Dear Religious Family,
We want to share with you our experience of participating in the procession which took place in Macau on February 25th and 26th. Before telling you about the procession, I would like to explain the history of Macau. Macau is now a Special Administrative Region of China. In fact, in 1557, when the Portuguese settled there as a trading port between the East and the West, it was just some small and unimportant islands in southern China, hardly more than 2 km2 in area (now it is 32 km2 due to land reclamation). Portugal’s involvement in the region was formally recognized by the Qing dynasty (of Ancient China) in 1749. It became a colony of Portugal in 1887, until it was handed back over to China in the year 1999. Thanks to the Portuguese, the evangelization of the East began and Macau was formally established as a Diocese in 1576. It is the oldest diocese in the Far East, and around 5% of population (30,000 people) is Catholic.
The procession, locally also known as the “Procession of the Great Jesus” in Chinese, takes place every year on the first Saturday and Sunday of Lent. The bishop, clergy and a vast number of local and foreign faithful join the procession in silence and are accompanied by the Public Security Police Force Music Band playing a funeral march. It follows the form of the “Way of the Cross”, recalling the experiences of Passion and Death of Jesus. The procession takes place over two days. It starts from St. Augustine’s Church heading to the Cathedral on the first day and returns on the second day. At each designated “Station” on the return route on the second day (Sunday), a girl taking the role of Veronica sings a sorrowful song in Latin taken from Lamenations 1:12, “Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see, whether there is any suffering like my suffering,” and all participants respond singing “Parce Domine, parce populo tuo, ne in aeternum irascaris nobis.”
There are some interesting legends about this procession. The first legend is about the origin of the image. It is said that a long time ago on a cold night, someone knocked at the door of the Cathedral and the porter thought it was too early to open the door so he ignored it. The man outside knocked again a few times and the porter still did not open the door. So, the man left and walked to St. Augustine Church (which was near), and the porter there opened the door and found that it was Jesus who was outside. The legend follows that people made an image to commemorate this event. Another legend says that a large box was found in the sea after a storm, and people found some wooden parts inside. When they assembled it, it was the image of Jesus suffering His Passion. No matter which one (or neither one) is true, this procession can be traced back to 1708. Yet, it is piously believed that it had begun when the Augustinians Fathers came to Macau in 1586 and brought with them this devotion.
In its 400 years of history, the procession was interrupted only once in the 18th century, when the government of Portugal expelled all missionaries from Macau (when anti-clerical movements spread in Europe). In that year it was said that a great famine attacked Macau, and the pagan citizens protested to the government that it was because there was no procession that year. Since that time the procession continues to take place every year. In the last 3 years the grand procession stopped due to COVID; however it was held in a smaller scale within the court of the Diocesan Seminary.
In the procession during these two days, we were in the crowd following Jesus at the back, trying to be as close as possible both physically and spiritually. We were amazed to see the large crowd of people who participated, and many prayed the Rosary along the way. Some people who were in wheelchairs walked on foot to join the procession. Some who could not join the procession waited outside the entrance of their building with candles to welcome Jesus as He passed by… what a prayerful procession!
We may ask: what is the significance of this procession in Macau? According to the legends, Jesus did not receive an invitation to come to Macau, but out of His initiative He deigned to come to Macau and remain with us. Emmanuel, God with us. We found Him in a lowly place. Macau is a small diocese, a small city, but we have precious Jesus with us who wants us to follow Him in his Passion and one day share in His Resurrection and glory.
We were glad to be able to witness and to give testimony to our faith by participating in the procession, which is especially meaningful in this pagan and materialistic place. May more people come to know Jesus and accept the salvation He won for us by His most sorrowful Passion.
Viva Jesus! Viva Cristo Rey!
SSVM Missionaries from Macau
Feb 28, 2023