Monday, April 5, 2010

Thoughts about Holy Week in the Philippines

This was my first time being in the Philippines during what is known as "Holy Week". The Philippines is a very religious country with the majority of Filipinos being Roman Catholic. The area where we are missionaries is full of tradition during Holy Week. I have read and heard about some of the different religious rituals that take place, but to see them first hand was quite an experience.

One of the things I was able to briefly observe was the extreme form of what is known as Penitensya, the Filipino term for Penance. I saw a total of about 7 men that were carrying crosses made of bamboo or wood walking in their bare feet headed toward different churches to give their prayers. This was done in the middle of the day in 90 degree weather! I also saw several men whipping themselves with a collection of small bamboo sticks tied to a rope. These men were also doing their Penitensya in the form of flagellation.

Another tradition that I observed was the town processional that dramatizes, via parade floats, the sacrifice or passion of Christ, His acceptance by Mary, and many different Catholic saints. We passed a processional in which there were over 75 floats involved, each one was decorated and themed according to whatever devotion a person belonged. Flowers, lights, music, and candles all accompanied these colorful, life-like floats during the processional.

Finally, during our church service on Good Friday, there was another processional that took place. While we were in the middle of our prayer time, I heard some slow, sad music playing in the distance. As the music grew louder and the procession came closer, I saw hundreds of people with candles following a float that consisted of a statue of Jesus lying in a clear glass coffin. For me it was strange to see people outside our church in such a mournful, funeral-like state as they commemorated the death of Christ, while at the same time inside our church I had just finished talking about the hope that the cross brings.

"But this Man (Jesus Christ), after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God." Hebrews 10:12

-Ptr. Matt & Rina-


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