Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Madonna a Paradox of the Kingdom of God

There is nothing in religious iconography that really moves me so strongly than the image of the Madonna and Child.  These images portray the weak side of humanity - a woman, a mother and a child.  In our contemporary society we would say that these belong to the marginalized group or sometimes to sectors that needed protection.  But contemplating on the meaning of this icon, one would see an immense strength and blessing.  For in reality the icon of the Madonna and Child are images of peace, triumph and victory.  It portrays to us how humility and submission to the will of God can overcome the ugly faces of disobedience and pride that led to the fall of humanity.  Now we see how the Woman clothe with the sun and the Child, the Man-God has conquered everything and has now led a train of captives to heaven.

Pray for us O holy Mother of God that we may be made worthy of the promises of God.  Amen.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What does it mean to walk into the shadow of death?

I have posted this in my facebook account: 

What does it mean to walk in the shadow of death? When I seem hopeless and abandoned, & when that despondency descend on me, I plunged into that leap of faith, throw myself into the hands of God my Savior, knowing that He who is my maker will not abandon me. For the chastisement of God is medicine and His Mercy a healing balm.  

The psalmist in the Old Testament has poetically described the life of a believer as someone walking in the shadow of death.  What does it really mean to walk in the shadow of death without undergoing death itself.  We we were born into this world for a purpose no doubt.  For even Our Lord Jesus said that the smallest bird in the sky will never fall unless it has the permission of God our Father.  That even our hairs are numbered.  This reality may seem difficult to grasp because of our finiteness.  But to simply put it everything is under the control of God.  We make a lot of choices and God gave us freedom to choose.  To a large extent what ever happens to us is the product of our own making.  But to walk in the shadow of death means to be confronted by our limitations and finiteness.  Thus often we descend on despondency.  But this condescension to despondency is an invitation for us to pluge ourselves into that level of trust - the ultimate test of faith.  Faith is an act of grasping however we do not see what we are grasping us but it is an invisible assurance of what we hope for.  To some extend faith is a human act because we have to will it, but ultimately it is a gift that only God Almighty can give.  It is an act of Grace.  God will give it to those that asks for it in humility and submission to His Will.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Our Lady of Penafrancia: Revisited 2010

We Catholics are fortunate to have devotional practices. Sometimes our Protestant friends do not understand why we do what we do.  Among the devotion of which I love is to go on pilgrimages and make vows or "panata" as the Filipinos would say.  The popularity of this devotion illustrates the innate spirituality that we have as a people.  As a matter of private devotion a week ago from this day I went to visit the Basilica Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia, patroness of Bicolandia.  This Basilica houses the miraculous icons of Our Lady of Penafrancia and the Divino Rostro (Holy Face) so intimately venerated by the Bicolano people.  

I have the habit of visiting this shrine every now and then and especially at time that I feel the urge to do so.  Our blessed Lady has done so much for me.  She has saved me from perils and dangers and has granted the many requests I have had.  Even the mundane concerns she pays attention to it.  By intuition I always feel if she wants me to pay her a visit.  Even when I am far away in moments of need I always invoke the name of Our Lady of Penafrancia and I always feel that she answers me and comforts me and covers me with her maternal cloak.

Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Penafrancia, Balatas, Naga City, Camarines Sur, Philippines

The Blessed Lady has loved the Bicolanos for givng herself as a gift to the Christianization of this people 400 years ago.  The Franciscans and the Augustinians have done so much to evangelize this region of volcanoes, fertile lands and friendly people.  It was among the Cimmarones (indigenous people of this land) that Our Lady first showed her favor and miracle.  Our Lady loves everyone and she has shown her special favor among the humble and the downtrodden.  Today as an expression of love the Bicolanos has made her icon identical with Bicol culture.  In so much so that no one can speak today of Bicol without associating it with the icon of Penafrancia.  One has to visit Naga City in September to witness the intense fervor of the Bicolanos during her week long festival.  They have to see the novenas and the fluvial processions and how with fervor the Bicolanos extol their love for the Virgin Mary and for her Son Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Sanctuary

As I visited the Shrine, last Sunday, I saw the newly refurbished altar piece and sanctuary of the Basilica.  The rector and his staff and indeed the entire Archdiocese are preparing for the redidication of the Altar and of the Church on September 13, 2010.  They are also preparing for the celebration of the 300 years of Devotion to Ina (as the bicolanos fondly call Mary).  I love the design of the altar piece.  On top is the niche that would contain the original image of our Lady of Penafrancia.  On the center is the Blessed Eucharist.  On the side portions one could see the images of Divino Rostro, St. Joseph.  I notice that the Crucifix was relocated at the back portion.  I wish they could have placed the crucifix at the center or in an area visible near the altar.   The altar table is located at the center with two huge candelabras.  

The Altar Piece

A closer look at the niche that would display the image of Our Lady with decorative flickering candles. And also the sanctuary. 

The Image of Our Lady of Penafrancia, adorned and bedecked with Jewels and Precious Stones

This is the less than two feet image of Our Lady of Penafrancia.  Bedecked temporarily at the side altar while the renovations are underway.  She look resplendent with her jewels and clothes.  Here the blessed Virgin tells us to look at her son.  She is there to point us to her Son. 

The Icon of the Holy Face

This is a replica of the image of Divino Rostro.  Venerated in the same Basilica along side the Virgin.  These icon reflects also the social realities of the Bicolano people.  In the suffering face of Christ they could identify with their sufferings as a people.  Bicol is one of the poorest region in the Philippines. With its people mired in deep poverty, they find identity and consolation in this image of Christ.  This also is a pledge of the salvation that they will obrain through the redemption worked out by Christ.  

The Dome

The inspiring dome shows the coat of arms of the suffragan dioceses of the Archdiocese of Caceres, the Catholic heartland of Bicol.  The Dioceses includes Legazpi, Sorsogon, Masbate, Catanduanes and Libmanan, with Caceres as the Archdiocese.  

 The Choir Loft

The huge stain glass window behind the choir loft.  The image of Penafrancia is depicted using indigenous art and symbolisms.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Man of Sorrows

O Holy Face of Christ, Have Mercy on Us.

Official and Votive Prayer to the Miraculous Icon of the Holy Face, venerated by six million Bicolano people in the Philippines and displayed for veneration at the Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Penafrancia, Archdiocese of Caceres, Naga City, Camarines Sur, the Philippines.

" O Lord Jesus, in your bitter passion
You became a Man of Sorrows,
In your disfigured face,
I see in your infinite love.

I am consumed with the desire
to love you and make you loved by all men.
I venerate your sacred face
Because it is the human expression
Of the face of the Father

The tears in your eyes are like pearls
Which I desire to offer to God in
Expiation of my sins and the spiritual
salvation of sinners.

O Jesus your adorable face ravishes my heart.
And set me on fire with your love,
so that my only desire will be to contemplate your Face in heaven!"

Monday, August 9, 2010

To the Victim of Love for the Cross: Martyr of Auschwitz

(Source: Wikipedia)

"I beg the Lord to take my life and my death … for all concerns of the sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary and the holy church, especially for the preservation of our holy order, in particular the Carmelite monasteries of Cologne and Echt, as atonement for the unbelief of the Jewish People and that the Lord will be received by his own people and his kingdom shall come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and the peace of the world, at last for my loved ones, living or dead, and for all God gave to me: that none of them shall go astray." - Edith Stein (St. Benedicta of the Cross)