MALTA, a tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea has for centuries been the focal point of the many different cultures surrounding it on the shores of the Inland Sea. However, the arrival of the Knights of St John changed Maltese culture to a European one. It is from the Catholic customs and traditions which the Knights brought to Malta that Holy Week and Easter became the religious and deeply spiritual experiences we know today.
The slides you are about to see reflect the religious, cultural and social aspect which surround the week preceding Easter, which is aptly termed Holy Week. One has to be present to appreciate the religious fervour which grips the island during these holy days.
The celebrations begin on the Friday preceding Palm Sunday, a day which is dedicated to Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows. Thousands of Maltese from all strata of society join the penitential processions which take place in many villages in Malta and Gozo. Many people join the procession to fulfil a vow they took with Holy Mary or to ask for her intercession before God. Mary represents the sorrows which human beings have to suffer throughout their lives
The priest, representing Jesus, walks out of the church to be greeted by a crowd all holding palm branches, reflecting the real event which took place two thousand years ago in Jerusalem as described in the Gospels, The cries of “Hosanna, Hosanna” echo in the village piazza.
“And the Jewish priests said, ‘Why do you let these people acknowledge you as God?’ And Jesus answered: ‘If these people do not sing my praises then the very walls and stones will do so.’” The priest blesses the palm and olive branches which are held aloft by the crowd. Olive branches, in particular, are held in reverence, as Our Lord prayed under an olive tree on the night before his death.
Maundy Thursday has many religious aspects, the most notable for Catholics is the Last Supper of Christ, which culminated in the Holy Eucharist. Apart from the religious ceremonies, many are those who organise what is called “Il-Mejda ta’ l- Appostli” (the Apostles’ Table) which is a table laid out in the manner of the Jewish custom of Passover. The meal on the table consists of unleavened bread, rice, wine, water and bitter herbs, decorated with flowers and candles.
Good Friday represents the day when Jesus Christ died on the cross for our salvation and in Malta this day is always sombre. Only funeral marches are heard on radio stations, and no shops are open. The people flock to the churches to adore the Holy Eucharist and await the evening, when religious ceremonies will take place. The children of the school visited a miniature exhibition of the Passion of Jesus.
The holy crucifix is brought to the altar for veneration.
The congregation then comes up to the altar and kisses the crucifix.
After the ceremony in the church, various processions with large statues representing episodes from the Passion of Jesus are held in many villages. These processions often take the hue of pageants and each scene is described on loudspeakers so that those present will be able to reflect more on the scene. The pageant does not restrict itself to episodes from the Passion only, but also to representing Biblical personages who, in some way or other, were connected to the Passion of Jesus. The slides following are an example of this. One can appreciate the amount of hard work that accompanies each procession
Biblical Personages Abraham and Isaac John the Baptist
It is not unusual during these processions to see men dragging heavy chains tied to their feet. These people do this to thank God for a grace they received.
Wednesday 23 rd March saw the children gathering in the hall for a special activity – the commemoration of Holy Week.
The children gathered in front of a small statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, so lovingly decorated by Mr Brian Mizzi and Ms Marija Vella, to hear the story of the Passion of Jesus and to listen to lessons about the Stations of the Cross
Each class had prepared drawings of various episodes from the Passion of Jesus, to be shown to all the school while a student from each class read out the lesson.
Each teacher read a lesson while a child held up a cross.
Easter is a joyous occasion for celebrating, after the gloomy atmosphere of Good Friday. In various parishes of Malta processions with a statue of the Risen Christ are held. The men carrying the statue occasionally run short distances with it, symbolising the triumph of Jesus. The crowd roars its approval whenever they do this.
Easter is FIGOLLI TIME Figolli are large baked pastries filled with an almond paste. According to mythology the figolla was first presented as a gift to Astarte, the goddess of fertility. The pupils of Hookham Frere Primary School in Malta spent a whole morning making and baking figolli as part of the Comenius Project..
Getting Started Miss Vanessa Explains The Process
The flour, margarine, sugar and egg yolks are put in water and thoroughly mixed to form the pastry. Daniel James demonstrates his skill with the food mixer.
Faye rolls the pastry as thinly as she can, and Kelly gives it shape.
Traditionally, the pastry was cut in the shape of the lamb, representing Jesus, but many other shapes are used nowadays.
Shelden and Daniel carefully cut out the shapes.
Christian and Sholdon carefully put their unbaked figolla on a baking tray.
Daniel puts his figolla in the oven and waits until it is ready.
The figolla is baked and ready to eat, but chocolate must still be added to it.
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