Today (April 6, 2007) is Good Friday. Filipinos traditionally celebrate this day by fasting and reflecting on the crucifixion of Christ. Some, as an act of contrition, flagellate themselves (penetensya); while others, as an act of gratitude and for realization of pledges (panata) made after miraculous healings or answered prayers literally reenact the crucifixion by allowing their selves to be nailed on the cross. The Catholic Church does not officially sanction this kind of activity; but since this is tradition, the practice is allowed.
For the evangelicals, self flagellation and crucifixion as an act of repentance and gratitude is considered wrong. In fact, some even say that it is a mockery of what Christ has done on the cross. I, for one, consider the practice unnecessary but to say that it mocked what Christ has done on the cross may be too much. I believe that there are people who practice these things out of gratitude, unconventionally expressed as it maybe, and out of faith, as theologically deviant as it may be. It’s a case of right intention, different expression. God looks at the heart; may I say.
I remember Pastor Saulon, one of our church’s pastors and a missionary to the indigenous people, shared a story of a native who upon hearing a pastor (I can’t remember if it was Pastor Saulon himself) preached on how one should give himself to the Lord sat on the offering plate and literally gave himself as an offering to God. I remember me and the people who heard the story laughing. But today, at my age, the humor is replaced with awe at how the power of the love of Christ can move people to respond differently (but not necessarily erroneously) as they maybe from what we call the “correct and proper” way. The same with gratitude for what Christ had done, it is expressed differently.
Of course, it cannot be denied that these practices are becoming, or is already, commercialized.
I was on my home from our church’s traditional seven last sayings service, when I noticed that the pomp and the noise of the traditional penetensya (or the street presentation of the passion of Christ) was not as it was as last year’s. The traditional pasyon (the singing of the passion) is also fast disappearing. As child, I remember how pasyons drew devotees from the young to the old singing atonally how Judas betrayed the savior. I also remember how the penetensyas jam our street because of the horses, the actors and the people watching. And, I also remember how scared I am of Barabas who grabs children while the people laughed at the struggling, crying children.
The times are changing.
“Don’t take a bath during Good Friday you’ll get sick. Your wounds will not heal because God is dead. Don’t eat meat. Don’t play loud music.” Etc. These are some of the superstitions surrounding Good Friday. Of course today no one takes them seriously , the same way (almost) no one takes the cenaculos and the singing of the passion seriously. As an evangelical, I should not be sad about the loss of this traditions. But, why is it that this ole sentimental heart of mine feels unhappy at the gradual disappearance of these traditions. Maybe, it’s because the gradual disappearance of these traditions, superficial as they maybe, indicates a gradual loss of the significance of the passion of Christ for the common Filipinos.
Sad, may I say.
Click here for my kuya's article on lent: http://joeydelapaz.blogspot.com/