Monday, April 10, 2006

Lento and Resurrection

Lent being the most important season in a Catholic's life and the Filipino takes this faith with much tradition. Unlike many years ago when Manila would literally grind to a halt during lent, today celebrating Faith isn't a compromise. There was a time as a kid, when TV stations in the Philippines would go dark during holy week, and I cheered when Cable TV came and one didn't have to suffer such madness. Can't believe that was just in the early 90s. Today Filipinos find ourselves running to the beach or going to provinces or to the mountain City of Baguio, taking a break from the rigors of daily life, more than Christmas holiday does. Manila is very much traffic free as everyone is out of town or in the boondocks. Though some of us embarrassingly, do stupid things during this lento, like break a Mac, and one could almost hear Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 9 in B Flat Minor, Op. 35 in the background.

It is also this time of the year when one will find people flogging themselves or crucifying themselves as way of atonement for past mistakes. It is their special act of reconciliation.


The Church of course has, a less painful way of reconciliation through confession which is perhaps more difficult to accomplish than any physical public display. The Old will of course read the passion of Christ in song. Yet as much as Filipinos have determined this time be holiday time--- religion would always play a key role.

My family for instance would do the travel bit or the beach bit every other year or so. Yet there will be no excuse for not visiting some place of religious significance, even while on the beach. It is a religious thing that is hammered from parent to offspring.
I have never been much for the pageantry we Filipinos do during Lent or anything involving religious celebrations for that matter. As a child, I of course would have preferred to watch cartoons, play with toys and friends than sit still. As I grew older, perhaps it is reservation because often the Church in the Philippines has taken such political action in this land, one finds it hard to differentiate faith and politics. Especially when such politics differs from one's own political inclinations. Yet for the twenty-seven years I have been living, my parents (when I was younger) and reflecting now, we both ensured I wouldn't miss one. It is a matter of faith, of course, a matter of personal choice, part hope to find something, I have no words to describe. Certainly, people from different faiths search for the same thing, it is something we have in common.

Perhaps it is apt that a significant archeological find has recently gone mainstream--- the discovery of the Gospel of Judas has found itself in the news for example. Hero or traditional villain, does it matter for Catholics? To me it doesn't change the most important part of being Catholic--- that someone two thousand years ago took a bullet for me and people everywhere and since then. Neither does a fictional work like the Da Vinci Code wreak havoc with faith. Da Vinci Code is simply just a good story to read or entertaining to watch (the movie version) especially when one is stuck on a plane or airport for hours on end as any frequent traveler would attest to. The novel of course gave significant attention to such Gnostic document like the Gospel of Mary Magdalene (text here). And the Early Church, shrouded in mystery, a great number lost simply with the passage of time like the dead sea scrolls has become sexy.

What we can gleam from such documents is that like all organizations, the Catholic Church was shaped by the circumstances of their time in history as much as their leaders and political issues of their day as our time to day does. It doesn't shatter any dogmatic teaching of the Church, for example, just makes history richer and our understanding deeper.

Of course, we often dismiss arguments of local "sects" who quote line for line the Bible and throw them at each other like mud. The Bible of course is a bestseller that goes back to the Early Church and must be taken within its proper historical and religious context. Of course it doesn't stop us from figuring out how literary description of an act could have happened, like
Jesus walking on water. The latter doesn't dilute the importance of the Bible nor the Church's teachings.

Take what one can learn from Jesus' last supper, set in the Jewish Passover. Catholics everywhere believe Jesus to be the Redeemer, the Messiah, Son of God and all that. Yet in his last supper, He washed the feet of His disciples--- like a slave in his time would. The greatest among us is the one who serves. Humility, something we all could have more of, you know? There is something there, in humility, in service for the sake of others that answers how one can help this country, one that many of this country's heroes have done in the line of duty. Incomparable from His glorious resurrection of course, still, wouldn't that be a perfect resurrection for this Republic?


Rizalist said...

I think the real payload of the Da Vinci Code is how wrong priestly celibacy will now seem to many people who probably thought it was because Jesus and his Apostles were all unmarried men, like the Pope and his Cardinals. Whether or not it was historically true that Jesus and Mary of Magdala were married is irrelevant. The Gospels aren't "history" anyway. But people do find it a natural idea that He would be married.

I don't think the point of the novel was to shake your faith. It was to ROCK the male chauvinist church hierarchy.

I bet NUNS love this book.

Good thoughtful piece, but you haven't read the book or Judas, have you?

cocoy said...

i have read dvc. about a year ago. couldn't put it down until i did. it was a good book. i consider it to be fiction. like a good lie, good fiction is based on some fact, on good research. dvc had that so it was believable that it might actually be true. it is fiction, a good entertaining read.

well the idea of celibacy is that the priests, nuns, bros., could focus all their time and attention on the flock. granted there are religions who don't subscribe to this. is it good is it bad? either way works i suppose depending on the traditions of the church. for me, i still go for celibacy, being thats the church teaching is. i subscribe to a more liberal politics, and i may believe the church could do more for Filipinos but i lean more to a conservative (not orthodox/extreme) view point when it comes to my Catholic faith. and having a priest for an uncle--- in my humble experience ain't so bad. when one goes into the priesthood or choose to become a nun-- they know what kind of life they'll lead. its a personal choice for them. same as being married. married couples are committed to be faithful to their spouse, for richer and poorer and all that. the celebration from the aspirant to the priest is almost like a wedding, if you've ever attended one.

as for the Gospel of Judas. I just finished reading the English translation. lots of missing lines. i'm not a biblical scholar--- so my opinion doesn't weigh a lot. my impression is that there are contexts one needs to be versed/expert in the bible to really understand it. how to properly put all this in its proper perspective. there are passages on visions and underworld and how those angels differ from the ones we know, even from the ones in Judaism.

benign0 said...

I not only read DVC, I also read the book *The Templar Revelation* about 3 years before Dan Brown became a household name. The latter book changed my whole view about what it means to be Christian, and what it means to be *spiritual*. I wrote even before I read *Templar* that most Pinoys can't even tell the difference between being religious and being spiritual.

My key takeaway from reading *Templar* is that the scripture on which the entire mainstream Christian faith was built on is but one set of many other texts written by early Christians.

This is a fact that the Church would rather not highlight. Indeed, I was educated in a Catholic school and this otherwise common-sense idea of a whole sea of early Christian texts of which ours only represents only a small portion was never even raised.

Stepping back further, it does occur to me how the Catholic Church does have a centuries long tradition of suppressing Knowledge. So we have to put our compliance to Catholic dogma in the proper context -- and this context is *spirituality*.

DVC is just an ordinary thriller plot written on top of this whole Gnostic/Templar/Magdalene body of study. If you want the real deal, read *Templar* and probably *Holy Blood, Holy Grail* (which I haven't read).

cocoy said...

well you are right that the Catholic Church does have a long standing tradition of umm... suppressing views that are not of its own. hence, john paul 2 during his reign has had to apologize for them. and there are still many "mysteries" out there. its also the tendency of a superpower to do that and the Catholic Church has been and continuously been a power in the world stage.

and you are right. Filipinos don't know the difference between religion and spirituality. its partly because of our cultural traditions dating back to before the spanish era. but i think we're getting better at this Faith thing.

i'll try to find "the templar revelation" and read it. it will be interesting i'm sure.

i guess we agree that dvc is a work of fiction based on good research material that has been around for centuries. it'll be fun to watch the movie, but that book (neither will the movie) has not changed my view of the Catholic Church or about the man who took a bullet for us, two thousand years ago. and i will find the templar book. :)