Friday, February 23, 2007

Mary as Co-Redemptrix

Somehow, it ever persistently springs to life. Lately, I have been receiving e-mail (again!) promoting the dogmatic definition of Mary as Co-redemptrix among other titles. While I really love and venerate her as the Mother of my Lord and my own very mother, I do not think she herself will like the title, and here are some things I wrote in the past that try to answer why:

Letter to Mary's Army for Peace (23 September 2004)
(Mary's Army for Peace is a Yahoo Group I created in May 2004, as a venue for prayer and reflection. It continues to be very active at present, and is a forum where people exchange prayer requests, inspirational prayers they composed and so much more.)

Dear Mary's Army:


First of all, I would like to apologize for not having been very active in our yahoogroups since I had to focus more on my studies recently.

Yet I feel the urgency to write you since the idea of Mary as co-redemptrix has become a considerable issue, almost a theological debate in our times. And I feel that as members of Mary's Army, we should be at least informed about the issue. The Church has been quite silent on the matter and has made no official pronouncement. Some sides continue to push the idea, others downright reject it and still others do not know where to side. This position is only my assessment and it is up for you to study, pray and ponder over it.

Seeing Mary as co-redemptrix poses some serious theological conflicts. The greatest of which is that, it makes Jesus co-redeemer and the act of redemption not the exclusive act of God. While it feels good to think that Redemption actually happened as a co-operation between Jesus the God-Man and Mary the Woman or "Pure Human," it becomes quite problematic on second thought. Why? Because how can a human person have the power to redeem us from our sins? Priests for example, how can they forgive, not even redeem, sins? Solely and exclusively by the power and authority of Jesus, not by their own power or authority. Because Creation, Redemption, Sanctification are acts of God, initiatives of God and God alone. Only the fullness of Being can share to the void to let it be. Only the Creator can restore Creation. Only the perfection of Holiness can sanctify. While for God's work to be efficacious in our lives there is a necessity for a response, it is only because God respects our freedom. And the only response is for us to say yes to God, to allow God to work through us and in us. And this is precisely what Mary did. She did not say, Fiat, let us do it. Rather she said, Fiat, let it be done to me according to your Word. Everything was God working in Mary. Everything is grace, all is gift!

Mary indeed was there at the foot of the Cross. And her Mother's heart so intimately united with Jesus and so profoundly linked with God's heart because of her deep holiness, we can presume, suffered most at the sight of the cruelty of sinners. Thus she earned her being Queen of Martyrs. And the title is apt because the essence of martyrdom is to attest, not to the strength and fortitude of the martyrs but to God's love which sustains our weakness and transforms our sorrow into joy and our defeat into victory. Mary's love was great. But only Jesus, only LOVE himself, can put on all human hatred and bitterness and transform it into Love at the Cross; only LIFE himself can embrace our death to transform it into resurrection; only LIGHT can transform our darkness; PEACE, our strife and JOY, our sorrow-- the very act of REDEMPTION.

And this is what Mary's beauty and honor is all about, not that we exalt her unduly but that God is given glory in her. We can never praise Mary enough. But we can praise Mary wrongly when she becomes a distraction from and not a direction to Jesus.

This is what Mary's Army is all about. That through Mary's example and help, we discover God working in our lives and we say our yes to him and allow him to work in us and through us. We do not become co-redeemers when we are able to lead a soul to God. We are only directions, instruments, channels. Unltimately, it is God himself who is our all. Without him, Mary, as well as any of us are but nothing.

Please feel free to respond to the group or to me about your feelings on the matter or on any issue. It is good for us to discern together or we could consult those who are more knowledgeable to help us.

To Jesus through Mary!


Fair as the moon, Bright as the Sun,
Terrible as an army set in battle array
(5 December 2004)

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The article seeks to understand anew this mystery of faith.

Throughout the ages, the Church praises the Mother of God for her exceeding beauty, highlighting the graces bestowed on her by the Lord. And in heaving such praises on her whom we acclaim as our prototype and exemplar, we are also discovering our identity as people of God. One of these praises is the ancient antiphon many of us are familiar with. Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising: fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?

This image of the dawn is truly fit to illustrate Mary, whom we acclaim as the Immaculate Conception. As the light of the sun is first seen in the dawn even before its rising, so did salvation bear its first and most perfect fruit in Mary even before the coming of the Savior. Many a time in Christian art the Immaculate Conception is portrayed as a young woman with folded hands wearing the blue and white robes of royalty. Yet in Scriptures, the apostle John sees a different vision as Juan Diego will also do in Guadalupe centuries later, of “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” Moon, stars and sun all together in a picture evoke only a single image: dawn.

Who is She?
Devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is an established Catholic characteristic. After Jesus, Mary is the most central figure in the faith. We honor her with various prayers and revere her under various titles. Her apparitions continue to draw pilgrimages accompanied by miraculous cures and astounding conversions. In the Philippine setting, she can even take center stage. Her festivals and images draw the most people to the Church. Some even fear that our devotion to Mary is but bordering on the idolatrous. The growing challenge then is to establish a Marian theology that clarifies rather than confuses the faith and a devotion that leads us to rather than distracts us from Christ.

One of the most ancient titles of Mary is the Immaculate Conception. Even if the dogma was proclaimed by Pius IX only in 1854, it has always consistently appeared in Catholic tradition. In fact, the over 400-year old archdiocese of Manila is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. In 1830, Our Lady appeared in Paris to Catherine Laboure asking that a medal be struck with the inscription “Ö Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” And four years after its proclamation, in 1858, there was another apparition in Lourdes where she introduced herself explicitly as “the Immaculate Conception”.

The dogma states that “by a singular privilege of God almighty, in view of the foreseen merits of Christ the Savior, the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from all stain of original sin from the first moment of her conception.” But the idea isn’t as simple as that; at least while it wasn’t well laid out yet as “dogma”. It has been in fact subject of prolonged and extensive theological debate. The great Thomas Aquinas did not agree since he could not imagine Christ being the “Savior of all except Mary” since she was sinless and did not need any redemption. Thus the issue was resolved only when Duns Scotus came up with “in view of the foreseen merits of Christ”, making Mary pre-redeemed or in our present-day parlance, post-paid. But while the theological and philosophical underpinnings of the Immaculate Conception seems to be relatively settled and definitively (dogmatically, even) defined, its pastoral significance remains a task to be done. What exactly does this dogma mean to us and our faith? This article, even if insufficiently, attempts to address this problematic.

Fair as the moon
The moon doesn’t seem to be a very fitting image with our modern knowledge of it. It is but a barren mass of rock with plenty of ugly craters. The moon is barren and lifeless. And yet when we go out one clear night and gaze at the sky, we continue to look with wonder at the moon. The moon remains to be beautiful. It continues to enchant us despite its known unattractiveness.

The moon is nothing in itself. But it is beautiful because it shines with the light of the sun. In this sense does the moon qualify as an image of Mary. Mary is nothing without God. Deprived of all the graces God lavished on her, she would be just another woman. But she shines with the light of God living in her. Another woman also, when she lets God enter her life will find more meaning and purpose than being “just another woman”. In cosmology we know the moon is made of exactly the same elements as our earth. When viewed from space, from a wider perspective, they still differ a lot but both are just as beautiful. As Catholics, we often see Mary as being more than us or greater than us. Hence we revere her so much yet care so little about imitating her. But in fact, she is just as frail and weak as any of us. Both planets would be nothing without the sun. The moon will be dark and the earth will die. The only difference is that she was “full of grace”. She was full of God. And this is not impossible for us but is even the invitation to us. Grace is offered to us at every moment. Grace never lacks. We only need to let grace work in our lives, to let God enter, like Mary did.

When we look beyond the light of the moon, we see that it actually points us to the sun. In the darkness of the night, the moon is our assurance of morning because as long as the moon still shines, we know that the sun is also there. Mary too, when we gaze at her would always direct us to the reality of a living God. When we look at her, it is not her own greatness we see but the glory of God who raises the lowly. “The Almighty has wrought marvels for me. Holy is his Name.” When we praise her, we are in fact praising God who is the Giver of all that is good in her.

One thing also about the moon is that it never leaves the earth. We know this is because of gravity. Mary too never isolates herself from us even when she is exalted by God. It is this humility that makes her even more admirable. Thus she is the cause of our joy, the glory of God’s people, the highest honor of humanity. Her beauty is not something purely personal but a beauty which overflows and sheds its radiance on the whole Church, to the entire world just as the moon sheds on us its borrowed light. The gift of Mary may be singular but it is a gift that is shared. The graces lavished by God on Mary are his gifts to all his children in giving her to us to be our Mother.

