by Lucivaldo C. de Sousa, sx –
After seven month in the Philippines where I came to give continuity to my formation in view of final consecration and priesthood, I finally had the joy to participate of the holy week activities with all its Filipino taste, touch and tradition. It was for me a wonderful faith experience, for the strong faith of these people moved me profoundly. Holy week here is really spectacular! All starts with the traditional Palm Sunday procession and celebration followed by Monday’s grand pabasa in which people sing a twenty-four hour non-stop song mainly about the passion of Christ. After this is done in the parish, this ritual is repeated in other chapels and in the houses filling the holy Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with songs. The entire city seemed to be in a mood of deep meditation. The Holy Thursday is marked as elsewhere with the Chrism Mass celebration at the respective cathedrals in the morning and the celebration of the institution of the Eucharist at the parishes in the evening.
The Good Friday was for me particularly remarkable. Early in the morning we had a dramatized way of the cross with stations prepared by the youth in the different areas of the parish. I must admit that I was amazed at the huge crowd praying, following on the footsteps of Christ and expressing their faith; I found this wonderful. At noon time we had at the church the meditation on the seven last words of Jesus followed by the veneration of the cross at 3pm. After that we still had the procession of the santo entierro with the dead Christ and His sorrowful Mother (Birhen Dolorosa). It was an interesting moment: the Christ carried by the men and the Our Lady by the women; all walking in silence as if dumbfounded at the death of Jesus and as if suffering together with the Blessed Mother Mary.
Yet the climax of all these took place on the Easter day very early in the morning with the salubong, the encounter; the encounter between the Risen Lord and his Mother. This started with two processions coming from different locations towards the same direction. I joined the one of the risen Lord which began at 4:00am with beating of drums as if announcing to the whole world that Jesus Christ is alive. The drums were played all the way up to the meeting place with Our Lady. However Mary only saw her Son after an angel from heaven came down and removed the dark veil that covered her face. At this point I was profoundly touched as I looked around and saw people bursting into tears, tears of joy, produced by that encounter, an encounter which all of us wish to experience some day.
At that moment I realized that that was not only an encounter between Mary and Jesus. It was an encounter of suffering people; suffering due to poverty, exploitation and abuses of all kinds. It was an encounter between the experience of suffering and the experience of faith, hope and renewal. Of this meeting we are all invited and expected to participate, however we must remove the veil that prevents our eyes to see that Jesus Christ is alive and believe; the veil which hinders our true encounter with him.
Thus I can say that these have been for me days of real encounters; I am certain of having seen the Lord interacting with his suffering people and as I tried to share just a tiny portion of these people’s pain, I myself felt as if having a more authentic encounter with the Risen Lord too; the one who gives me vocation, strength and perseverance. I believe that all those who have real encounters are always called to change ways of life, to serve more and be missionaries.
Happy Easter Season to all!