Faith in a Supreme Being is an essential element of one’s well being, as well as, order in society. Generally, that is. When one believes in God, he has a sense of accountability to a Higher Being. Thus, he will generally weigh the rightness or wrongness of something before doing anything. With fear and reverence for a God, it becomes easier for one to follow and abide by the universal rules of good or bad for him and for others. Faith also gives one the strength of spirit to endure suffering and trials and accept things in life that one cannot change in the hope of an eternal reward. Faith has also been shown to result in countless miracles for millions of people. Thus, gravely ill Catholics troop to various shrines of Jesus, Our Lady, or other saints while the Muslims troop to the Ka’ba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. I, personally, have a long list of answered prayers and small miracles which I unabashedly attribute to God.
Whatever religion one may believe in, it is generally good for him, and for the society to which he belongs. But too much of anything is destructive. It is worse when faith turns to fanaticism.
The Islamist extremists who attacked a newspaper office in Paris and killed 12 people did so in the name of Allah. Yet, a close look at the Islam religion and the Koran will show that killing in Allah’s name was never part of Islamic teaching.
The devotee who died on the 9th of January this year, during the procession of the image of the Black Nazarene, served as marshal of the Hijos del Nazareno in fulfillment of his devotion despite knowing he had a heart condition. Yet, Jesus, in whom Catholics and Christians believe, taught us to give value to the life given us. Causing harm to one’s self is as much a violation of the fifth commandment of God not to kill, as causing harm to others.
Faith and belief in God are not manifested by doing acts inimical to one’s self or others. One can practice his faith wherever he is without having to touch an iconic image of God. One’s faith resides in one’s heart and is exhibited by doing things that bring to life God’s teachings.
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For a bit of history, how did the devotion to the Black Nazarene begin and why is it black?
The Black Nazarene is a life-sized sculpture of Jesus genuflecting and carrying a black cross made by a Mexican artist using a dark kind of wood. It was brought to the Philippines in a galleon ship by the Augustinian Recollect Friars on May 31, 1606. Its dark color is believed to have resulted from charring when fire broke out in the galleon that brought it to Manila. The statue survived the fire in the galleon as it survived the burning of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo during the liberation of Manila by the American forces. It has also survived wars and earthquakes, making Catholics believe that it is miraculous, apart from the various accounts of miraculous healing by many. The Recollect Fathers dynamically promoted devotion to the Suffering of Our Lord represented by the image.
The image was originally housed in the first Recollect church in Bagumbayan which is now the Rizal Park before it was transferred to the Minor Basilica in Quiapo on January 9, 1787. The procession every 9th day of January reenacts the transfer of the Nazarene’s image, called Traslacion, to the Minor Basilica in Quiapo. The Black Nazarene, escorted by millions of devotees, makes its way along the streets of Manila. Attendees sometimes reach up to as many as 12 million.
It has been customary for the statue of the Nazarene to leave the Minor Basilica of Quiapo a day or two before its Feast Day on January 9, either in a public fashion or clandestinely. The procession begins at around 8 o’clock in the morning after a Mass at the Quirino Grandstand near where the image was first enshrined and ends in the Quiapo Basilica the following morning, depending on how slow or fast the image travels. Devotees walk barefoot and wear maroon and yellow, like the clothing of the Black Nazarene. Devotion to the Black Nazarene was encouraged by Pope Innocent X, who issued a papal bull establishing the Confradia de Jesus Nazareno in 1650. In the 19th century, Pope Pius VII granted indulgence to people who prayed devoutly to the Black Nazarene.
There are two images of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, both hybrids of the original and the replica created by Filipino sculptor Gener Manlaqui. The one paraded every Jan. 9 has the head of the replica and the body of the original, encased in stainless steel to protect it from damage.
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In the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines this week, the crowd expected to turn out for a glimpse of the Holy Father is double or even quadruple that of the Black Nazarene Feast this year. While Pope Francis is known to prefer directly meeting people and shaking their hands, the physically weak and infirm must know their limitations. It is enough that the Holy Father has chosen to step foot on Philippine soil and bless the people of this predominantly Catholic nation. We too can contribute to the impact of his visit by watching him on television, praying on our own, and respecting the life God has given us.
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