Bright as the Sun
This image seems confusing at first since we know that the metaphor of the sun is almost always used to refer to Christ, the Sun of Justice which sustains all creation. It is dangerous because such perception of Mary may seem to obscure rather than elucidate Christ’s role in our lives. There is a spreading movement today which advocates Mary as Co-Redemptrix. The Church has not yet made any official pronouncement for or against the proposition. But it seems rather inconsistent with our faith and subtly misleading because it attributes to Mary a work, a faculty that is only God’s—to give new birth to creation.

All human persons have only two God-given faculties for salvation: intellect that we may know God and freedom that we may choose God. “No man can buy his own ransom.” We can only accept God’s call to holiness. Mary did not help redeem us. She only allowed God to use her in this plan of salvation, with fullness of freedom. While it is true that Mary played a most important role in the story of our salvation, she is nevertheless only God’s instrument, though an instrument par excellence. “Everyone who hears my word and keeps it is my mother, my sister, my brother.” Every vocation is most sublime. We should never equate Mary with God and separate her from us in the process. As a finite creature like all of us, she can only be so much but never like God. Like any of us, she is also in need of redemption, in need of God’s saving love which is shown in her Immaculate Conception. The Immaculate Conception is not a demonstration of Mary’s strength but even of her weakness before God who then embraced her frailty and became her strength.

And here comes the proper understanding of Mary as being bright as the Sun. Mary is bright as the Sun who is Christ, not because she is equal to Christ but because she is configured to Christ, attuned to Christ, wholly one with Christ. She is not the sun but “the woman clothed with the sun”, shining with the same marvelous light. Mary had the same call, the same vocation all of us share. She is our model of our aspiring and striving to be “holy as our Father is holy”, to be light of the world in Christ our light. Yet even when she has attained this perfection, she humbly acknowledges that it is all God working in her. Mary’s story all started with her Fiat, a simple yet wholehearted yes to God. All the rest just followed. “For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” By herself she cannot do it, just like any of us find the struggle to be good increasingly difficult. But “nothing is impossible with God”. And she believed and let God work in her life.

Mary’s life is a continual yes to God’s call. Discipleship is but a faithful following of Christ. We do not go our own ways to heaven or use our own “techniques” on being holy. No one can be good or holy on one’s own accord. For where else can we get or produce holiness or goodness unless God, who is himself Holiness and Good will grant us? We simply follow Jesus, our only Way. And that is precisely what Mary did and what all of us should do.

Terrible as an army set in battle array
“Terrible” is not a very flattering praise, especially to a woman. On first hearing, it is sounds more becoming of the devil than Our Lady. An army in battle array is also not a very promising image. It seems foreboding of war and destruction. But it is in this last phrase that the true meaning of the Immaculate Conception seems to be unraveled.

We are used to seeing Mary as beautiful. We dress her in all these embroidered gowns and heave on her all these heavy crowns that if we do a real person would render him or her unable to move. But the real beauty of the Immaculate Conception is in the struggle. In the Book of Revelation, John sees the vision of a woman, not just enrobed with the heavenly bodies but also actively in labor, and in a struggle with the enemy symboloized by the dragon.

God made the first move when he preserved Mary from all stain of sin from her conception. But even more wonderfully did Mary faithfully preserve this life of grace which is God’s gift. If she did not, then all would have been a mockery and we will all remember her as one who wasted God’s singular gift. But she did. And so her Immaculate Conception is the glory and mystery of a person’s working with God, of the Creator and of all Creation. Her beauty is not static but the beauty of the ancient Greeks’ “logos”, a struggle that gives birth to order and of “cosmos”, the universe that grows ever more beautiful in the tussle.

She is not just a decoration in the Church but our model. Before she became our Mother, she has always been our sister and companion in this pilgrimage of faith. In Mary we see the restoration of the dignity and perfection we have lost to sin. Humanity is given a new beginning in her, a clean slate and she did not fail God. Thus we are also given a new chance. The old Testament begins with a fallen humanity that has lost its God and goes on to search for Him. The new Testament begins with God, seeking us out and finding us by the rise of Mary to answer God’s call. The Word-made-flesh is the Eternal Word of God and the Human Flesh of Mary on behalf of all humanity, and all Creation. Salvation is wrought by mankind’s accepting God once again through Mary after our isolating ourselves from him by sin. God enters the human scene once again and begins an Everlasting covenant in Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary. Mary is our prototype and model but she is not a statue or mannequin. She is a living embodiment of what we are called to be and what we shall be if we follow Jesus.

An army in battle array, indeed, speaks of a struggle to victory. Our situations may be hopeless and infinitely more difficult now. But she is our assurance that holiness is possible and the battle of struggling to be perfect can be won. “For he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.” This discriminated woman of a conquered people triumphed not because of the strength or power she did not have but because she worked and struggled with a God who is her everything. And with God as fortress and rampart, who will not be terribly assured of victory?

She comes forth as the morning rising
The Immaculate Conception after all is more than just a decorative title or a singular privilege that has meaning only to Mary who received it. More than that she be a worthy vessel, it was such that she may freely say her yes to God. So that her reflecting God’s light or sharing in God’s blessed life is not a passive accident but an active discipleship. Her Immaculate Conception, then, not only awes us but spurs us on to pursue holiness with perseverance and fidelity. Hence, the gift of Mary is not only her honor but is extended to us as a challenge. Thus, she is the moon in this dark night of exile that promises us there is still the Sun which will soon rise. In these dark and distressing times, she shines as a beacon of hope which points out to Christ who is our true Hope. She is like the Sun, telling us that our struggle to be holy is not impossible if only we let God work in us. We are mere dust but kindled with the fire of God’s love we shine with brightest light.

And so she comes forth as the morning rising. This woman is radiant yet also pregnant and in labor. This sign is a promise of greater things that the glorious vision we now see. “The night is far spent” and the day draws near proclaimed by the luminous dawn. In that Morning, we too shall be “fair as the moon, bright as the Sun, and terrible as an army set in battle array”. Let us continue to struggle even as we wait. Let us march with her to the rising of the Sun.

Mary, Mother of Jesus, yours is the singular privilege, given by the Father, to be free from all stain of sin from your conception. The guilt of our parents and of all humanity is forgiven by the saving work of Christ and it is in you, O Daughter full of grace, that his redemption first shines in its fullness as the light of the sun is first seen in the radiant dawn even before its rising. It was necessary that you be without all sin, not only that you become a worthy vessel, but that you may give your yes to God with fullness of freedom.

As the ancient Eve opened herself to sin, you, the New Eve, gave yourself completely to God’s plan. It is through this disobedience that sin and death entered our world, the Old Covenant begins with this vacuum of humanity searching for God it has rejected. By your Fiat is this undone. The life in God we have lost is restored. And in your immaculate womb, the Word is made flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit. God Eternal enters the human scene once again to bring us back when we have gone astray. In Jesus, our New Covenant, every longing for God is fulfilled; sin is vanquished and life is restored by his Resurrection.

Accompany us in our constant search for God for you also longed for the promised Savior and found its fulfillment in your firmness of faith. Shine among us, O Star which guides our way, for you are the image of the Church in its perfection and where you are we all aspire to be. Especially in these difficult and confusing times, be the sure Beacon which points us to God who alone gives us true meaning and fulfillment. We take you as our model; help us open ourselves to God so he may dwell in us and work through us. You are the cause of our joy; be our consolation in this valley of tears. Always bring Christ in our lives, He who is our hope and our peace. Amen.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ash Wednesday

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent and a day of fast and abstinence in the Universal Church.

On this day, blessed ashes are imposed on the crown of the head of the ordained and on the foreheads of the faithful, by tracing them in the form of a cross. The ashes come from the palms blessed during the preceding year's Palm Sunday, and are then mixed with olive oil or plain water as fixative.

Three formulas are given and one of them may be used:

1. Remember man that you are dust and to dust you shall return.
2. Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.
3. Repent and believe in the Good News.

The formula for the blessing and imposition of the ashes is found in the Book of Blessings. The rite of Imposition of Ashes may be done within the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or during a celebration of the Liturgy of the Word.

Fasting and abstinence is also observed by all believers during this day (as well as on Good Friday) who have reached the age of 18 and are below the age of 60. Fasting means that they are to eat only one full meal, supplemented by two smaller meals. Abstinence, juridically, is to abstain from meat but which is more widely interpreted as foregoing things that give us great pleasure (e.g. softdrinks, watching television etc.) as a form of penance and sacrifice. One especially laudable and meritorious form of abstinence is abstinence from useless talk.

There are however, valid considerations for exemption from both fasting and abstinence such as when one is sick, pregnant or has to perform some heavy physical (or even mental) work. In these cases, one is recommended to offer to God a work of mercy instead.

All the Fridays of Lent are also observed as days of penance. On these days, the faithful are to abstain from meat or else, do some work of mercy as a substitute. They are also to ponder and to pray about the Passion and Death of Our Lord.

These forms of ascetism are not only practices of mere privation but are oriented towards spiritual discipline which is cultivated by disciplining the body-which is actually a way easier task. By our constant dying to self, we are continually called to live the life of the Spirit as well as to give our lives to others. Hence, almsgiving is also an important Lenten practice, with the money that was saved from fasting and abstinence given to the poor and the needy. Indeed it should be done by Christians all throughout the year.

In these days when people fast to lose unwanted weight, let us fast to learn how to let go of our sinful ways. In these days when people live their lives going after every mundane pleasure, let us learn to give them up in pursuit of spiritual things of infinitely greater value.

As we suffer bodily hunger, even if only for a while, may we learn to hunger for God's word on which our souls feed and so find our true and lasting refreshment. May it also teach us to be solidary with the hungry people of the world who yearn not only for bread that satisfies but for the love that only Christ can give and which he gives through us who are members of his Body.

Lent: A Grace-Filled Opportunity
to be Renewed by the Grace of God
by Fr. Genaro Diwa, SLL
(An excellent catechesis and reflection on Ash Wednesday
and the Lenten season in general)

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Holy Season of Lent

21 February 2007 is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the holy season of Lent, which prepares us to worthily celebrate the holy Feast of Easter.

Lent encompasses a period of 40 days, which recalls the journey of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land which lasted for a long 40 years!-a number that signifies perfection in the Bible. Slowly and sometimes even painfully, God leads his people through constant conversion to become a people truly holy and sacred to him and so enter into his promised inheritance.

Like Israel, let us allow ourselves to be led by Yahweh into the desert, where in the practice of a continual dying to self we may learn to live according to God's will and so be worthy to share in the newness of our risen life in the Risen Lord.

From the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar (GNLYC)

27. Lent is a preparation for the celebration of Easter. For the Lenten liturgy disposes both catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery: catechumens, through the several stages of Christian initiation; the faithful, through reminders of their own baptism and through penitential practices.

28. Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord's Supper exclusive. The Alleluia is not used from the beginning of Lent until the Easter Vigil.

29. On Ash Wednesday, a universal day of fast, ashes are distributed.

30. The Sundays of this season are called the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent. The Sixth Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week, is called Passion Sunday

From the Ministry for Liturgical Affairs
of the Archdiocese of Manila:

Palms to Ashes in Preparation for Lent
Brief Catechesis and Imposition of Ashes

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Ang Kulto ng Nazareno: Pananampalataya o Panatisismo?

Narito ang isa pang papel na isinulat ko naman para sa kursong Ph103 (Philosophy of Religion) sa ilalim ni G. Agustin Martin G. Rodriguez, Ph.D. Bagamat sadyang pilosopikal ang papel na ito, humihipo pa rin sa teyolohiya at liturhiya, sa pagtalakay nito sa tanyag na Kulto ng Nazareno sa Quiapo.
Ang Kulto ng Nazareno: Pananampalataya o Panatisismo?

Leo R. Ocampo

Ipinagdiriwang ngayon ang ika-apat na dantaon ng pagdating sa Pilipinas ng imahen ng Hesus Nazareno lulan ng isang galyon buhat sa Acapulco, Mexico noong Ika-10 ng Mayo 1606. Sentro ito ng isang matanda, malawakan at matinding pagdedebosyon ng mga Pilipinong Katoliko bagaman nahahati ang opinyon ng mga dalubhasa, maging sa teyolohiya at turo ng Simbahan, ukol sa kabutihan o kawalang-kabuluhan ng kaugaliang ito. Mula sa isang pilosopikal na pananaw ang tanong ng papel na ito: pananampalataya ba o panatisismo ang kulto ng Nazareno?

I. Maikling Pagpapakilala at Pagsusuri sa Kulto ng Nazareno
Sapagkat mapanganib ang pagbagtas ng mga galyon paroo’t-panaog sa Acapulco at Maynila dahil sa mga bagyo at mga pirata, naisipan ng mga Kastilang maglulan ng mga relihiyosong imahen upang magsilbing gabay at tagapagtanggol ng mga ito. Kabilang sa mga ito ang imahen ng Nazareno na dumating sa Pilipinas noong 1606, pati na ang imahen ng Imaculada Concepcion na unang naglayag noong 1626 at nagpabalik-balik hanggang napabantog bilang patrona ng kapayapaan at mabuting paglalakbay: ang Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje o mas kilala ngayon bilang Birhen ng Antipolo.

Nababalutan ng alamat ang kuwento ng imahen ng Nazarenong itim ang kulay ng balat. Sinasabing nangitim ang imahen dahilan sa isang sunog na naganap sa barkong sinasakyan nito kung saan bahagya itong nasunog ngunit naisalba naman nang buo. May nagsasabi ring sinadya ng manlililok na gawing mulato ang kulay ng imahen, upang maging mas hawig sa kanyang sariling balat kaysa sa balat ng mga mestisong mananakop.

Unang iniluklok ang imahen sa simbahan ng mga Agostinong Rekoleto sa may Luneta, malapit sa Intramuros, at kasalukuyan itong matatagpuan sa Parokya ni San Juan Bautista sa Quiapo na itinanghal bilang Basilika Menor ng Nazareno ng yumaong Papa Juan Pablo II noong 1988.

Debosyon sa Nazareno
Tuwing Biyernes, binansagan nang “Araw ng Quiapo,” dinarayo ang imahen ng maraming deboto mula pa sa iba’t-ibang panig ng kalakhang Maynila at mga karatig-bayan. Sa mga araw na ito, parating nag-uumapaw sa dami ng tao ang malaking simbahan kahit na patuloy ang pagmimisa mula alas-kwatro ng madaling-araw hanggang alas-otso ng gabi. Kapansin-pansin ang haba ng pila ng mga debotong nais na pumunas at humalik sa paa ng imahen. Mayroon ding mga naglalakad nang paluhod patungo sa altar bagamat ipinagbawal na ang pagsasagawa nito habang nagmimisa.

Dumaragsa naman ang mga deboto tuwing ika-9 ng Enero para sa taunang prusisyon ng imahen na siyang pinakamahaba at pinakamaringal sa buong Kamaynilaan. Siyam na araw ng nobena ang isinasagawang paghahanda na dinadaluhan ng makapal na taong sinasakop ang buong paligid ng simbahan at umaapaw hanggang sa Quezon Boulevard na siyang pangunahing pambuklikong daan sa tabi nito, lalo na sa unang Biyernes ng taon at sa mismong araw ng pista. Magpapasko pa lang ay itinatayo na ang isang malaking entablado sa Plaza Miranda na nasa tapat ng Simbahan kung saan ginaganap ang iba’ t-ibang mga palatuntunan at gawain, relihiyoso man o sibil.

Hindi bababa sa limang oras inaabot ang prusisyon na inilalabas nang tanghaling-tapat. Nakayapak ang marami sa mga nagsisidalo na pawang kalalakihan na nagsisiksikan at nagtutulakan, makalapit lamang sa imahen o kahit man lang sa mga pisi na humihila sa carroza na sinasakyan nito Inihahagis nila ang kanilang mga tuwalyang puti upang ipunas ng mga kalalakihang nagbabantay sa imahen na may pag-asang maibabalik ito sa kanila taglay na ang bisa at pagpapala ng kanilang patron. Ang iba naman ay nag-aabang sa gilid ng mga daan, taglay ang mga kandila at puting panyong kanilang iwinawagayway upang magbigay-pugay sa Señor.

Tuwing Biyernes Santo, kaugalian rin ng marami ang maglakad mula sa kani-kanilang tahanan patungo sa Quiapo kung kailan idinaraos ang isang mas tahimik at mas maliit ngunit dinarayo at dinurumog pa ring prusisyon.

Buong taon, iniingatan ng mga Hijos de Nazareno, isang samahan ng kalalakihang nangangalaga sa imahen sa loob at labas ng prusisyon, ang kanilang patron. Buwan-buwan, sinasabon ang buhok nito na yari sa tunay na buhok ng mga kababaihang nagpahaba pa ng kanilang buhok upang ialay sa Nazareno. Nililinis at pinupunasan rin ito ng rose oil at iba pang mamahaling pabango na siyang pinagmumulan ng pananatili ng kintab at halimuyak ng imahen sa kabila ng kalumaan nito. Saka ito binibihisan ng panibagong damit na purpurang hinabian ng ginto—pawang kaloob lahat ng mga deboto at napakarami na hindi kakailanganing mag-ulit ng damit ang Nazareno.

Ugat ng Debosyon
Kung kakapanayamin, iba’t-iba ang pinagmulan ng pagdedebosyon ng bawat taong pumupunta sa Quiapo upang dumulog sa Nazareno.

Mayroong mga nagmana nito mula sa kanilang mga magulang o pamayanan. Marami kasi sa mga parokya at maging barangay sa Maynila ang may kani-kanilang imahen ng Nazareno na kanilang inililibot tuwing unang Biyernes ng buwan. Dinadala nila ang mga ito sa Quiapo upang isama sa taunang prusisyon ng “orihinal” na Nazareno upang sariwain ang kaugnayan nito sa iisang Señor. Mayroon namang mga nagpapatuloy ng naging “panata” ng kanilang mga magulang o na sa pagsama sa pamamanata ng mga ito ay minsang nangako na rin sa Nazareno ng kanilang sariling panata.

Panata” ang pangkaraniwang pinag-iikutan ng debosyon sa Nazareno. Ito ay ang pagbigkas sa isang pangakong tutuparin panghabang-buhay kapalit ng pagkakaloob ng isang tiyak at mahalagang kahilingan. Sa oras ng matinding pangangailangan[1], marami ang dumudulog upang humingi ng tulong kalakip ang pangakong palaging tatanawin ang biyaya kung makakamtan.

Mayroon namang nakatutuklas ng debosyon sa Nazareno sa pamamagitan ng kanilang paghahanap ng makakapitan. Ganito ang kuwento ng isa sa mga tanyag na deboto ng Nazareno na walang-iba kundi ang ating kasalukuyang Pangalawang-Pangulo, Noli de Castro, na taon-taong nagpupunta sa Quiapo upang makibahagi sa prusisyon. Bago at nagsisimulang mamamahayag pa lang siya noon nang unang humingi ng pamamatnubay sa Señor. Ngayon, ipinagpapasalamat niya ang naging tagumpay ng kanyang karera sa biyaya ng Nazareno na kanyang naging patron. Marami pa ang lumalapit na katulad niya: mga estudyanteng humihingi ng tulong upang makapagtapos sa kanilang pag-aaral, mga binata at dalagang humihingi ng tulong upang makahanap ng mabuting mapapangasawa, mga maysakit na hangad ang mapagaling, mga taong may mabigat suliranin sa pera, mga ama at ina ng tahanan na humihingi ng tulong upang makapasok sa isang magandang hanapbuhay at mabigyan ng masaganang buhay ang kanilang mag-anak.

Mayroon rin namang mga taong may nararanasang isang uring pag-akit sa simbahang ito kung saan higit nilang nararanasan kaysa sa iba ang pananahan ng Maykapal. Sa pagpunas sa imahen na pudpod na ang paa sa halik ng maraming mga deboto sa loob ng apat na siglo, nakikiisa ang deboto sa isang nakapaninindig-balahibong pagpapamalas ng matinding debosyon na patuloy pa hanggang ngayon. Hindi maaring lagumin sa isang pangungusap ngunit halos ganito: “Marami nang nakasumpong sa Panginoon dito, at malamang na narito nga Siya at masusumpungan ko rin.”

Suliranin sa Debosyon
Sa kabila ng tanda, lawak at tindi ng pagdedebosyon ng mga tao sa Nazareno, marami pa ring batikos ang ibinabato laban sa kaugaliang ito. Isang pagpapatuloy raw ng animismo o pagsamba sa mga anito ang kulto ng Nazareno na binalutan lang ng mga imahe at mensaheng mala-Kristiyano. Hindi raw ang Panginoon kundi ang imahen ang nagiging sentro ng debosyon at pagsamba. Halimbawa, madalas itinuturing na isang mabisang anting-anting ang panyong naipunas sa imahen.

Ang ganitong uring pagdedebosyon ay nagbubunsod raw ng isang mababang uri ng Kristiyanismo. Sapagkat nakatali sa ilang tiyak na araw ng linggo at taon ang debosyon, nagbubunga daw ito ng isang “seasonal Christianity” o pananampalatayang pana-panahon. Daragsa ang mga deboto tuwing Biyernes at ika-9 ng Enero upang ipahayag ang kanilang pananampalata sa Diyos ngunit pag-uwi ay babalik rin sa dating ugali at pamumuhay kung kaya’ t walang nagiging mabuting pagbabago sa ating lipunan sa kabila ng ating ipinagmamalaking matinding pananalig sa Maykapal. Ayon kay Benito Reyes, “Kristiyano tayo paminsan-minsan sa loob ng taon... patay-sindi ang ating Kristiyanismo batay sa mga pista sa kalendaryo... mistulang isang pista-opisyal ang Kristiyanismo sa isang mahabang taon ng pamumuhay nang hindi ayon sa turo ni Kristo.”[2]

Ito daw ang pananampalataya ng mga taong hindi nag-iisip o pananampalatayang “sentimental” na karaniwan daw na matatagpuan sa mga karaniwang mamamayang Pilipino. Kabaliktaran naman nito ang pananampalatayang “ideyolohikal” na taglay ng kakaunting taong higit na mataas ang pinag-aralan. Sinasabing may malaking agawat sa pagitan ng mga taong nakabatay ang pananampalataya sa pagtupad sa mga relihiyosong ritwal at sa mga taong layong panibaguhin ang pananampalatayang Pilipino na minana sa mga Kastila. Sinasabi ng iba na ang mga ganitong “ritwalismong pang-Quiapo” ay paraan lamang ng pagpapanatili ng yaman at kapangyarihan ng institusyon ng Simbahan at sa halip, ang kailangan ng mga tao ay isang tunay na pananampalatayang naka-ugat sa isang pansarili at direktang ugnayan sa Panginoon sa halip na sa tulong ng mga ritwal. Hindi maaring matulay ang bangin ng agwat ng dalawang uri ng pananampalatayang ito. Mahusay na nilalagom ni Padre Jaime Bulatao, SJ ang ganitong pagsasalimuot sa isang madamdaming tanong: “Magiging edukado ba ako o deboto? Sapagkat hindi maaring pareho!”[3]

Kulang na lang ang sabihin ng tahasan ng mga bumabatikos dito na walang-katuturan at walang-silbi ang pananampalataya ng mga taong katulad ng mga dumaragsa sa Quiapo, pati na sa Manaoag, sa Antipolo, sa Peñafrancia sa lungsod ng Naga, at marami pang iba. Basta panatisismo lamang ba o maaring pananampalata ang debosyon sa Nazareno?

II. Pagsusuring Pilosopikal
Malayo sa ganitong pananaw ang laman ng pahayag ng Kanyang Kabunyian, Gaudencio Kardenal Rosales, kasalukuyang Arsobispo ng Maynila, sa kanyang pangaral noong pasinayaan ang Dakilang Taon ng Pagdiriwang (Jubilee) ng Hesus Nazareno, tungkol sa payak na pananampalataya ng mga simpleng taong nagdedebosyon sa Nazareno, na hindi natin maaring basta maliitin at pulaan:

Sa kasimplehan ng tao, kukuha siya ng panyo at hindi niya masabi, ang panyo pagsasalitain: Hesus, linisin mo ako. Hesus liwanagan mo ang isip ko... Saan ka makakakita ng ganyang dalangin? Na ang panyo, ang kamay mo’y papagsasalitain mo, at tanggap yan ni Hesus! Maghanap ka na ng debosyon na ganyan! Kanya nawiwili ang taong lumapit.

Sinong mamumula sa taong ganun kasimple ang pananampalataya? Maging ang kamay papagsasalitain habang hinahawakan ang Hesus Nazareno? Maghanap ka na ng debosyon na ganyan! Hindi natin maaring pulaan ang mga taong hanggang doon lamang ang alam na paglapit sa Diyos! Para kang mamumula kapag pinulaan mo ang taong umiiyak sa harap ng kanyang Panginoon.

Ang mga pagtuligsa laban sa ganitong uri ng mga debosyon ay bunsod yata ng isang makabagong uso ng pag-iisip. Mababakasan na ito maging sa aklat na Noli Me Tangere na sinulat ni Jose Rizal kung saan inilalarawan niya ang makapanatikong pananampalataya ng mga Pilipinong kaagad na binibili ang bawat pakulo ng mga prayle. Para sa modernong isip, bagay lang ang ganitong uri ng relihiyon sa mga taong “uto-uto” at hindi nag-iisip at ang mga ritwal ay basta mga pakulo na pinagkakakitaan ng institusyon ng Simbahan at walang-silbi sa mamamayan.

Ang Karanasan ng Naligtas
Taliwas dito ang sinulat ni Mircea Eliade[4] sa kanyang penomenolohiya ng banal na oras at banal na lugar. Para sa kanya, nararanasan natin ang Lubhang Banal bilang isang hierophany na nagpapakilala sa atin. Naakit tayo sa Lubhang Banal kung kaya’t pumapaligid tayo sa mga panahon at tagpuan kung saan maari natin Siyang masumpungan. Datapwat isinasaayos natin ang ating mga buhay at pamayanan sa palibot ng Pinopoon na tumatayo bilang sentro ng ating daigdig (axis mundi). Ang mga lugar at panahon na ito ay ating itinatalaga bilang mga tangi at banal na lugar at panahon kung saan nakikipagtagpo ang pamayanan sa Maykapal. Nagtatamo ang mga ito ng isang matinding pagtatangi (valorization) na makikita sa mga ritwal na unti-unting kumakapal sa paligid nito.

Ipinapakita niya na nagaganap ang ganitong phenomenon nang kusa at hindi tinutulak o pinipilit, bagkus bunsod ng pagkukusang magpakilala ng Maykapal bilang isang bisang mapagligtas. Ang pagsasa-alamat at pagsasa-ritwal ay tugon ng Tao, hindi lamang upang tandaan at ipagdiwang ang minsanang pagdalaw ng Lubhang Banal ngunit upang laging panatilihin, sa tuwina ay sariwain at muli’t-muli ay makapasok sila dito, higit pa sa panahong sasapit muli ang matinding pangangailangan.

Makikita nang malinaw ang phenomenon na kanyang inilalarawan sa historikal na pag-unlad ng kulto ng Nazareno ng Quiapo. Sapagkat una nang namalas ang kapangyarihan ng Lubhang Banal sa pamamagitan ng imahen na nagligtas sa isang galyon mula sa mga panganib ng paglalakbay, kinilala ang taglay nitong bisang mapagligtas o potensyang soteryolohikal kung kaya’t idinambana nga nila ito sa Luneta, at malaon ay inilipat sa Quiapo, at kusang naging sentro ng matinding pagdedebosyon ng mga mananampalataya. Sapagkat patuloy pa rin ang mga hierophany sa mga karanasan ng mga himala ng Nazareno, maging mga simpleng panalangin na nabibigyang tugon, patuloy sa pamumukadkad ang pagdedebosyon ng mga tao. Lahat sapagkat naranasan nila ang maligtas!

Sa nibel ng maramihan, makikita ang tugon bilang isang malawakang kulto ng Nazareno na kinakatawan ng malaki at mayamang dambana sa Quiapo na siyang sentro ng debosyon ng bayan, ang dambanang sinasabing ang “Nazareno mismo ang nagtatag”[5]. Nang inilipat ang imahen ng Nazareno mula sa Intramuros patungo sa Quiapo, ang maliit na distrito na dating nasa gilid lang ng siyudad ay naging isang mahalagang sentro ng Kalakhang Maynila[6]. Naging sentro na rin ito ng kalakalan. Labis na nakaugnay at naka-ugat ang mga karaniwang Pilipino sa Quiapo kaya’t itinuturing na nga ito bilang isang microcosm ng ating kulturang popular.

Sa personal na nibel, makikita ito sa mga panata ng mga deboto kung saan iniluluklok ang Poon sa gitna ng buhay ng namamanata bilang isang uring sentrong pinag-iikutan kung kaya’t ang araw ng pista o ang araw ng debosyon ay nagiging isang tanging araw at ang dambana naman ay nagiging isang tanging tagpuan. Taon-taon man o tuwing Biyernes pa nga, dumarayo sila dito upang sariwain ang kanilang ugnayan sa kanilang patron. Katulad ng “base” sa larong ng mga bata na “agawan-base” ang papel ng araw at dambana ng Nazareno para sa mga deboto nito. Parati silang lumalapit at tumutuntong dito upang makatagpo at maibaon ang bisa nito sa kanilang pag-uwi at pakikibaka sa mga pang araw-araw nilang suliranin sa buhay.

Ang karanasan ng mga tao sa pagdulog sa Nazareno sa Quiapo ay hawig yata sa karanasan ni Jacob doon sa Bethel nang kilabutan siya at kusang winika sa kanyang sarili: Hindi ba nakapangingilabot ang pook na ito, na walang iba kundi ang tahanan ng Diyos at pintuan ng langit? [7] Nararanasan ng tao ang pananahan ng Diyos bilang sabay isang uring pintuan na kusang binubuksan ng Maykapal upang patuluyin ang tao at maaring katukin ng tao sa oras ng kanyang pangangailangan.

Sapagkat naligtas, ang pista at ang dambana ay isang panalangin upang tuluyang manahan ang Lubhang Banal na minsan nang dumalaw at patuloy na magbukas ito ng kaniyang pintuan sa atin. Patuloy na binabalik-balikan upang makipagtagpo at kumatok, makipagniig at dumulog.

Parehong Makatwiran
May kaniya-kaniyang dahilan o katwiran ang bawat taong pumupunta sa Quiapo at dumudulog sa paanan ng Nazareno kung kaya’t para sa kanila, maituturing na makatwiran ang kanilang ginagampanang pagdedebosyon. Marami sa kanila ang mayroong kilala na nakaranas na o sila pa mismo ang nakaranas ng kapangyarihan ng Señor na minsan nang nagligtas at simula noon ay inaasahang parating magliligtas sa kanila sa kanilang mga pangangailangan. Ang kanilang pagdedebosyon ay kusang pagtanaw ng tinatawag nating utang-na-loob. kaakibat ang patuloy na pananampalataya sa patrong pinopoon. Ito ay walang iba kundi isang malinaw na halimbawa ng panalanging anamnesis na siyang pamamaraang gamit sa opisyal na liturhiya ng Simbahan kung saan ginugunita ang mga mapagligtas na gawa ng Panginoon upang hilingin na ganapin niyang muli sa kasalukuyan ang mga kababalaghang ginawa na niya sa nakaraan. Para bang sinasabi sa Diyos na, kung nagawa niyo po noon, anupa’t gawin niyo rin po para sa amin ngayon!

Para naman sa isang intelektwal, mahirap maunawaan ang ganitong phenomenon, lalo na sa paraan ng pagpapahayag nito na lumalapit na yata sa kahibangan. Taon-taon, marami ang naaaksidente at minsan ay mayroon pang ilang nagbubuwis ng buhay lalo na sa araw ng pista dahil na lang sa simpleng kapal ng mga debotong dumadalo dito. Mistulang hindi rin “praktikal“ ang dumayo pa sa Quiapo at gumastos kung mayroon namang mga simbahang higit na malapit sa kani-kanilang mga tinutuluyan. Hindi pa kasama dito ang malaking halaga ng binubuhos na salapi ng mga deboto upang tustusan ang kulto ng Nazareno: mga mamahaling pabango at damit, malaking dambana, maringal na pista. Mistulang hindi nga matalino o matino ang magdebosyon sa Nazareno!

Ang buod ng suliranin sa palagay ko, ay hindi ang mismong phenomenon ng pananampalataya, kundi ang tindi ng tugon ng taong nananampalataya na lumalampas at dumadaig sa sukat na kayang itakda at ilagda ng ating katwiran. Habang may nakikitang katwiran ang mga deboto para sa kanilang malabis na pagdedebosyon, (sapagkat para sa kanila, hindi pa nga ito sapat o malabis bagkus ay kulang na kulang pa rin upang “masuklian” man lang ang biyayang kanilang nakamtan) sabay hindi rin maka-katwiran ang pagdedebosyon sa Nazareno at kung tutuusin ay maari ngang sabihing humihipo na sa mga hangganan ng kalabisan at kahibangan na para sa taong nananampalataya ay pananampalataya ngunit sa taong bumabatikos ay panatisismo.

Kaibhan sa Pagtingin
Hawig din yata ang karanasan ng naligtas at nabiyayaan sa karanasan ng tatlong haring mago sa Banal na Kasulatan na pagkakita sa Sanggol na kalong ng kanyang ina ay dagliang nagsipatirapa sa harap niya[8]. Para sa mga taong marunong at mataas ang kinalalagyan sa lipunan, nakagugulat ang makakita ng ganitong uri ng pagtugon sa harap ng isang dukhang mag-ina. Ngunit ang kaibhan ay naroon yata sa kanilang nakita at naranasan na mahirap makita kung gagamitin lamang ang ating pagmamatino at pangangatwiran. Dito tunay at tiyak na natagpuan nila ang Diyos, maging sa hindi inaasahang kalagayan, at ang kusa at kagyat nilang tugon—na marahil ay hindi na nila kinailangan pang sukatin o pag-isipan—ay ang sumamba nang buong isip, buong loob at buong katawan pa nga sa harapan niya na agad nilang batid ay siyang tugon na pinaka-ubod ng katwiran.

Ang taong hindi nakasalo sa biro, makitawa man siya, ay mananatiling nagtataka kung bakit nagsitawang lahat ang mga kasama niya. Ngunit para sa mga taong nakasalo sa biro, kusa at hindi mapigilan ang pagtawa—kahit hindi na pagmuni-munihan o pagbulay-bulayan pa. At hindi na nga! Ito marahil ang ugat ng ating tanong at suliranin: mayroong kaibhan sa nakita.

