HOLY WEEK, traditionally celebrated at the onset of summer between March and April every year, in highly urban areas like Metro Manila has long ago shed its traditional religious fervor.
The week that recalls the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, known in Spanish as Semana Santa, has become just another long bank holiday.
For many, the idea of cuaresma has been reduced to long hours of vacation spent on the beach or some other place of interest. To those who can afford it, it’s the time to pack one’s bags and fly to some foreign destination.
Are these practices wrong? I myself used to feel guilty when I couldn’t visit seven churches on Maundy Thursday or walk the Stations of the Cross on Holy Wednesday.
Or, heaven forbid, when I touch morsels of adobo on those sacred days.
Or, miss the annual, long and winding procession in my hometown on Good Friday.
Or, at the very least, smile and enjoy a good laugh when I should be sad, brooding, contemplating all this time.
I WAS STRUCK, however, by a recent article written by Archbishop Socrates Villegas entitled ‘’Should you blindly follow those Holy Week traditions?’’ The article has gone the rounds of news cycles, nonetheless, I feel readers can benefit some more in its more salient points.
Holy Week, says the bishop, is about what Christ has done for humanity.
‘’Let the memory of God’s mercy sink in without any compulsion to do something. Just relish His mercy and bask in the radiance of His love. During Holy Week, tell God “Thank you.”
BISHOP SOCRATES says that Holy Week is not what men and women do to make these days holy.
‘’It is not about what Catholics must do, nor is it about religious traditions and pious practices done to “feel good” after.
For instance, he cites that fasting is good, but without malasakit (concern) for others, it is nothing.
Prayer is good, but without remembering others and laying aside personal comfort, it is just an ego trip.
IN ANSWER to the question, ‘’Can we go to the beach during Holy Week?’’
Socrates: If it will help you love like Jesus, yes, you can. But if it will distract you from the story of His love, please don’t.’’
Do we need to visit churches during Holy Week?
He says: That is good practice, but you might want to visit seven patients in the charity ward of a hospital instead and bring them some food.
OTHER HOLY WEEK practices discouraged in the article are scourging our backs until blood spills, walking barefoot till our soles get blisters, even singing the “Pasyong Mahal.”
About the latter, Villegas suggests, ‘’Why don’t you buy a Bible instead and read one chapter a day with your family for the rest of the year?’’
MORE FROM THE BISHOP:
Must the face look sour and gloomy during Holy Week? Love begins with a smile. Make someone happy this Holy Week.
Make someone feel loved. With your smile, show that God is love.
Finally, Bishop Soc says Holy Week traditions vary from country to country. They also evolve with time.