The stunning sight of some two million Catholic devotees of the Black Nazarene on Thursday, forcing 2,144 police to break ranks at some stretches, shows people's devotion and what one theologian called “authentic faith experience.”
Many have lobbed questions at why so many people are becoming part of this devotion, seen particularly in Manila's Quiapo district during the annual “Traslacion” every Jan. 9—one of three instances when the image, a composite replica, is brought out of its shrine.
This is the anniversary of the icon's translation, reenacting the image's “transfer” in 1787, or “solemn transfer” to the Minor Basilica from its original shrine inside Intramuros, more than a kilometer away from across the Pasig River.
The two other instances when the image is brought out is on Good Friday, the Nazarene's liturgical feast, marking the culmination of the Passion of Jesus Christ, and Dec. 31, New Year's Eve, the first day of the image's annual novena.
From the socio-anthropological and pastoral level, Thursday's Traslacion was the high point of the devotion, seen by some sociologists as the “rite of passage,” borrowed from experiences in early tribal societies, kind of a paradigm to use for socio-pastoral understanding where the major point is “liminality”—where the pilgrims experience distance and release from worldly structures and institutions where they have their assigned roles and standing in society.
From the spiritual level, theology experts have directed the faithful to what they call a “goldmine” of theological wealth beneath what the ordinary men and women experience.
We take the line of Monsignor Jose Clemente Ignacio who has served, since 2008, as Rector of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo. He said “What the theologians cannot yet see with the eyes of reason can already be seen in the poor people's eyes of faith…what kind of spirituality can help us understand this faith?”
Religion experts have proposed that to understand the spirituality of the devotees people must look at Mary who could best help them to look at Jesus.
Perceptible among the devotees are Mary's poverty, simplicity, humility, patience, prayerfulness, compassion, love for children, and her longing to be with Christ especially on the Cross.
Talk about faith and fervor.