The Feast of Golden Sheaves in Raia

The feast of our Lady of Snows brings joy and cheerfulness to the hearts of every Raikar. It is annually celebrated with much love and devotion and seems to set up the festivities everywhere is Salcete following it among the Christians. It may be so because Raia has the distinction of being the first community to be converted to Christianity in the entire Salcete. It has been said that this conversion of the gaukaria of Raia took place on 5th August and hence it may have become the day of celebration for the Catholic community of Raia from that time. The first fruit of the work of evangelization was a certain Brahmin Cortaló, working in the Câmara of Margão, who willingly decided to accept the Christian faith. His family also decided to embrace the Christian faith and accordingly on the feast day of our lady of Snows 140, people accepted the Christian faith in 1568. This number is said to have steadily grown over a period of time. The parish of Raia was first in the Fort of Rachol in the chapel of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross which then with the growing numbers of Christians was brought to the present location in the year 1699. But before that, the chapel of the Exaltation of the Holy cross was converted into the Church of our Lady of Snows (1655) inside the fort and when the Church edifice was ready the parish was established where the Church building stands today. The Feast of our lady of snows beautifully combines the first fruits of conversion to Christianity in Salcete with the first fruits of the labour of our people by offering the sheaves of paddy to God on the occasion of the feast. This is why History thickens when the people of Raia come to celebrate the feast of our Lady of Snows. It appears to combine and harmonize the pre-Christian harvest festival with the first fruits of the labour of evangelization.

Maybe we can find lines of our past crossing each other with the celebration of the first fruits that offer the harvest of human labour to God. We find it in most human traditions. The Jews also celebrated the feast of the first fruits. To the Christians, the feast of the first fruits is Pentecost. When the Lord Jesus rose from the dead he gave us the first fruits of his passion death and resurrection in the form of the Holy Spirit. The first fruits, for us Goans, are expressed by the word Novem or Noyem in Konkani. It stands for the golden sheaves of paddy. Maybe we have to derive this understanding of the new or noyem in the light of the Bible. St. Paul uses the Greek term Kainos to express the newness that Christianity brought forth in the world. He taught that in Christ, Christians have become a new creation. St. Paul wrote in Greek. He avoids the Greek word Neos and chooses Kainos to express the novelty that has entered the world because of the Paschal Mystery of the Lord Jesus Christ. The term Neos stands for something radically new. It represents what was not there and has come to be. The term Kainos on the other hand in comparison to others is new and unique. Hence, Kainos is a new type much better than the old in worth and value. The old therefore is not cancelled but is renewed or transformed. Thus we can see how the noyem or novem of Konkani standing for the golden sheaves of paddy also lets the pre-Christian harvest festivals whether Jewish or local transcend like the lotus in water in the festive rituals in Raia.

The feast of our Lady of Snows does not just cross times, it also crosses cultures. Perhaps the solemn procession with the golden sheave of paddy symbolizes it. it may also cross the ancient worship of earth goddess, known roynn and is said to be the root from where the name Raia was generated. It may also link Goddess Kamakshi. Sarkos (flesh) is born of the Pneumatos (Spirit). Hence the feast of the first fruits is the celebration of new birth in Christ. It joins the first fruits of conversion of Raia people with their challenge to become a new creation. The past, therefore, transcends and a new feast of the first fruits is celebrated with all Catholic fervour and faith. Catholic faith bows down to God that renews Humanity and the faithful take upon themselves the challenge of continuous renewal following Jesus Christ. This is why the ritual of taking the blessed sheaves to one’s home is celebrated by the Catholics of Raia with great fervour and devotion. The festive meal of the Catholics brings the best of Indo-Portuguese food. Football being an inclusive cultural sport in Goa crosses borders of religion and brings all the people of Raia and surrounding villages together. The tournament that begins before the novena hosts its grand final on the day of the feast. Indeed the golden sheaves of paddy offered to God weave the people, their past as well as the present beautifully. It brings divine blessings, harmony and peace to the people of Raia and surrounding villages.

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GREETINGS

Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao