In Praise of Extravagance

Posted on April 7, 2010 by Anne Basye
An alfombra made of pine needles and flowers

I know, I know. It’s my job to point out all the ways we Americans have too much, spend too much, drive too much, eat too much, cram too much into our days, and leave too little space for concerns about God and the state of our souls, the planet, or other people.

 
But I love excess. Like last week, for example, when I shared the extravagant spectacle of Holy Week with half a million others in Antigua, Guatemala.
 
Antigua and its residents celebrate the Triduum and Easter with processions honoring Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. Twice a day, one or two immense floats, carried by 80 male or female cargadores, pass through the streets while a band marches behind playing dirges. Hundreds of others accompany them so that everyone has an opportunity to carry the float during its eight-hour journey. People who live along the route create alfombras or carpets of colored sawdust or pine needles, fruits, and flowers. It can take hours to construct a carpet that is destroyed in minutes as Jesus, his carriers, and his musicians walk across it.  
 

Alfombras of colored sawdust take hours to create

Two processions, hundreds of carpets, thousands of participants, and hundreds of thousands of observers each day added up to a very intense celebration. How boring life would be if it were simple all the time. Excess is part of life; it’s what our festivals and celebration are all about. And every now and then–like at the end of 40 days of Lent–how wonderful it feels to pull out all the stops and celebrate Jesus’s gift to us.
Anne Basye, Sustaining Simplicity
 

After the procession, destroyed!

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