Last January 8, the formators and seminarians of the Holy Apostles Senior Seminary took part in the Translacion for the Feast of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo. By history, this is one of the most popular religious devotions in our country, drawing millions of devotees to its annual procession and celebration around the city of Manila.
The procession would often last the whole day, beginning from the Quirino Granstand in Luneta where the Black Nazarene image is displayed the night before for devotees to see until it finally reaches its home in Quiapo Church.
As it was our seminary’s first, it was also my first time to attend and serve in the Mass celebrated at the Quirino Grandstand on the eve of the feast day. I never thought how real are the images of the sea of faithful I see on television every time the feast day of the Black Nazarene comes until I witnessed it myself.
From the grandstand where I sat, it was so overwhelming to see the millions of faithful present at the Holy Eucharist being celebrated for the Black Nazarene. I could not but feel small because of the great faith that those people have, staying for so long under a drizzling evening, falling in what seemed to be an endless line just to be able to get near the image, touch it and pray before it. The devotees would also join the procession the next day all barefoot.
No one could really practice such devotion if he does not experience the greatness and love of God in his life. I guess this is what we can learn from people who are poor, not materially but spiritually. The kind of poverty that the devotees of the Black Nazarene have is an emptiness of heart and self that could endure the physical exhaustion experienced during the fiesta.
Only a heart that is empty could be filled with faith and only an empty self could be enriched with blessings. In one way or another, the blessings that these people receive from the Nazareno encompass all the material wealth a man could have.
Thus, their devotion to the Nazareno is an expression of their love for God, just like Christ who embraced poverty because of His great love for humanity. The Church continues that mission of fostering spiritual poverty; that is, to approach God with nothing but faith, for in God nothing can go empty-handed.
In the same way that the devotees hold the rope that brings back the image of the Nazareno to the church at the end of the procession, the Church continues to reach out and hold the hands of those who are hopeless and poor.
I asked why devotees need to join the procession of the Nazareno at the point of risking their safety. It was only after attending the Translacion that I understood why they have that fervor. In matters of faith, no questions should be asked because there will never be an answer that I would understand. I only have to experience it. (Photo courtesy of philnews.org)