The men dressed as Roman soldiers shoved the man portraying Jesus toward a large cross in front of St. Anne Roman Catholic Church in Brentwood and went through the pretend motions of nailing him to it.
They smashed hammers onto the wooden cross, startling some in the crowd of hundreds who had gathered to mark Good Friday — the day Jesus was crucified and one of the holiest days of the year for Christians.
The soldiers hoisted the cross. Angel Cruz, acting as Jesus and wearing only a white loincloth, pretended to utter the final gasps of life while tied to the cross.
Then he cried out in Spanish the heartbreaking words written in Scripture, “Padre, perdónalos, porque no saben lo que hacen.” The English translation is, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”
Across Long Island, the faithful marked Good Friday by attending dramatizations and other services commemorating that critical day about 2,000 years ago. The events recalled Jesus’ condemnation to death, his journey to Calvary carrying the cross, and finally his crucifixion and death.
Christians believe that three days after his crucifixion, Jesus rose from the dead — the event observed and celebrated on Easter Sunday and the most important day on the Christian calendar.
“Good Friday is one of those hallmark moments, even more important than Christmas,” said the Rev. Christopher Mirabal Diaz, an associate pastor at St. Anne’s who helped lead the hourlong event. “It’s a very powerful day for all Christians.”
Even though it is a largely a somber day, the faithful “also do this with joy, knowing that after Good Friday comes Easter Sunday,” he said. “It’s not all doom and gloom.”
At St. Anne’s, parishioners took on the roles of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who oversaw Jesus’ trial; Jesus’ mother, Mary; and Veronica, a woman who felt pity for the suffering prophet and offered him a veil to wipe his bleeding forehead.
Cruz had red paint smeared across his torso to imitate the blood that covered Jesus’ skin from being whipped by the soldiers.
The procession, conducted in Spanish and English, started at the Brentwood Recreation Center on Third Avenue and made its way about a half-mile to St. Anne’s. Suffolk police blocked off intersections.
Clelia Trejo, 50, a native of El Salvador who lives in Islip, said she left her job at a vitamin factory early to attend the “Via Crucis,” or Stations of the Cross.
“You feel a little sad because of what happened,” she said in Spanish. “But at the same time, he gave his life to save us from our sins.”
Her daughter, Angela Crespo, 31, said Good Friday “is an important day, it’s a tradition,” and that the family had attended the event every year.
The Rev. Stanislaw Wadowski, pastor of St. Anne’s, said the service and Good Friday itself help people accept suffering in their own lives.
“Hopefully, we come to a better understanding of the way we were saved by Christ,” he said. “We learn to accept the crosses of our lives, because there is suffering that we can’t avoid.”