ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Catholics celebrate the feast of the "Black Nazarene", a moment of deep popular faith

Monday, 9 January 2023 popular worship   faith  

J. C. Magallon

Manila (Agenzia Fides) - "Jesus Christ knows the suffering of his people. Christ lived it himself on the Cross. There is no human experience that Jesus of Nazareth does not understand. The Heart of Christ is anchored in our hearts. He loves humanity. As he fell on the way to Calvary and bore the burden of the Cross, he also bore our sufferings and sins", said the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jose Advincula during the midnight mass celebrated at the "Tribuna Quirino", in Manila's Rizal Park, for the feast of the Black Nazarene, which the Catholic Church of the Philippines celebrates today, January 9th. "Christ knows the pain of the sick, the fatigue of the workers, the homesickness of Filipino workers and migrants, the thirst and hunger," the Archbishop of Manila continued. "Christ knows us and understands what we experience, he knows the sacrifice of honest civil servants, the repentance of those who have sinned, the dreams of young people and the tenacity of the elderly", he added. Cardinal Advincula wanted to reassure the faithful by saying that Jesus Christ is present for them in their suffering: "Christ never leaves us alone. He remains with us even if we are far from him", he said. "Christ is the one who reaches out to each of us today. He comes into our hearts and strengthens our hope. He is with us", he affirmed.
At the same time, the Archbishop urged the faithful to show compassion towards others and to care for one another in order to create "truth, justice and peace in the world".
Father Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, professor of theology at Adamson University in Manila, affirms the devotion to the Black Nazarene. "This is not superstition. This is the deep prayer of a people in need, a people suffering in silence".
And he observes: "We experienced a period of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. We survived the pandemic. People are still mourning the loss of loved ones. Jobs are scarce, prices are rising, daily life is difficult. These people are bringing this suffering before the Nazarene. It is a people who raise their hands to God. These religious practices are the way people express their faith in God and combine it with daily life. For the common people, these are practices deeply intertwined with their cultural traditions and religious history, leading to the source from which they draw the strength they need in their daily struggle for survival, which is Christ Himself".
The 55-year-old Catholic James Castro emphasizes: "I am a supporter of the Black Nazarene. Piety is an expression of our love for Jesus, who shares our joys and sorrows".
Around 90,000 worshipers joined the procession through the streets of Manila in the early hours of the morning, ending at the church in the Quiapo district.
The faithful carried candles and small statues of the Black Nazarene with them, reciting the Rosary. The "Walk of Faith", six kilometers long, replaced the traditional "Traslacion" of the life-size image of the Black Nazarene.
By touching the statue of Christ, the many participants hope that illnesses will be cured. The effigy of the Black Nazarene was made by an unknown Aztec artist in Mexico in 1606 and arrived in the Philippines with the first group of Augustinians on a Manila galleon, arriving on May 31st. The black coloring is probably due to a fire that broke out on the ship during the crossing. (PA/SD) (Agenzia Fides, 9/1/2023)