Thursday, August 21, 2008

La Virgin del Cisne

August 20th is a National Holiday in Loja. The normal little tiendas are closed and an almost eerie silence falls over Loja. There aren’t horns honking or dogs barking. There are children laughing or people calling for attention. There is silence as we walked towards the Door to the City. We arrived at 4:00 pm and waited. As the hours rolled on, more and more people gathered until the streets were full. All waiting for the Reina de Loja to arrive. You may be wondering who it is that calls a city to a stand still. She stands at about a foot and a half in height, with dark brown curly hair, a several thousand dollar dress and gold jewelry. “La Virgin del Cisne,” Loja’s virgin (see picture below).

The Virgin supposedly saved a man dying of thirst on the road to Cisne and from that point on, Lojanos have held the Virgin del Cisne in high esteem.
Every year thousands of people make the trek from Cisne to Loja (some 75 km) to show their worship of the Virgin. Some show their adoration by doing the entire 3 day journey barefoot.
My friends and I stood watching as they brought the Virgin down the street preceded by dancers and surrounded by police. They clapped, cried, threw flower petals and worshipped.
My heart was broken for the people of Loja as I watched them praise a small wooden doll which someone had made and someone else had dressed up. I wanted to weep as I saw them pay their respects to a god who had eyes but could not see their pain, who had ears, but could not hear their cries, who had a mouth put would not speak the words of love that so many of them are dying to hear.
As I walked home that night, I so longed to cry out to them, “There is a God who sees you. There is a God who knows you and wants you. There is a God who wants something real with you… his name is Jesus.”
Oh, how I long that all would know of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

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