The day of dad, mom and Carol's departure from Hvar dawned early this morning.
Up at 4 AM, we were off to put them on the ferry which would take them to the mainland. They had a two hour ferry crossing by themselves, then caught a bus to Zagreb, had a four hour ride, and were met by Josh, Dave's brother who lives in Slovenia. They'll spend Easter there with him, Kristi and their kids.
SO thankful we had them for nearly a week, both in Czech and on Hvar!
After making sure they were safely onto the ferry, Dave and I headed towards Jelsa for a special event taking place this morning.
See all the lights on in homes? They're on for a very special reason.
Beginning the evening before, on Maundy Thursday, which ushers in the weekend that commemorates the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, a 500 year old tradition starts here at 10 PM.
Six simultaneous processions depart from the towns and villages of Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirce, Vrbanj and Vrboska, as pilgrims follow a cross-bearer and his acolytes on a 22 kilometer pilgrimage through the night along a route which takes in the churches of the other communities taking part. And houses in those places keep their lights on throughout the night.
They return to their original location at 7:00 AM the following morning, with the last steps taken by the exhausted cross-bearer in the form of a run to the awaiting.
Having heard about this tradition over the last years we've been visiting the island, we were in Jelsa by 5:30 AM this morning to see it for ourselves.
Amazingly, the bakery was open that early - I guess for people like us! So the Croatian "burek sa mesom" (a pastry filled with meat) made a good breakfast as we went back to our car to wait.
We knew that the procession was not due back in the town square until 7 AM, so expected to wait in the car until then.
Little did we know that it circled through the square at 6 and headed up to a church on the hill for a short mass. Thus we joined in the procession along with many other townspeople.
Having had mostly cloudy, windy, rainy, cold weather this week, it was a spectacular morning of sunshine for this beautiful remembrance of what Jesus did for us on the cross.
Listening to the men in the procession sing as they came out of the church was absolutely thrilling, even if we couldn't understand what they were saying.
We followed them back down into town, listening to their songs in the otherwise quiet, solemn crowd.
Many people joined in as we walked through the tiny streets of Hvar, heading towards the square.
While the procession circled around in order to come along the water front, we took a short cut so we could be there to see them coming in.
By this time, quite a crowd had gathered on the square, young and old alike. Even if this is just tradition (hard to know if people are there for the spiritual aspect or not), it touched me to see so many waiting for the procession of the cross.
And was equally as thrilling when it came down the harbor, the men singing in full voice as the man bearing the cross came forward after his nine hour journey through the night.
The man chosen to bear the cross was barefoot (walking in woolen socks) and had applied to be the crossbearer in 1995. He's waited over 20 years to do this! You can find a fascinating article about him
There are more pictures and a video HERE is you'd like to see more.
Along with Mel and Amy (who arrived last night to be here for Easter with us), we enjoyed coffee on the square with hundreds of others who came for the end of the procession of the cross.
This was such a beautiful way to enter into this Easter season. How grateful I am for what Jesus did for us on the cross, bearing our sins and giving his life so that we might have life.