Remembering the First Fruits at the Konsachem Fest in Raia

Feasts are community celebrations in Goa. They are not merely spiritual celebrations but are social and become constitutive part of what makes us Goans. The feast of our Lady of Snows is one such event that brings out the best of Goan Christian tradition. Raiakars have the distinction of being the first to be converted to Catholicism in the entire Salcete. The feast being celebrated on 5th August annually maintains some kind of unbroken link with that event. The cutting of the paddy sheaves and offering them to God on the same day reminds us of the offering of the first fruits. Like the paddy sheaves, the conversion of Raikars can be viewed as the first fruits of Salcete. This might be the significance of the harvest festival / konschem fest in Raia. It may be a ritual that unconsciously remembers the first conversions to Christianity in the whole of Salcete. Given the conversion is looked down upon in recent days, one might be able to find remembrance in the symbolic ritual of cutting of the sheaves. The harvest festival symbolizes the first fruits, the first converts of the entire Salcete.

Our Lady of Snows brings joy and enthusiasm to every person in the village and the entire village comes to the church like a single person to offer their devotion to Mother Mary and seek God’s blessings. Like most feasts in Goa, the festivities begin with a novena of nine days during which the people pray fervently, offer the holy mass and reflect on the world of God. On the feast day the joy of the people has no bounds as they gather in their Church for the celebration of their feast. The Church of Raia, like a mother, embraces her children and bestows on them blessings from above. The cutting of the paddy sheaves is the highlight of the day. Just before the high mass, the people along with their parish priest march to the field and the priest then cuts the paddy sheaves and brings them into the church in a solemn procession. The first fruits of the labour of the people are offered to God and after the high mass each family takes the blessed sheave home. Besides, being the harvest festival, offering the sheaves and taking them back home somehow connects the Raikars to their ancestors who became the first fruit of the work of evangelization of Salcete.

Alongside its spiritual dimension, the feast has socio-cultural aspects and attracts people of all faiths. The feast is adorned with the annual fair and all Goa football final match that attracts people of all walks of life. Goans being oedipal victors, all festivities in Goa are about food, fun and drinks. The Catholics of Raia welcome their friends and relatives in their homes and offer a delicious banquet to them. By then the festive mood takes the village into an unbound ecstasy. In the evening the people flock to the fair and go in large numbers to witness the football match. The day thus, mixes the spiritual and cultural into a healthy balance. This year pastoral themes being centred on the Good Samaritan from the Gospel, the faith community in Raia is challenged to become a Samaritan Church. Like the Good Samaritan, led by their devotion to Mother Mary and their faith and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Catholics of Raia are called to reach out in Love and service to the needy humans both in their village and beyond. It is a challenge to bring hope to all. The harvest festival is a festival of Hope. Hence, Raia feast beautifully harmonizes with this mission to bring hope to all people particularly those who are struggling in despair and darkness. May the golden paddy sheaves offered through mother Mary brighten the lives of the people of Raia as they on their part inflame the life of others with hope and love. Happy feast to all!

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao