18 April 2009

Easter Week!

Today marks the end of the Easter Week. A week-long celebration of Christ triumph over death. The Christian's belief in the Resurrection.

I remember how our priest friend Monsignor Nico from our childhood days would always insist on displaying only The Risen Christ image in church instead of the Crucified Christ seen in most churches. Monsignor Nico would do the same every time he has to say Mass anywhere. Monsignor Nico would take out the Risen Christ image which he brings together with the things he use for the Holy Mass. And Monsignor Nico would never fail to remind fellow priests too.

One of my students of another religion asked me what Easter is all about for Catholics and the religious events surrounding the Holy Week. And I shared it with him: Semana Santa started two Sundays ago when palms were bought by parishioners to re-enact the entry of Jesus Christ in the town where He would be crucified. Christ entered amidst a welcoming crowd waving palms in the belief that Christ would be their savior. But a savior and messiah can take different meanings for different people. For the crowd that day, they believed that Christ would "save" them from their present situation and when they sensed that this was not happening, the crowd immediately condemned Christ.

The present Holy Week relives this week of Passion. People went and visited several churches and edthe 14 Stations of the Cross which are the different events that led to the Crucifixion. On Maundy Thursday, the Priest led 12 volunteer lay people who acted as the Apostles for the duration of the Semana Santa. The Priest and the Apostles re-enacted the Last Supper scene where Christ washed the feet of the Apostles. The sad betrayal and anticipation of death. On Good Friday, people remained silent in their homes as the Seven Last Words of Christ were read. Later, a long procession snaked its way around the neighborhood carrying images of the dead Christ and the grieving Mother Mary (Mater Dolorosa).

Black Saturday was a quiet day awaiting the celebration of Easter Sunday, where at the break of dawn, two processions started at different points: the women carrying the Mater Dolorosa and the men carrying the Risen Christ. The two processions met in church where a child volunteer acted as an angel hanging from the ceiling whose role would be to lift the black veil over the Mater Dolorosa so She can see Her Son, the Risen Christ! Salubong (the meeting) is a joyful event that celebrates Easter where Christ's Resurrection gives greater meaning to the words eternal life.

I used to attend the dawn Salubong and bask in the exhilaration of the crowd. But this year, the new priest decided to celebrate it with a long mass that started around 9 PM of Saturday until the early hours of Sunday for the Salubong. I attended the Easter morning mass instead. In the decorated altar, I saw the image of the Risen Christ . . .

. . . and on the other side, the Blessed Mother Mary . . .

. . . now smiling and without the black veil and cloth of Her grief over Christ's death.

And the whole week, the people offered lighted candles and helped their church and the community give deeper meaning to Lent and Easter . . .

I looked back at the past Semana Santa of my childhood. The annual retreat, the long procession, the fasting, the joy in silence, the happy gathering of family and friends during Easter (my family consider Easter as Christmas too!) and the different meaning of Easter past and Easter present. Of going past the time before Christ was born where another Easter was held, the re-enactment of another beautiful tale of Eostar. The mingling of the old and the older events, all celebrating death, birth and re-birth, the natural cycle of life that is made more profound and meaningful, and never conflicting, to me through the years.

Easter, the Spring Equinox, Lent and Resurrection, are special and holy events. Irregardless of what our religious beliefs are, it is only made special when you know and understand the real reason and essence of its magical tale . . .