Para sa taong nananampalataya, (homo religiosus) sabi ni Eliade, may malaking kaibhan ang panahon o lunan na kinatagpuan at tagpuan niya at ng Lubhang Banal, isang matindi at makahulugang kaibhan. Namasid rin niya na para sa sumasampalataya, nauuna ang lantay na karanasan ng Lubhang Banal (primary religious experience) bago ang anupamang pagninilay sa daigdig. Sa isang tunay na pagpapamalas ng Banal, nababago ang lahat ng kahulugan sa buhay ng isang tao. Kung kaya’t hindi na nagiging bahagi ang Lubhang Banal ng dati nang umiiral na daigdig ng kahulugan at katwiran bagkus nahuhulog ang lahat sa palibot ng karanasan ng pakikitagpo sa Lubhang Banal na nararanasan niya bilang pinakatunay, at hindi mapagkakamaliang katotohanan. Nag-iiba ang kanyang paningin sa daigdig—sapagkat may nakita siya at mula noon, may nakikita na!

Para naman sa taong hindi pa nakararanas sa Lubhang Banal, mistulang pare-pareho lang (amorphous, homogenous) ang kapatagan ng daigdig. Datapwat kung ano ang ikinikilos ko sa harap halimbawa ng aking magulang, guro o ng sinumang nakatataas sa akin, halos ganoon lang o ganoon na ganoon rin, ang dapat na ikilos ko sa harapan ng Lubhang Banal. Giit pa ni Eliade na hindi lubusang mapanghahawakan ang ganitong paninindigan sapagkat maging sa taong hindi naniniwala sa Lubhang Banal, mayroon pa ring maaaninagan at di-maiiwasang bakas ng pagtatangi na hawig sa karanasan ng relihiyosong pagtatangi (religious valorization) ng taong sumasampalataya.

Ang tunggalian ng pagtingin sa kulto ng Nazareno bilang pananampalataya at bilang panatisismo ay magpapatuloy sapagkat hindi makapagtatagpo sa isang pantay na lugar ang isang taong sumasampalataya at isang nagmamatinong ipaliwanag gamit ang katwiran ang para sa kanya ay isang kakatwang phenomenon ng pananampalataya. Ang labis para sa taong hindi sumasampalataya kung tuusin ay kulang-na-kulang pa sa taong sumasampalataya na sukat ipagpapalit ang lahat-lahat sapagkat nasumpungan niya ang “perlas na pinakamahalaga”[9] na simula noon ay nagbago at nagtakda na sa lahat ng kanyang pagpapahalaga, nagtatatag sa kanyang buhay at daigdig sa palibot nito.

Ilang Panimulang Tugon
Makikitang may katotohanan sa napagmasid ni Reyes, ngunit para sa isang taong tunay ang pananampalataya, ang pista ay hindi isang “pista-opisyal” mula sa “mahabang taon ng pamumuhay nang hindi ayon sa turo ni Kristo” bagkus pina-sentro ng lahat ng panahon na nagiging “base” ng kanyang pamumuhay ayon sa halimbawa at aral ni Hesus. Dito siya bumabalik-balik at umuuwi upang sariwain ang kanyang kaugnayan sa Panginoon na kung wala ay wala rin namang katuturan ang pamumuhay kuno ng ayon sa pananampalataya na wala namang ugat liban sa kanyang isip.

“Magiging edukado ba ako o deboto?” Maaring pareho! Malabis at napakayabang naman yata kung pupulaan ng taong edukado ang deboto bilang taong nag-iisip, lalo’t hindi naman niya lubos na nauunawaan ang pinagbubukalan ng ganitong pananampalataya at sadyang labis na pagpapahayag ng damdamin. Maaring maging isang edukado sabay deboto nang hindi ipinaghihiwalay ang dalawa. Mistulang hindi man makatwiran, sabay malinaw na nakikita ng sumasampalataya ang katwiran nito.

Marami man ang pagkukulang ang mga debosyong popular, tulad ng sa aspeto ng pagsasabuhay at pagdaloy ng ganitong pananampalataya sa pang araw-araw na pag-uugali at gawi, hindi pinawawalang-bisa nito ang kahalagahan ng mga pagdedebosyon na simpleng pagpapahayag ng simpleng pananampalataya ng mga simpleng tao, ayon sa kanilang kultura at abot-kaya. Kung tutuusin, taglay ng mga ito ang karunungang mula sa karanasan ng maraming tao at taong nagdaan.

Ang pagdiriwang lamang sa Liturhiya ay hindi ang hangganan ng pagsamba ng Simbahan. Alinsunod sa halimbawa at turo ng Panginoon, ang mga alagad ni Kristo ay nananalangin sa katahimikan ng kani-kanilang mga silid (cf. Mt 6, 6) at nagtitipon rin upang manalangin ayon sa mga pamamaraang kinatha ng mga taong nakaranas nang matindi sa Banal na nagpapalakas ng loob ng mga mananampalataya at nagtuturo sa kanila tungo sa mga tanging aspeto ng misteryo ni Kristo. Sumasamba rin sila ayon sa mga balangkas na kusang lumilitaw sa diwa ng Kristiyanong sambayanan kung saan ipinapahayag nang ayon sa kulturang popular ang pinakabuod ng Ebanghelyo. (Talaan ukol sa Debosyong Popular at ang Liturhiya, 82)

Sa kanyang Pilosopiya ng Relihiyon, tinutukoy ni Padre Roque Ferriols, SJ ang karanasan ng Diyos bilang karanasan ng Mahal-Banal. Tunay nga, ang sumasampalataya ay nakararanas sa Banal bilang kanyang minamahal, pinakamamahal.

Para sa taong nagmamahal—at naniniwala ako na ang lahat ng tao, kahit ang mga hindi sumasampalataya sa Diyos ay marunong ding magmahal at maunawaan sana nila kahit ito man lang, wala nang mas mahal pa kaysa sa kanyang mahal. Datapwat kung para sa kanyang mahal, walang bagay ang napakamahal para hindi ibigay. Walang-hanggan sapagkat walang hanggan ang pag-ibig. Walang labis at walang lampas sapagkat ang pag-ibig ay bukas at wagas.

Kung tutuusin, hindi marunong magbilang ang nagmamahal at laging lubos at buhos ang kanyang pagbibigay. Isipin at pagmunihan man ay hindi pa rin lubos mahuli ng pag-uunawa sapagkat ang pag-ibig, tunay mang makatwiran ay makatwiran sa isang paraang hindi-makakatwiran kung ang “katwiran ng patag” na katwiran ng hindi umiibig ang ating sukatan. Mahiwaga at hindi lubusang maipapaliwanag ngunit para sa taong umiibig, ang pag-ibig ang lumilikha ng sarili nitong daigdig, maging katwiran. Pag-ibig ang sarili nitong sukatan.

Ang Sukli ng Sakripisyo
Para sa taong sumasampalataya, utang-na-loob niya ang lahat-lahat sa kanyang Diyos kung kaya lahat man ay handa siyang ibigay bilang tanda ng pasasalamat, na kung tutuusin ay pawang nanggaling rin namang lahat sa Kanya, na may pananampalatayang hindi siya tatalikuran nito. Nararanasan niya ang Panginoon bilang saligan at nagpapadanay ng kanyang buong daigdig: universalis columna quasi sustinens omnia[10]. Datapwat nais niya ang palaging lumapit dito, sana pa ay manahan sa piling nito na kinikilala niya bilang sentro ng kanyang buhay at daigdig.

Anumang tugon isa lamang sakripisyo—isang salitang galing sa pinagsamang mga salitang Latin na sacer at facere: gawing Banal. Dalawang persona ang nagpapabanal sa lugar at panahon ng kanilang tagpuan: ang Panginoon na kusang nagbubukas ng kanyang sarili at ang abang taong nagbubukas-loob rin sa Diyos sa isang uring “puwang”[11] na sinasabi ni Eliade ay pook ng pagtawid paroo’t-panaog mula sa langit at lupa at lugar ng pakikipag-usap sa Lubhang Banal. Sapagkat hindi natin kayang lumipad nang diretso patungo sa langit, kailangan natin ang ganitong uring hagdan na ang Maykapal mismo ang kusang naglalawit.

Kung magkukwentahan, sasabihin ng taong sumasampalataya na ang kanyang tugon, gaano man kalabis sa mata ng nagmamasid, ay sukli lang. Palaging tanong at tanong na gumagawa ng sumasampalataya ang: Quid retribuam Domino pro omnibus quae retribuit mihi? Paano ako makasusukli sa Panginoon na nagbuhos sa akin ng lahat-lahat? Kung kaya’t hindi na tayo dapat pang magulat kung sukat ibuhos niya rin ang kanyang lahat-lahat.

Sa wakas, hindi pa rin natin masasagot nang tapos sa papel na ito ang umiiral na tanong: Pananampalataya ba o panatisismo ang kulto ng Nazareno? Bilang isang mag-aaral ng pilosopiya, magiging tapat lamang ako sa katotohanan kung iiwanan ko itong bukas pa rin. Hiling ko lang sana ay maging bukas rin at sikaping dumanas bago ang humusga. Maari rin sana ang magbaka-sakali: hindi isang pagbabakasakali na tumatantiya at naninigurado ngunit isang pagbabaka-sakali na mapagkumbabang naghahanap at totoong nauuhaw sa Lubhang Banal.

