Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 17, 2008
Passion of Christ’s trial remembered at Mexican church
Simple, modern interior highlights statue’s drama
Jesus of Nazareth – Good Friday, March 21
- WCR photo by Ted Fitzgerald
Eglesia Jesus Nazareno houses a statue of the tormented Christ.
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
On a hilltop overlooking the fabled Rio Grande, a Mexican church remembers the passion of Our Lord in a special way all year long.
It's Eglesia Jesus Nazareno, the Church of Jesus the Nazarene, principal parish of the Chihuahua state border town of Ojinaga. It has special significance as the Easter season approaches with observances of the events leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
The best way to visit the frontier town and its church is to park the car in a free lot on the Presidio, Texas, side of the border and enjoy a leisurely walk to the town centre.
En route are a series of attractive stops, On Blvd. Oscar Flores for example, a monument honours los ni¤os heroes, the youthful military cadets who died defending the Mexico City castle against U.S. invaders in 1847. A little park contains a column and bust of General Manuel Ojinaga, while on Ave. Hidalgo the statue Admirable Mother honours all mothers of the republic.
A short few blocks along Calle Allende and the pilgrim's objective is in sight, an attractive white church sited at the far end of the narrow block-long zocalo or central plaza.
The scene is an idyllic one with palm trees, cedars, park benches and the compulsory gazebo enhancing the open area where a few stollers and relaxing dogs give low energy life to the place.
An ornate, multi-tiered companario or bell tower dominates the church fa‡ade and is capped by a small octagonal dome and the cross, a prominent reminder of the events of Good Friday. Otherwise the white front with its brown trim, single entrance and three small windows lacks ornamentation.
Beyond the heavy wooden doors, the church interior continues the simple, modern d‚cor, with plain white walls beneath a gently sloping undecorated wood ceiling. Ornamentation is concentrated in the small, partially domed apse with a simple altar and marble reredos.
In the centre of the reredos is a statue of the parish patron, Jesus the Nazarene. An abject figure, the tormented Christ is clad in a purple robe (Mark 15:17-20) slumped to one side, hands tied together.
The church dedication alludes to the trial of Christ before Roman Governor Pontius Pilate as described in Mark's Gospel (14,15), a familiar reading from the Mass on Passion (Palm) Sunday, five days before the commemoration of the crucifixion on Good Friday.
Although he found no guilt in the prisoner, Pilate instructed that he be executed and a plaque or title be placed on the cross stating Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews in three languages (John 19:19-20). That in Latin, abbreviated INRI, is commonly used in illustrations of the crucifixion.
Various scriptural references indicate that the town of Nazareth was not held in high regard and that the idea of a king coming from the Galilean place didn't impress Pilate. The addition of this designation to the plaque was yet another insult to the suffering Christ.
After meditating and a few prayers before the image of the tortured Jesus, the pilgrim is ready to return to Presidio. Restored by pastries from the nearby Panaderia Francesa (French Bakery) and later pausing to buy a supply of obleas con cajeta (candy) the Dahnelly Caf‚ with its Irish d‚cor is soon left behind as the International Bridge over Mexico's Rio Bravo reappears.
At U.S. Customs, the agent queries "What's in the bag?" "Cajeta" seems a satisfactory reply as he waves the traveller on. Then, a pause before retrieving the car to bid a thoughtful adios to Ojinaga and its sad Eglesia Jesus Nazareno.