Cristo de la Fe in Calle Atocha, and the other was the Jesús de Medinaceli, quite possibly the most sacred image of the city.
But they wouldn’t be until the evening, so first I went over to Jorge and Susana’s house where we had a typical Good Friday lunch: baked cod. Actually we had two types. One was made by his mother. She had bought the salted cod from the classic store “Casa del Bacalao” inGoya Street. Salting food is a very old preserving technique, and cod has been prepared this way for centuries. To keep from suffering from a heart attack, the fish needs to be desalinated. To do this, you soak it in water, drain it, and then soak it again. This process can be repeated for up to two days. The fish retains its salty flavor, but it is not overbearing, and it is also surprisingly juicy. She topped it with homemade tomato paste from her garden in theprovinceofCuenca. Jorge made his own version, fresh cod this time, with olive oil, garlic and almonds. The meal was unforgettable. For dessert, we munched on some torrijas, the classic Easter sweet snack. Basically it is a kind of elaborate French toast. To accompany everything, a Chardonnay fromCataloniaand an Albariño fromGalicia. Then it was….siesta time.
Then came time for the processions. The weather was unstable but somewhat more promising, though it had rained around midday. It snowed and hailed too. I know this because I was outside walking in the streets when this occurred. In fact, the storm reached its height of fury when I was traversing an open area with no shelter. I arrived at Jorge’s house with my hair whiter than ever and a few dents in my skull to boot.
By the evening, I sensed we would not have the same problem as the day before, so things should go more or less according to schedule. But I also learned that even in the best of conditions, processions are very slow to get starting, so I didn’t leave home until the same time it was supposed to start. I crossed the RetiroParkand walked up the Retiro Streetto catch the Silent Procession. It was backed up at the entrance, so I flanked the crowd and stopped at the small plazaof Antón Martín, where there was plenty of space to get a front-row view. Two pasos passed by, one of Jesus on the cross and another of the weeping Mary.
The silent procession grabbed my attention for a couple of reasons. One was that the float of the Virgin Mary was carried by 32 women. It was the first time I had seen an all-female team of bearers. Very impressive. The second was that the silent procession was anything but silent. With two marching brass bands trailing each paso, at times, it was excruciatingly painful. The whole beauty of the silent procession is its very noiselessness. At most the processioners progress to the beat of fateful drumming. From what I could tell, there was no difference from the others I had seen the previous days. Disappointment factor in that sense was high.
Jorge and Susana and their children and his mother arrived a few minutes later. We decided to walk down Medinaceli to see how that would finish up there.