“Marami nang nakasumpong sa Panginoon dito, at malamang na narito nga Siya at masusumpungan ko rin.” Bilang sumasampalataya, batid ko na sa aking puso ang kasagutan.


Mga Nota

[1] Halimbawa, may malubhang sakit noon ang batang-bata kong pinsan nang imungkahi ng aking nanay na matagal nang deboto ng Nazareno na pumunta sila sa Quiapo at mamanata nang may hiling na pagagalingin ang bata. Bagamat masugid rin naman ang ginawang pagpapagamot sa ospital, ipinagpasalamat nila sa Panginoon ang paggaling ng murang sanggol na isang dalaga na ngayon. Mula noon, nagsisimba sila o “isinisimba” ang bata tuwing pista ng Quiapo upang tuparin ang kanilang panata sa Nazareno.

[2] Sinipi ng aklat na Christ in Philippine Context nina Douglas J. Elwood at Patricia L. Magdamo sa pahina 5 nito: “We are Christians at certain seasons of the year… our Christianity comes on and off according to certain dates of the calendar… Christianity it seems, is like some special holiday in a year of un-Christianity.”

[3] Parehong akda, pahina 11. “Shall I be educated or pious, for I cannot be both!”

[4] Si Mircea Eliade ay isang pilosopo, historyador ng relihiyon at manunulat na taga-Romania. Isa siya sa mga nangungunang tagapaglinaw ng Karanasan ng Lubhang Banal (religious experience) at ng tugon ng Tao sa karanasang ito sa pamamagitan ng pagsasa-alamat at pagsasa-ritwal.

[5] Tinawag na ganito sapagkat naging kusa at bukas-palad ang pagbibigay ng mga deboto kung kaya’t hindi na kinailangan pang lumikom ng pondo upang maitayo ang magarang Basilika, bagkus agad na itong bumuhos

[6] Ngayon, lahat ng mga lansangan ay patungo sa Quiapo. Bago pa ang Quirino Grandstand sa Luneta, ang Plaza Miranda na ang tumayong sentro ng buhay sa kabisera ng bansa kung saan idinaraos ang mga malaking pagtitipon tulad ng mga pambansang Miting de Avance ng mga partido tuwing sasapit ang panahon ng halalan.

[7] Genesis 28: 17. Pavensque quam terribilis inquit est locus iste non est hic aliud nisi domus Dei et porta caeli.

[8] Matthew 2:11. Et intrantes domum invenerunt puerum cum Maria matre eius et procidentes adoraverunt eum.

[9] Mt. 13: 46. Inventa autem una pretiosa margarita abiit et vendidit omnia quae habuit et emit eam.

[10] Sinipi ni Eliade mula kay Rudolf of Fulda sa kanyang pahina 35.

[11] Tingnan mga pahina 57-58.


Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy. (Lungsod ng Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001)

Eliade, Mircea. Sacred Space and Making the World Sacred. Sinipi sa A. Rodriguez, ed. Compilation of Readings for Ph103: Philosophy of Religion. (Lungsod Quezon: Ateneo de Manila University, 2006.)

Elwood, Douglas, J. at Patricia Ling Magdamo. Christ in Philippine Context. (Lungsod Quezon: New Day Publishers, 1991.)

Basilika ng Nazareno. Inside Quiapo. (Booklet)

________________. Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene. (Leaflet)

________________. Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno: 400 Years. (DVD)

Para sa aking Ama at Ina,
na nagturo sa akin ng pananampalataya at pag-ibig.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Mystery We Live and Celebrate

Sorry for the protracted lull in my blog. Schedules are really hectic as I am finishing all my academic requirements to graduate from the Ateneo come March 30. Here is a paper I submitted for our synthesis class in Theology (Th151) under Arnella Francis O. Clamor, Ph.D.
The Mystery We Live and Celebrate
Paschal Anamnesis at the Center of the Church’s Life and Mission

Leo R. Ocampo

Christianity centers around the mystery of the Lord’s Passover from death to life continually celebrated by the Church in her theological, moral and liturgical life. According to the indelible memory of the Lord’s self-giving love, expressed in all its fullness on the Cross and leading us to the Resurrection, all of Christ’s faithful people together live out the mystery of Christ, the primordial Sacrament of God’s love, and so perpetuate in the world as a continuing Sacrament, his living message of salvation.

Christian Commitment and the Paschal Mystery

In the Cross, Christ at once assumed in his sacred body all our life and even our death—everything that is genuinely human, except sin—and also extends to us an invitation to join him in his Passover from death to life, by way of the same Cross, that he may give us all that is his. To be a true Christian is to partake in the Paschal Mystery of Christ lived in a life-long commitment in imitation of him.

“The whole earthly life of Christ came to its climax in his Paschal Mystery: his suffering, Death and Resurrection”[i] Indeed, it may be said that the final episodes of Christ’s earthly life contain, as though in a capsule, the entire message of his Incarnation: Christus nostra sumpsit ut sua nobis daret, as the Church Fathers very fondly say. In the fullness of time, Christ took on in his earthly Body of flesh born of the Virgin Mary, all that is ours so that, carrying our humanity in his being brought so low as well as in his being raised in glory by the Father, he may then give us, in his Risen and Transformed Body of which we become a part, all that is his in eternity. By taking on our life and our death, he gave to us his own life and death as the way for us to live and die with him that we too may rise and be transformed.

Through Baptism, we are initiated into the Christian life, the life of the Paschal mystery. Entering with Christ into the waters of death, we rise with him to new life in grace. Thus, Christ gifts us with all that are properly his: his sonship, his divine life, his threefold mission. Baptism therefore opens us to the new life of grace we have in Jesus as sons and daughters of God, for us to live as such and to fulfill the mission expected of us. Reborn in baptism, we become incorporated—that is made part of the holy Body (corpus) of Christ, which is the Church. Just as the Church received the Spirit as Christ’s final gift on the Cross and persevered in waiting for the definitive anointing of the Spirit that came on the day of Pentecost, so all the baptized look forward to receiving the “seal of the Spirit” given to us in Confirmation to formally commence our Christian committed life.

When children are baptized, they already become members of the Church but not yet fully, until they are able to pronounce for themselves during the liturgy of Confirmation the promises made for them by their parents and godparents in Baptism: to reject Satan and to believe in God, the Father, Son and Spirit always adored and active in the Church. As confirmed Christians already sealed by the strength of the Spirit of Jesus and endowed with his empowering gifts, we are then invited to make a mature commitment to dedicate ourselves to Christ and to choose the path that he laid out for us when he said: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”[ii] That is why the Christian life does not merely consist in plainly having a baptismal, or even confirmation certificates to flash before our pastors at the canonical interview before marriage and before Saint Peter at the pearly gates, but in a conscious, committed and continual sequela Christi—following of Christ in our daily life.

Indeed, the essence of Christian commitment is following Christ into his Paschal mystery—a constant dying to self, but not just a meaningless dying, but a dying out of love. Every day of our Christian life we encounter the Paschal mystery as a constant invitation, as the ancient Christological hymn exhorts us, to “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God—a thing to be grasped.” [iii]

This “grasping” of the great mystery of Christ, of the Cross, indeed of the Church, is carried out not only in theology but also in morals i.e., in the life of the community and of the individual believers as well as in their worship, as we shall see in the next sections. To believe in Christ is to enter into the way of his Cross, the life of the Church. Thus we live in communion with him and his whole Body the Paschal Mystery that allows us to cross-over from our death in sin to the new life of grace.

Christian Commitment and Human Sexuality

One of the most eloquent and most beautiful of all the Pauline metaphors is that of marriage as a symbol of the covenant-relationship between Christ and his Body and Bride, the Church: “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, his body, and is himself its Savior: wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord; husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.”[iv] However, this is not just some elegant and well-crafted imagery, but a true mystery and a pattern presented for our living. Because Christ so lived and died, because he so loved, the meaning of living, dying and loving for the Christian is forever changed.

Here, Paul mentions first that the wife be subject to her husband just as the Church is subject to Christ her Bridegroom, who is in turn subject to the Father. This subjection is not meant to be a mere power-structure as some can simplistically interpret it, but is a reflection of the relation of perfect love that is in the Trinity in all eternity and has since been revealed and opened up to us in Christ our Lord. The complementary of persons in the Trinity allow this relationship of mutual love, which is mirrored in the complementarity we find in our sexed and differentiated humanity made in no less than God’s own image and likeness[v]. The Father loves the Son as Father and the Son is obedient to the Father as Son, in a perfect bond of love effected by the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, Paul exhorts the husbands to love their wives in imitation of the love of Christ and to give themselves up for them. For the sincere and true Christian, this statement cannot fail to ring a bell. The husband is to give himself up for his wife even as Christ gave himself up—no less than on the Cross!—selflessly and totally for his Bride. In another place the apostle Paul tells him to love his wife just as he loves his own body for indeed they become one body just as Christ and the Church are one! Therefore Marriage is not a simple social contract but a Christian covenant of love that endures even the betrayal and infidelity of one or both of the parties because Love itself, Yahweh to harlot Israel, Christ to his sinful Church, “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”[vi].

