The Black Nazarene — a  procession of faith

Published January 8, 2020, 12:00 AM

by Manila Bulletin


At  5:30 a.m. today,  following  a midnight mass at the  Quirino  Grandstand at the  Luneta  in Manila, the procession of the Black Nazarene  back to its permanent shrine  at  the  Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene – Quiapo  Church – begins.

This is the annual procession  which has become known the  world over  as a  stirring  manifestation  of  the piety of  the Filipino people.  It is a reenactment of the image’s transfer – “traslacion” – from its original shrine in Intramuros  to the basilica in Quiapo in  1787. Hundreds of thousands of devotees accompany the Black Nazarene as it slowly makes its way back to its home church.

Many Filipino Catholics believe the Black Nazarene  is miraculous and that a  mere touch of the image can  cure diseases. Thus thousands seek to touch It during the procession as it slowly makes  its way along a route from  the  Luneta,  across  the Pasig River  — using  Ayala Bridge this year, then  along various streets in  Quiapo  districrt until It  finally reaches its home shrine.

The Black Nazarene has a history that dates back  to  the 16th century in Mexico, where  it was made by an anonymous Mexican sculptor    from  dark mesquite wood.  It  crossed  Pacific by galleon  and  was enshrined at the Church  of San Juan Bautista  of the Augustinian Recollects at Bagumbayan,  Luneta, then moved to the Church of San Nicolas de Tolentino  in  Intramuros.  On January 9,  1787, the  Augustinians presented a copy  of the image to   Quiapo Church. This came to be celebrated  every January 9, with a procession  – called the Traslacion – from  Intramuros, later Rizal Park, to Quiapo.

The  devotion to the  Black Nazarene is attributed  in part  to so many Filipinos identifying with the suffering of Christ as depicted in the  image of him carrying a heavy cross. There  is  also the belief of many that  touching  it can result in miraculous cures of illnesses.

Later  this month of January,  the feast  of the Santo Nino will be celebrated by Catholics all over the Philippines – including  Bacolod, Bustos, Cebu, Kalibo, Malolos, Tacloban —  with the Sto. Nino rites in Tondo, Manila,  among  the  biggest, with a fluvial procession and street  dancing, a festival of joyful celebration.  The  new  year in  Manila thus begins with these  two devotions – to the Black Nazarene and to the Santo Nino. Both attest to the piety of Filipinos who  also  honor  various  saints in all town and cities in the country,  each with its own fiesta celebration.

Today,  the nation watches and joins in the  Black Nazarene procession, with hundreds of thousands  of barefoot devotees clad in maroon and yellow like the Black Nazarene.  The entire procession today will last many hours,  including a  brief stop at Plaza del Carmen, beside the Basilica  Menor  de San Sebastian, reflecting the Fourth Station of the Cross where Christ meets his mother,  the Virgin Mary, as he carries his cross to Golgotha.

There will be time enough time for  joy in the other  festivals  of the country, but today, it  will be a generally somber  procession  of  faith  for  it is in honor  of the  suffering  Black Nazarene,  carrying  his cross  to Calvary, where he is  to die to save mankind , which  is at the center  of  the Christian faith.