Friday, April 3, 2009
The whole Christian community is observing the Lenten Season. You see, we are a predominantly Catholic nation, hence we strictly follow the programs of the Vatican.
But why is Filipino Catholicism distant from my everyday life?
I think, foremost is the matter of language. I admit that I feel more comfortable praying the “Our Father” in English. Perhaps it is unique to my generation which was taught predominantly in English. But I find that English is most efficient only because it is intellectual — and that is a problem.
Prayer should be more than just thinking - it is about reaching into our inner soul and reconnecting with some ineffable presence there. Personally, I feel that English ties me down to praying with the mind when I should be praying with my entire being. In the classroom we were taught to “recite” in English but speak in Filipino. English somehow intellectualizes worship when the point of the whole exercise is to humble the mind.
Second, is the metaphor of the Catholic faith. Frankly, I wonder what other Filipino Catholics visualizes when they recite “Lamb of God.” The lamb as a metaphor can only be meaningful to pastoral communities who ate and lived among sheep. But hey, Filipinos see lambs only in zoos and on the dinner plates of the rich as lamb chops! I know, i know... worshipful verses are meant to be figurative and never literal. But then metaphors work better if they bear some link to the reality that we live.
I also kind of wonder how Catholicism thrived in my country for over three centuries despite bizarre scenarios. The Mass used to be celebrated in Latin, no matter that no one but the priest understood what on earth he was saying. It used to be that hymns were likewise in Latin, sung by choirmasters. It also used to be that the priest turned his back to the faithful for most of the Mass — after all, he was there to talk to God, so what’s the point of facing God’s people?
Today however, the Mass is celebrated in the language of the common folk. We sing our own songs. And the priest actually talks to us the whole time.
On a practical note, I think the ministry must find ways to make the churches more comfortable despite the summer heat. Going into a crowded church in April is the best way to remind oneself about the proverbial “fires of hell”.
You might ask: Christ was crucified on the cross and you can’t even stand one hour without air-conditioned comfort?
Well, the Christian calendar is universal, and that is why Easter is a spring holiday for the northern hemisphere when their weather is at its most glorious, while for us at the equator, it coincides with the onset of the summer when the heat is most oppressive. If the Pope lived in Manila, I think he would schedule Easter in November and celebrate Christmas in February.
That’s just me reflecting though...