Palm Sunday. Holy Week starts today. Easter is almost upon us. The exodus has begun.
Every year I hear horror stories about traffic on the way to the beach, to Baguio and other vacation destinations. It seems to me that Manila may yet be the quietest place at this time. At any rate, this is where I have chosen to stay.
I can’t blame the crowds hightailing it to other locations when there’s a bit of time-off. Mahal na Araw is just about perfect for a break.
Holy Week memories
I have memories of Semana Santa.
I remember as a little girl right after school let out, moving to a house on the beach in Baclaran, surrounded by family and close friends. I recall drinking cold calamansi juice after siesta on the porch, going with my ninang to seven churches for Visita Iglesia on Maundy Thursday, being shushed to keep quiet and staying home, and kneeling for Siete Palabras with our Cabarrus family on Viernes Santo.
I grew up believing that jumping up and down when the bells pealed at 10 a.m. on Sabado de Gloria would make me taller. Are people still doing that?
And who can forget the sumptuous cocido on Domingo de Pascua? There was much tradition, also superstition.
Where and however you spend it, this week is a time for recollection.
I want to watch “The Passion of the Christ” again. It was an unforgettable experience, one that at once convinced me and broke my heart.
It is a painful, graphic portrayal of the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus Christ, “the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12: 2)
To think that you and I are that joy, the reason He walked on the Via Dolorosa and suffered indescribable torture, and humiliation. And yet willingly He went to the Cross.
Interactive Via Crucis
For the past nine years, my family and I have marked Holy Week at “Walkway: Reflections on the Stations of the Cross.” It is an interactive, alternative way of contemplating the passion and Crucifixion of Christ.
“Walkway” opens today, Palm Sunday, at 11 a.m. and ends on Easter Sunday, April 16, with a concert at 7 p.m. featuring Switchfoot, to be staged at the BGC Amphitheater. Also on the bill are singers Julienne and Robin Nievera. The concert is open to the public.
Walkway is built on the entire stretch from Bonifacio High Street to One Bonifacio Park. The eloquent art installations have attracted tens of thousands of people from all walks of life. It is heartwarming to see men and women of all ages flock to the area, pause and take the time to quietly reflect and pray.
I have seen people in tears, even nuns and priests who were visibly moved by this meaningful interpretation of what happened on Calvary, that one week in the history of the world that spelled the difference between salvation and eternal fire.
Exhibit organizer Church Simplified says, “This year’s installation will focus more on how the Cross has the capacity to bring healing and redemption. CS aspires to shine a light on different social issues, in partnership with several NGOs.”
CS spiritual director Bebo Bharwani talks about the importance of music to the church ministry.
“Church Simplified as a community has always believed in the power of the arts to be a medium that can open up both the heart and the mind. Music has always been core to the human experience. At a personal level, in our quiet moments, music can get beneath our skin and speak to us. And yet music also has a special power when used in the context of community. It can unite us; allow our personal journeys to have a common theme. It’s a hymn we can all sing together to know that we are connected. Music has the ability to challenge and inspire.”
He explains their choice of Switchfoot for the concert. “Their central message has always been about the idea that life is short and that we need to love well. These are messages that we value as a community and hope to communicate to anyone who might lend an ear and listen.”
I urge you to spend a couple of hours of meditation and soul searching at Walkway this week. You will be forever enriched by the experience.
Your heart will understand what your mind has never quite comprehended, how God could so love the world that He sent His only Son to pay for our sins.
Truly, it was not the nails that kept Jesus on the cross. Love did.
Last six hours
But as I ponder on the wickedness that surrounds us, I wonder: Were we really worth saving?
Max Lucado’s book “Six Hours One Friday” brings us to the foot of the cross as it deals with the last six hours of Jesus Christ. The last paragraph sums it up.
“What does that Friday mean?
For the life blackened with failure, that Friday means forgiveness.
For the heart scarred with futility, that Friday means purpose.
And for the soul looking into this side of the tunnel of death, that Friday means deliverance.
“Six hours. One Friday.
“What do YOU do with those six hours on that Friday?”