The Lenten piety increases with the lengthening days. It reaches its climax on Holy Thursday. On this day all Spain goes to church: it is one of the obligatory days. The more you go, the better for you; so the good people spend the whole day from dawn to dusk roaming from one church to another, and investing an Ave and a Pater-Noster in each. This fills every street of the city with the pious crowd. No carriages are permitted. A silence like that of Venice falls on the rattling capital. With three hundred thousand people in the street, the town seems still. In 1870, a free-thinking cabman dared to drive up the Calle Alcala. He was dragged from his box and beaten half to death by the chastened mourners, who yelled as they kicked and cuffed him, "Que bruto! He will wake our Jesus."
On Good Friday the gloom deepens. No colors are worn that day by the orthodox. The senoras appear on the street in funeral garb. I saw a group of fast youths come out of the jockey club, black from hat to boots, with jet studs and sleeve-buttons. The gayest and prettiest ladies sit within the church doors and beg in the holy name of charity, and earn large sums for the poor. There are hourly services in the churches, passionate sermons from all the pulpits. The streets are free from the painted haunters of the pavement. The whole people taste the luxury of a sentimental sorrow.
Yet in these heavy days it is not the Redeemer whose sufferings and death most nearly touch the hearts of the faithful. It is Santisima Maria who is worshipped most. It is the Dolorous Mother who moves them to tears of tenderness. The presiding deity of these final days of meditation is Our Lady of Solitude.
But at last the days of mourning are accomplished. The expiation for sin is finished. The grave is vanquished, death is swallowed up in victory. Man can turn from the grief that is natural to the joy that is eternal. From every steeple the bells fling out their happy clangor in glad tidings of great joy. The streets are flooded once more with eager multitudes, gay as in wedding garments. Christ has arisen! The heathen myth of the awakening of nature blends the old tradition with the new gospel. The vernal breezes sweep the skies clean and blue. Birds are pairing in the budding trees. The streams leap down from the melting snow of the hills. The brown turf takes a tint of verdure. Through the vast frame of things runs a quick shudder of teeming power. In the heart of man love and will mingle into hope. Hail to the new life and the ever-new religion! Hail to the resurrection morning!