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Lord of the Column, Grieving Our Suffering Earth

by Mary Jane Miller

The solemn procession, the traditional bringing of the Lord of the Column to San Miguel, will happen on Saturday and Sunday, April 2 and 3. The sculpture of the flagellation of Christ will be carried from the Sanctuary in Atotonilco to San Juan de Dios Church, as it is each year. The tradition dates back to 1823, when a plague was occurring in San Miguel. When the locals decided to bring the statue to town as an offering of prayer, the plague abated.

The image commemorates the biblical text where Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged with 40 lashes (John 19). "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; they will kill him, and three days after his death, he will rise again." (St. Mark 9, 30-37).

The severe flagellation portrayed is a means of identifying with the suffering of Christ. My suggestion here is to imagine that our world is being beaten by humanity. If we can see cruelty in the story of Jesus, perhaps we can see the injustice we have reigned upon the earth and between one another.

In this I mean no disrespect for The Brotherhood of the Lord of the Column. Theirs is a well-established organization devoted to protecting and transporting with reverence this fine sculpture of sacred art. This 200-year-old life-size Jesus was first commissioned by Cayetano Vargas. Father Remigio González later built a second, more realistic, one. In fact, currently there are three life-size images of the Lord of the Column; this one, which visits San Miguel every year; another, which is found in the Holy House of exercises and a third that is venerated in the temple of the Third Order

The ecclesiastical authorization necessary to carry out this massive act is a patronage that takes charge of the organization. Miguel Ángel Ramírez, who is in charge this year, had it handed down into his care by his father, Don Miguel.

The pageant begins Saturday evening at eight o’clock in the sanctuary in Atotonilco, with the images of Jesus, Mary, and Saint John. Silk scarves cover them against the wind and dust during the procession. At eleven o’clock, they leave the temple, receiving the blessing of the parish priest, Father Fernando Manríquez Cortés. Then the procession begins.

The pilgrims should arrive at Los Alambres stream (Santa Margarita Ranch) at one in the morning. A little before two, they will arrive at the Cruz del Perdón Chapel, where Father Fernando will officiate. A mass and the procession will continue, calculated to arrive at the Arroyo de la Arena at six. At seven, they arrive at the Avenida Independencia. Then the hundreds of people will be waiting for them will witness the moment in which the canvases that covered them are removed.

"Death has been absorbed into victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is thy sting "

From an historical account of the very first procession by Don Franco Barajas:

"From time to time the pilgrims change shoulders to share the weight, they walk on in song and prayer. Roosters begin to crow as towers and domes appear on the city's horizon. The cantor's voice has grown hoarse, the pilgrims walk in the dawn's light and a few handkerchiefs are damp with tears."

From a modern account:

"The people of the town go to the surrounding hills of the Barrio de San Juan de Dios. The first bottle rockets and firecrackers explode; hubbub grows and Christian devotion flows. Some tourists see with eyes as impassive as their cameras. The little streets are decorated with Chinese paper lace, and their floors are swept, sprinkled with water, some are dusting the air with ash, fennel and rose petals".
       Noticias Con Valor

My Prayer for San Miguel

Saint Michael, our town's patron, is an intercessor for the entire world. However, unmindfully, we invoke his name repeatedly in our day to day life. Our city and world need peace and reconciliation on many levels, principally for the environment.

For Christians, Lent is a time of mercy, a time of blessing, a time for reflection and change. Repentance means to change the direction. They tied the One we hold as our human example of perfect love to a wooden column to be scourged. Hours later, He will hang on a tree until death. "Those hands that lavish forgiveness, mercy and health are silenced. Those who washed his head welcoming his baptism, today wash the blood that gushes out of his tattered skin." This procession reminds us we do not have to go looking for a suffering Jesus. He has come and is coming to us. We cannot ignore the pain and suffering of our planet for much longer.

Tears and anguish will not stop the misuse of plastic, fossil fuels or over-consumption. Hope and awareness for a new way of being are at hand.

"Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord and puts his trust in the Lord. It will be a tree planted by the water, which next to the stream takes roots; when winter comes it will not feel it, its leaf will be green; in a year of drought it is not restless, it does not cease to bear fruit. "
       Jeremiah 17, 7-8

"Judge not, and you be not judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you" Luke 6: 37

Peace on the planet.


Mary Jane Miller born in New York and living in Mexico full time, is a self-taught Byzantine style iconographer with over 28 years of experience. Her collections of sacred art are contemporary, with a proficient command of egg tempera. The work is extraordinarily rich in style and has been exhibited in museums and churches in both the United States and Mexico. As an author, Miller blends historical content and personal insights to arrive at contemporary conclusions about faith. Her ten self-published books include Mediation and Iconography, Icon Painting Revealed, Mary in Iconography, In Light of Women, Life in Christ and The Stations. Miller has been published online and in publications such as Divine Temple, Russian Orthodox Journal, Faith and Forum Magazine, Liturgy Today and Profiles of Catholicism. She teaches four courses annually, 5-day immersion workshops throughout the US and Mexico.

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