THE VIEW FROM RIZAL
By DR. JUN YNARES
Last Wednesday, January 9, devotees – in the millions, based on police and media estimates – walked and crowded a route from Quirino Grandstand in Luneta to Quiapo Church in Manila. They were part of the annual religious tradition called “Traslacion” – the kilometric procession which commemorates the historic transfer of the image of the Black Nazarene from a church in Intramuros to its present-day shrine.
As expected, the tradition generated much admiration for the unshakeable faith of many Filipinos in God. It also generated the usual bashing and criticism for what others refer to as a fanatical – almost pagan – display of religious fervor.
I have often been asked about my views regarding this religious practice. Peers and colleagues want to know where I stand, considering that I am an adherent of the Bible-based faith. As I have done a few times in the past, I shall share my view with our readers.
Here’s how I see it: regardless of what has been said by critics, I see the annual procession as stage from which one may view and understand the nature and depth of the spiritual longing of the ordinary Filipino.
The expression of the devotion to the Nazarene shows me three important qualities of the faith of the ordinary Filipino. First, it is simple. Second, it is concrete. Third, it is passionate.
It is simple. It shuns the sophistication of theological dissertations. It has a simple logic – man is weak and therefore needs a powerful king and savior. It does not want a king robed in majesty and seated in a golden throne. It prefers a king who looks like any ordinary man – blackened by the dust of the streets, scented by the sweat of the working man, and bearing the cross symbolic of that which the ordinary man carries on his shoulder every day.
It is concrete. It is not abstract. It is displayed in ways visible to the human eye, such as the bare feet of those who follow the Nazarene’s carriage. It is concrete and not abstract. It clamors for a God and Savior who can be seen and touched, and whose face and cross can be wiped by man-made kerchiefs.
It is passionate. It involves much human emotion. In expressing this simple, concrete faith, the devotee weeps, cries, shouts. In the presence of a cross-bearing, dark skinned King, the devotee unleashes his bottled-up pains and frustrations.
He believes that they, in turn, would be heard by the King who would take on every hurt and burden they carry.
In the presence of this King, the ordinary man complains, cries for comfort, clamors for hope.
The fact that they return every year to hail the Nazarene is proof that such simple, concrete, and passionate expression of faith does restore the ordinary man’s strength and hope.
It is ironic that such simple and concrete faith should defy logic and should remain unfathomable by the sophistication of human intellect. Maybe, it requires one to be simple, too, for one to be able to understand it.
By the way, we Antipoleños have a strong affinity with this annual procession that ends in the historic Quiapo Church.
Our elders have always told the story that, during the Second World War, the Antipolo Church (now Cathedral) was turned into a garrison by the foreign invaders. The image of the Lady of Peace and Good Voyage – Antipolo’s Patroness – was initially concealed in an underground hideout to prevent it from being vandalized or stolen.
The image was later brought to Quiapo – to the very same church where the Nazarene is enshrined. After the war, the image of the Lady of Peace and Good Voyage was brought back to Antipolo. A motorcade bearing the Lady’s image from Quiapo to Antipolo is held every year to commemorate her safe return to her home.
I believe we can all learn from the devotees of the Nazarene. After all, we are all weak and we all need a King and a Savior – one who walks with us and bears our pains in the very cross He alone can carry.
May our prayer be this: that God may give us all the grace to have a faith that is simple, concrete, and passionate.
May his grace thaw the coldness in many believers’ hearts caused by a complicated, intellectual view of our relationship with God.
Have a blessed Sunday, dear readers.
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