Festivities Divino Espirito Santo - Azores
THE PARACLETE The word Paraclete stems from the Greek parákletos, meaning the one who helps, comforts, encourages, protects, and intercedes. It is the name commonly given to the Third Person of the Christian Holy Trinity: the Holy Spirit, or Senhor Espírito Santo as He is known in the Azores.
The people of the Azores turn to Him for help and encouragement. When an illness visits the household, or if life is not going well, during times of earthquakes or war, when faced with too many diversities, strength tends to wane. One must not give up, but instead ask for help! Which is a very different approach but one that makes complete sense for those who live in the middle of the sometimes wild and stormy ocean.
It is impossible to summarise everything involved in these festivities, but we might make an attempt by saying that they are moments of meeting, of sharing, of fraternity, of joy and of peace, an annual celebration taking place between Easter Sunday and Trinity Sunday, seven weeks later.
Originating in medieval Italy, festivals, and worship in honour of the Divinity reached Portugal in the days of the first dynasty and, according to tradition, was promoted by Saint Elizabeth of Portugal, wife of King Dinis. Portuguese oceanic voyages spread this cult to the Atlantic islands, where it flourished, having also followed Azorean emigration routes to the Brazilian state of Maranhão and sousthern Brazil, the United States, Bermuda, and Canada.
In terms of publicly visible events, these festivities all include: a collection and gathering of donated items; a week of recitation of the Rosary, either in the Império (Empire) building, around which the Brotherhood of the Empire of the Holy Spirit is organised, or in the house of a brother selected
at random to be crowned and enthroned; the coronation and procession – the supreme moment; a festive meal, known as “the function”, and a bodo, or distribution of food offerings.
From this common base, and as a community festival strongly rooted in the island populations, all the rest can vary, first and foremost the format of the buildings around which the festival takes place, which can be highly decorated, plain or with columns, or just another house, in the midst of the community.
As for food, we have soups, the recipe for which varies from island to island, rump steak, meat stew, rice pudding, and a striking range of breads, such as milk loaf, water bread or sweet bread, rosquilhas (twisted ring-shaped rolls) and bolos de véspera (sweetened round loaves), with attractive markings, etc.
Depending on the island, there can also be singing at the door of the mordomo (the brother in charge of the collections and organising events) and the “creators’ suppers” in honour of the farmers, to enhance the fundraising, as well as music from the foliões, with their characteristic chants, at certain points during the festival week, and traditional Azorean bullfights, specifically on Terceira Island.
It should be stressed that this is a profoundly communitarian celebration, with a strong emphasis on solidarity. As was the case in the Middle Ages, the intention during these weeks is to remember that everyone is worthy of compassion, everyone is poor and deserving of alms, everyone deserves, at least once a year, to have a table full brimming with food and joy.
And never forgetting that the Paraclete is the One who comforts, protects, and encourages.