The Black Nazarene
Have you watched what happened in the Black Nazarene Festival this year 2014? The aerial view of GMA Channel 7 displays how many people joined the procession. It only shows how Filipinos love this sacred image.
The Black Nazarene (Filipinos call Him Poong Itim na Nazareno) is a life-sized ivory sculpted image of Jesus posing the scene of His passion and suffering - carrying the cross. This statue was transported by Recollect friars from Acapulco, Mexico to Philippines on May 31, 1606.
The image is about 5 ft. tall and weighs around 50 kilos, having a dark wig hair made of dyed abaca or jusi with a golden thorn crowns. The cross the image is carrying is about 8 feet long. Oftenly, the Black Nazarene is dressed in a maroon tunic with golden floral or plant emblem designs embroidered on it, and with lace trimming on the collar and cuffs. A golden plate with His name on it encircles its waist. No one knows who sculpted the image. Probably, he is a Mexican because it originated there.
Traditionally, it was believed that the original complexion of the Black Nazarene was fair not black, as what it is now. However, it turned black because of an incident.
According to stories, in 17th Century, there was actually two statues scuplted from pure ivory aboard the ship. As the friars transported the images from Acapulco, Mexico to Philippines, a fire broke out on the galleon ship carrying it. The other one was hardly burnt and left in the destroyed ship. This tragedy caused the statue to turn black. Hence, earning the name Black Nazarene.
It was only in January 9, 1791 when the image was given by the Recollect priests to the Quiapo Church upon the request of Manila Archbishop Basilio Sancho, who also blessed the image in the 18th Century. On January 15, 1791, the chuch was engulfed in fire but the statue survived.
In 1863, a great earthquake struck Manila and partially destroyed the Quiapo Church.
On October 30, 1928, the church was caught in fire again and was almost completely destroyed, but then, it survived.
In 1945, World War II during the Liberation of Manila, the copy of the statue kept by the Recollect friars were destroyed. That copy was the older copy and the most famous. However, the other one survived.
When we say
miracle, it is when something occurred unusually or almost impossibly to happen to someone who didn't expect it to happen. Miracle appears to be contrary to the law of nature, and because of that, humans refer it as an act of God.
For some people who suffers a serious illness, they tend to believe to something impossible just because there were others who succeed on it. They do the most peculiar and outrageous thing to please the miracle or God to give them what they really wanted or needed. Philippines is not an exception for a country full of people who believes in miracle. Some mimic the sufferings of Jesus - from carrying a heavy wooden cross to being crucified; some dance in a festival for almost an hour just to have a baby; and some do everything so their towels or handkerchief touch the sacred statue. For non-believers, these people are fanatic, extremist, and more common - stupid.
Anyway, I can say, the Black Nazarene is one of the most miraculous images of Jesus Christ in the whole world. Obviously, it is because of the devotees - not only one or two devotees, nor a hundred or thousand but more than a million of them.
At some time in the past, I considered the belief of
Black Nazarene as a miraculous thingas a mere folklore and even an urban legend. Now, I consider my belief wrong. How can you say it's not true if your opponent for that opinion is more than a million individual believers? How can you prove it's not true if you yourself didn't experienced going there?
I wanted to include here an example of this thing they called
miraclethrough Black Nazarene. But I think, I don't need to put one here. Why? Because there are millions of stories of miracles that happened to individual person - from a simple wish of having a happy family to healing the most serious disease. I also wanted to put here examples of wishes that didn't come true, but I have no right to do so. God moves in mysterious way. No one knows, aside of Him, when the wish will be granted.
I've never joined the parade of the Black Nazarene ever since. As you can see in TV shows, it is very dangerous especially to those people who have no enough strength and determination. I am also not a devotee of the image so I don't bother going there. The truth is I don't like the festival. Maybe some of you would think the same way as mine. Why will you sacrifice yourself just to touch and kiss this wooden-made black image of Jesus Christ carrying a black cross if you can pray peacefully in any church for miracle? I am very sure it's not only me who questions the same way. Like what the bible verse said, "You should not create any sculpted image or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven, earth or water. You should not bow to them, nor serve them. I, the Lord your God, am a JEALOUS God . . . " (Exodus 20:3-5) In my opinion, statues are created to inspire each and everyone of us to live the same way as them, not to praise them.
But as a Filipino, I am not ashamed of what my countrymen do in the festival. Yes, I am not in favor of it, but how can you explain their extreme devotion? They are willing to do everything for the sake of faith, and that made me say, "I'm proud being a Filipino." Well, even though the TV screen shows you a ruinous mob, you will not see even one person who looks angry and irritated. All of them have a smiling or courageous face. Some of them fainted and hardly injured but if you will talk to them and ask them personally if they still wanted to go back, only a small percent of people will say 'NO'. In my estimate, zero to five percent of them will answer that. One factor that affects my estimate is the continuous rise of number of people who joins the procession annually. Every year almost twenty to fourty percent adds to the previous number. The ambiance of the venue is not beautiful, but the fact that people love what they are doing is astonishing.
My professor once told me this, "Filipinos are religious, but not spiritual." At first, I don't know what she mean with that, but as I became more rational I now understand her. For me, she's partly right and partly wrong. Yes it's affirmative to say Filipinos are religious, because they are faithfully devoted in religious belief like the Black Nazarene Festival and the Voluntary Crucifixion in Pampanga every Holy Week. But aside of it, what they (and my professor) didn't know is that the Filipinos are also spiritually affected. They somehow change some of their normal ways to make their lives more positively good enough. Their faith also expands largely.