Last night, we went to Processione.
This is the celebration of Good Friday, an important date in the Catholic year which also gives rise to some of Italy's most beautiful and moving ceremonies.
In Australia, Good Friday services commence at 3pm and involve veneration of the cross; in Italy, they start at 9pm and involve the 14 stations of the cross.
In our little town of Canelli, we are blessed with 3 Catholic churches, each of which has its own priest and congregations. We are also blessed with a hill in the centre of town. A single-lane, stone-paved track meanders up the hill. The track is lit by old-fashioned street lamps which glow a warm yellow. It is lined with quaint stone buildings. Only local traffic is permitted on the track. The area is deeply historical and carries with it a special sense of time and tradition.
This beautiful location served as our own "Golgotha", the hill on the outskirts of Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified.
It set the scene for a very real and moving Processione.
At 9pm, about 300 Catholics from the 3 churches gathered at the church at the base of the hill.
Three priests and a group of 6-8 altar boys walked out of the church in silence holding a large crucifix aloft.
The slow trek up the hill took a full hour, as the congregation was stopped at regular intervals to reflect on each of the 14 stations of the cross.
There was no music; just voice. I was humbled by the innocence and humility of voice alone. This is often lost when voice is paired with music or musical instruments.
We arrived at the church at the top of the hill just before 10pm, where we finished the last station. At exactly that moment, the town bells rang 10 times. It was as if the bells were pealing to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ.
The holiness, intimacy and silence with which this beautiful ceremony was conducted and the natural hill brought the events of the crucifixion to life for me for the very first time...