MANILA, Jan. 9, 2015— In a talk delivered in September 2011, then Quiapo Basilica rector Msgr. Jose Clemente Ignacio recalled how he commissioned a sculptor to make a replica of the image of Black Nazarene. The sculptor probably took liberties with his interpretation, so instead of copying the original image, his version had a Christ who was “so overburdened with the cross, gasping, and had his shoulders down.” He said that after seeing the replica, the people reacted negatively. “Hindi diretso and balikat ni Hesus! Hindi nagpapadaig si Hesus sa bigat ng Krus! Dapat tumatayo si Kristo!” (The shoulder’s aren’t straight! Christ does not give up in carrying His cross! He stood up after each fall!). The monsignor said they had to go back to the drawing board for a replica.
“The Black Nazarene for a true devotee is really a symbol of hope and resilience. I guess it says something about the Filipino and his faith.”
This might probably explain why the Black Nazarene is one of the most revered religious icons in the Philippines. Filipinos are noted for their resiliency. Disaster after disaster, from Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) to even the now “normal” breakdown of the public transportation system, Filipinos always find a way to take challenges in stride and “keep going on”. And with the image of the Black Nazarene who bravely stands up again to carry his cross, the Filipino finds an inspiration in the cross bearing Christ.
Black Nazarene devotee Carlo Oliver Olayta agrees.
“Well siguro po as an ordinary Filipino na marami rin pasanin sa buhay though I’m young, parang si Lord pinapakita Niya na ako nga nabuhat ko sariling krus ko and alam ko kaya mo din. Di kita bibigyan ng krus na di mo kaya” parang motivator po ang tingin ko sa Nazareno kasi whenever I am weighted down by my own cross I will just look at my Master who carried His own cross,” he said.
Olayta, a Tertiary Dominican novice, said that what started as a fascination with sacred images when he was young eventually grew to become a devotion of hope and trust in Christ whom he turns to help constantly especially after he received a special favor from the Señor.
His father just lost his job and he was in college desperately needing to pay his tuition. “I consider it a miracle kasi yung last two years ko sa college I received a full payment for my tuition from an anonymous donor na up to now di ko pa na meet,” he said.
For Maria Retina Sarmiento, she owes her life to the Black Nazarene.
“I was born on December 17, 1981 and the eldest child of my parents. My father asked the Señor Jesus Nazareno for a baby since he and my mother can’t conceive a baby after my older brother Jose Martin Duane passed on the same day he was born,” she said. Her father, a retired colonel, went to Quiapo Church “almost daily” to ask the Black Nazarene for a child. Two years later, she was born.
As thanksgiving, her father would always bring her to Quiapo Church. Healings and placing in the top 20 in the board exams for social workers in 2003, always pulls Sarmiento back to Quiapo and to the Black Nazarene. So intense is her love of Christ, she now actively studies the Catholic Faith even being mentored by an American Dominican who once taught at the University of Santo Tomas.
Aside from the favors granted, Filipino Catholics have this intense love for the Black Nazarene because they experience the heavenly in a heavily secularized society.
“People go to Quiapo Church because they believe that God’s presence and power is more intense in this Shrine. A theologian once said: “Shrines are places here on earth where the veil that separates heaven and earth has a tear,” Msgr. Ignacio said.
He adds that this experience of the divine draws devotees back “to experience ‘heaven’ even for a short glimpse…Devotees as well as pilgrims keep coming back to those sacred places or events.”
It is probably the faith of the Filipino in a loving God whom they see in the image of a Christ, though burdened by the weight of the Cross, presses on to carry the very instrument of his execution to Calvary.
Msgr. Ignacio reminds us to look closely at the Black Nazarene and note that the image “is actually a snapshot of Christ standing up after the fall”.
“The Black Nazarene is a snapshot of Jesus risging again after the fall. We will see there the resilience of the Filipinos. They never lose hope.”
And that is how Filipinos came to be known throughout the world: a people of deep faith and trust in the Lord. (Rommel Lopez/CBCPNews)