Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The ‘Power Of Touch’

It is not uncommon to see the faithful line-up at the Quiapo Church just to touch the centuries-old image of the Black Nazarene.
Even during the annual procession of the Black Nazarene every January 9, people scramble to get close to the statue to touch it or just hold the rope that is pulling its “andas” or carriage.

While some critics say such act may already be bordering in idolatry, an official of the Catholic Church said it’s simply an expression of one’s faith or devotion, especially since Filipinos are a people of “the concrete.”
“Our expressions are expressed ‘in the concrete.’ This is an Asian trait. ‘Christ was Asian!’ according to one of the statements affirmed by the International Gathering of Asian Shrine Rectors,” Msgr. Clemente Ignacio, rector of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church), said in an article posted on the Quiapo Church Web site

Even in the bible, he said, Christ touched the sick, the children and sinners.
“The crowds too were pushing on Jesus, wanting to touch Him. Remember the woman who was sick with a hemorrhage? When Jesus asked who touched him, the disciples complained that there were many people touching him and he asked the question who touched him? The woman believed that if she could only touch Jesus, then she would be healed and true enough, her faith healed her,” said Ignacio.

He said it is a Filipino trait to want to wipe, touch, kiss, or embrace sacred objects, if possible because Filipinos believe in the presence of the Divine in sacred objects and places.

“The people want to be connected to the Divine, be it through the lining up for the “pahalik” (kissing of the image); or holding on to the vestments of the Nazareno after the pabihis, or to be able to touch the rope and put it on their shoulders – this is a way of expressing one’s faith. It is an expression of their devotion,” Ignacio said.

“We all know we don’t worship statues. We worship God and if these statues would ‘bridge us to God’, then we want to connect with God using these statues,” he added.

Kissing or holding on to the statues is not worshipping statues, Ignacio said, it is connecting to the divine, to touch and be touched by heaven itself.

“When I scolded a child for joining the procession and touching the statue, I asked her: Why did you squeeze through the crowd and touch the statue – that is dangerous!” The child answered, “Because if I touch the statue, I will be blessed and Jesus will hear my prayers!” he said.

People also go to Quiapo Church, Ignacio said, because they believe that God’s presence and power is more intense in this Shrine.

The Church official, however, admitted that there is a need for the devotees to be further formed in faith.
‘Many devotees in Quiapo and those who appear once a year during the processions – they need to be given opportunities to be formed in the faith. Slowly, we have tried to reach out to more Mamamasans but we are only ‘scratching the surface’. Our overnight vigils before January 9 is an attempt to reach out to more devotees hoping to bring the good news and share the teachings of the Church with them,” Ignacio said.
“We have tried to begin a tabloid newspaper, a website and TV Masses. We haven’t reached even a tenth of them,” he added.

In a recent press briefing, Ignacio chose to end his explanation of the devotion with a quote from Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle “To understand the devotee, you have to be a devotee.  Only a devotee could best understand a devotee.”


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