The season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, has special meaning for every Catholic, especially a Goan. The 40 days of Lent represent the days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring Satan’s temptations and preparing to begin his ministry.
In Konkani, the Goans use the term “Korazm”, which is derived from the Portuguese word “Quaresma”, which simply means 40 – which obviously means the 40 days of imitation of Christ’s sojourn in the wilderness.
Christians are called to prepare this time by prayer, reflection, penance and charitable work during the season of Lent. The important part of Lent is the ‘Santos Passos’, which is traditionally seen in Goa, especially in the villages.
Santos Passos, which suggests “holy steps”, could also be a “representation of the trial” and a “contemplation on the sufferings of Jesus” as he went to Mount Calvary where he was crucified.
According to Fr. Francisco de Souza, who is the chronicler of the Society of Jesus, says that the origin of Santos Passos is attributed to Fr. Gasper Barzeo, who was a Dutch Jesuit priest in the Jesuit College of Saint Paul in Old Goa. the 15the century. He took advantage of this “theatrical spectacle” to strengthen devotion among the faithful.
Father Barzeo instituted the procession of “flagellants” (public flagellation) every Friday to maintain this fervor. He would preach on the words of the Psalmist: “multa flagella peccatoris,” which suggests that tons are the plagues of the sinner, followed by a period of silence where the faithful can reflect on their past life.
It would then represent another half hour on a passage of Christ’s eagerness. This was followed by the display of the Cross to the people, who successively weep and flog themselves.
From then on, sermons, performances and processions became a practice during the time of Lent. At the top of the weekly Lent program, a scene of eagerness was displayed on a stage inside the church, followed by a procession.
Initially, some religious orders in Old Goa raised objections to this practice during Lent. But later, seeing the “wisdom” of the custom, they adopted it, also because of the parish churches.
These pious paintings describing the sufferings of the Lord were accompanied by the singing of particular Lenten songs, which took a particular form, known as the “mote”. It is interesting to note that Fr. Gasper Barzeo was a close assistant of Saint Francis Xavier. Therefore, we cannot forget the contribution of our beloved Gõycho Saib within the Santos Passos and therefore the genesis of the “Motet” of Goa.
The rendering of these dark and awe-inspiring songs was interspersed with a reflection on Christian life and morals in the light of the Scriptures, delivered by a priest. A young woman from the community was trained by the village choirmaster to sing the hymn of Véronique standing on a height and, in doing so, she made an imprint of Her face, to stage the scene of Véronique wiping the face of Jesus on his because of Calvary. Here the priest preached a homily on the sufferings of Jesus.
The paintings are then taken to the church and kept for public veneration.
Previously, the Santos Passos persisted every Sunday of Lent in all churches in Goa, but now most churches have it on a particular day during Lent, leaving only a few churches to follow the tradition. These are arranged in such a way that the faithful can participate in more than one Santos Passos, if their devotion invites them to do so.
On the day of Santos Passos, the Irmãos or Confrades, that is to say the members of the Confrarias, wear Opa Mursa, a red and white cape, carry on their shoulders along the designated route, the life-size image of Jesus dressed in purple clothes, with a huge wooden cross on his shoulders.
Along the way, they could make three stops, representing the three falls that Jesus had made on the thanks of Mount Calvary. In the past, at each stop, they played or sang motetes (hymns linked to the Passion of Jesus). As the procession returns to the church, another painting of Our Lady, dressed in a blue cloak, joins the procession and together they are led to the church.
Over the years, attendance at the Santos Passos has declined dramatically and, therefore, perhaps the main reason is the opposing modes of Lenten prayers, such as the Lent Tiatrs, written and performed primarily by priests during the season. of Lent on stage.