The Christian understanding of marriage and human sexuality bear a lesson here for our growth in Christian commitment. First, we are part of the Church, the Body and Bride of Christ, as we each are: whether male or female, ordained or lay (we are all priests in baptism before anything!): “for just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”[vii] Second, we are to live the love of Christ in the manner of the Cross—loving one another and giving ourselves up for each other even as he himself did for us. Thus, it is in our diversity that we fully express the richness of the charisms of the Spirit in a complementarity of gifts and of persons. It is in our own radical dying to self in union with Christ that we are able to proclaim the greatness of his saving love.

Therefore women must not insist on becoming priests and men must also not insist on becoming wives! Each part is as important as any other part and needs the other parts to live as well. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’”[viii] Instead, we should live out our specific and individual vocations according to our basic and common vocation which is to be holy—to be faithful members of Christ’s Body, the Church, each according to his own unique role and place.

Second, our Christian commitment is not just a “personal relationship with my Lord and Savior” as some would like to think but a commitment within the Church and extending to the wider human community in a relationship that imitates the Lord’s own relating with his people: solidary, generous and unreserved self-giving. The radicality of the Christian message lies precisely in the fact that God himself was revolutionary in his expression of love: “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” [ix] Therefore we who desire to follow him are also to “walk in love” in imitation of him, even if it means and indeed it will always mean dying on the Cross!—with the same limitlessness and unconventionality of Christ’s sacrifice that ever transcends and challenges our finite human conceptions of love. Christianity is not a sugar-coated religion, not even opium to enervate our senses. Conversely, it makes an absolute and rather strong demand to love everyone just as Christ himself did, and heightens our sensitivity to identify with and care for all people. Christianity is, as Benedict XVI reaffirmed in his Deus Caritas Est: “a path which leads through the Cross to the Resurrection: the path of the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, and in this way bears much fruit,”[x] if only we really take it seriously!

The Church as Mystery of Communion and Mission

Because Christ loved us, we are to love one another: “for to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.”[xi] Henceforth, we do not live for ourselves alone but for Christ of whose Body we are now a part. “And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”[xii] Therefore we in the Church are one Body, in communion with Christ our Head, and in communion with one another who are our members: “For Christ is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross.”[xiii]

The Church is a mystery of Communion because we in Baptism we have become part of the Mystical Body of Christ, in communion with our Head and with each and all of its members. We together, Christians of every time and age, comprise the Body of our Paschal Victim, Crucified and Risen: holy and glorious, broken and downtrodden, already triumphant in victory over sin and death yet struggling on earth still. Thus, we also share the Mission of Christ—which is, as he himself proclaims at the beginning of his public ministry, reading from the prophecy of Isaiah: “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”[xiv]

We find the Church’s discernment of her identity and mission in the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes:

The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age,
especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and
hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing
genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a
community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in
their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of
salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that
it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.[xv]

Here we see a beautiful image of the Church as a community of men, a communion of persons “united in Christ” journeying together “led by the Spirit” in pilgrimage to the Father’s Kingdom. Following the Incarnate Word, her Head and her Bridegroom, the Church is one with all humanity—in everything that is genuinely human, which excludes sin: the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of all people groaning for God. “Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself.”[xvi]

Hence, our communion is one that ever seeks to embrace all humanity within its bosom for the good news is “meant for every man.” Our mission then is to build this Church of Communion so that even as Jesus prayed[xvii], all may enter our communion with the Father, Son and Spirit![xviii]

Wherever people suffer and are oppressed, all the members of the Body of Christ feel for them for they too are part of Christ’s Body. Action on behalf of the poor is a constitutive element of Christianity for indeed the Apostle Paul tells us: “God has so composed the body, that the members may have the same care for one another.”[xix] When we take care of any of these little ones, we are doing no less than to take care of the Church, our Body in Christ, and indeed of Christ himself who said: “Whatsoever you do to the least of these my brethren, you did it unto me.”[xx]

Until all people arrive to fullness of life in Jesus, our common mission continues as we move closer with joyful hope to the full revelation of our eschatological wedding with our Beloved Bridegroom. “While it slowly grows, the Church strains toward the completed Kingdom and, with all its strength, hopes and desires to be united in glory with its King.”[xxi]

The Mystery We Celebrate and Live

Sapagkat tandang-tanda pa namin…” goes the beginning of the Institution Narrative in the inculturated Misa ng Sambayanang Pilipino. Truly, the anamnesis of the Paschal Mystery celebrated in the Eucharist, “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows”[xxii], lies at the heart of the Church as the source of its fruitfulness and the end of all its efforts, indeed its very center. In the broken bread and wine outpoured, in the Body and Blood of the Lord given up for us, we see who we are and what we are called to do together. In the memorial of our Lord who suffered, died and rose again, the Church sees her own identity and each believer discovers the commitment that he is also invited to make.

Most of all in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist is the outstanding means
whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the
mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church… While the liturgy
daily builds up those who are within into a holy temple of the Lord, into a
dwelling place for God in the Spirit, to the mature measure of the fullness of
Christ at the same time it marvelously strengthens their power to preach Christ,
and thus shows forth the Church to those who are outside as a sign lifted up
among the nations under which the scattered children of God may be gathered
together, until there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.[xxiii]

Thus was the love of Christ for his Body and Bride, the Church, which is precisely what the Christian strives to imitate in his daily life, as expressed in the plethora of the Spirit’s charisms and in the manner of the Cross, in the way our understanding of marriage and human sexuality enlightens us. As we receive the Lord himself in Holy Communion, we encounter the profound mystery of our being One Body in the One Lord as we partake of the One Bread.[xxiv] As the Mass ends, we are then dismissed with the command: Ite!—echoing nothing less than the Lord’s final mandate when he bid the disciples Ite et docete—go and make disciples of all nations.

Therefore we are sent to make all people part of this communion that we celebrate and partake: “For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper.”[xxv] We want all people to be part and work so that all may gather, as Christ’s Body and Bride assembled before this wedding banquet, waiting for the Bridegroom’s final coming.

As a Dutiful Wife

To present a final analogy, nay a final image of the Church, extolled in tradition but here revisited with a fresh imagery, we may see the Church as a dutiful wife. As a woman, she is won by Christ by a most precious dowry, no less than Himself, made flesh and made bread, battered and broken for love of her. As a response of gratitude and love to his unequaled magnanimity, she therefore dedicates her whole life to her husband, (commitment) perseveres in duty and faithfulness to him (marriage) and begets for him as many offspring to gather around his table and bring him joy (mission) all the while singing his faithfulness and love and passing it on to their children.

Hence, we find the Paschal Mystery at the very heart of the Church’s life of communion and work of mission: the perpetual anamnesis that grounds, animates and integrates our thought, our life, and our worship. By our professing, living and celebrating it, Christ continues to be present through us who are members of his Body as a Sacrament of salvation for all people. Continually we remember it, we live it and we proclaim it to all the world: Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored your life, Maranatha, Lord in glory!

Mary, Woman of the Eucharist, Mother of the Church of Communion, pray for us!

San Jose Major Seminary
February 14, 2007
Memorial of Saints Cyril and Methodius
Builders of Communities and Zealous Missionaries


[i] CFC 551. cf. CCC 571f. PCPII 55, 85, 413.
[ii] cf. Mt 16: 24. Mk 8: 34. Lk 9: 23.
[iii] Philippians 2: 5-6.
[iv] Eph 5: 23-25.
[v] Cf. Gen 1: 27.
[vi] 1 Cor 13: 17.
[vii] 1 Cor 12: 12
[viii] 1 Cor 12: 21.
[ix] Eph 5: 2.
[x] Deus Caritas Est, no. 6
[xi] 1 Peter 2: 21.
[xii] 2 Cor 5: 15.
[xiii] Eph 2: 14-16.
[xiv] Lk 4: 18-19.
[xv] GS, No. 1.
[xvi] Deus Caritas Est, no. 14.
[xvii] Jn 17: 11.
[xviii] cf. Mt 28: 19. Mk 16: 15.
[xix] 1 Cor 12: 24.
[xx] Mt 25: 40.
[xxi] LG, 5.
[xxii] SC, 10.
[xxiii] SC, no. 2.
[xxiv] Cf. 1 Cor 10: 17.
[xxv] SC, 10.