Feast of the Black Nazarene

Saturday, January 07, 2012

For as long as I can remember, I've been hearing a lot about the Feast of the Black Nazarene. My family have been a devotee. I can still remember when my mom and my tita would go to Quiapo. We used to have a Black Nazarene in our house but ever since we moved to a new home, we left the Black Nazarene there but one of these days we might buy a new one. 

Devotees carry a cross of the statue of the Black Nazarene to a carriage before the start of an annual religious procession in Manila January 9, 2011.    REUTERS/Erik de Castro

The Black Nazarene, known to devotees in Spanish as Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno (Tagalog: Poóng Itím na Nazareno) is a life-sized, dark wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ carrying the cross, while representing his passion and suffering and is believed to be miraculous by many Filipino Catholics. It is one of the two statues of Christ brought from Mexico; the older and more popular copy belonging to the Recollects was destroyed in World War II during the Liberation of Manila.

Originally of fair complexion, it is believed to have turned dark after the statue survived a fire on the galleon ship that brought it from Mexico.

The Black Nazarene is publicly processed on three annual occasions: New Year's Day, Good Friday, and on 9 January, when its first novena feast, official translation (Spanish: traslación) and enshrinement in the present Basilica is commemorated. The event is attended by several million devotees that crowd the streets of processional route through the City of Manila.

The feast of the Black Nazarene on January 9 is considered one of the most spectacular religious events that take place in the Philippine history.

Every year thousands of devotees from all walks of life come to the district of Quiapo to take part in the procession as a way of strengthening their faith or fulfilling their “panata” (vow) to Lord.

The Black Nazarene is the patron saint of Quiapo, a small but well-known part of Manila, a hub of trade and commerce because of the Quiapo market and the many stores located there. The life size image of the Black Nazarene shows a “black” Jesus Christ carrying a cross. The statue has been housed at the Saint John de Baptist Church in Quiapo, Manila also known as the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene since 1787. The image of the Black Nazarene is brought out in procession on its feast day and Good Friday.

The statue was brought to Manila by a Spanish priest in 1607 aboard a ship. The ship caught fire, burning the image and thus came to be known as the Black Nazarene. Though the image was burnt, the people decided to preserve and honor it. Since then, miraculous things have been reported to those who touch the image.

The celebration starts as the huge door of Quiapo Church opens and the image of the Black Nazarene is within sight. The ocean of devotees start to yell “Viva Señor” while some wave white towel high in the air along with the scripture of the Black Nazarene.

The statue is placed in a gilded carriage for the procession. As the procession starts, procession participants garbed in maroon tops grab two long ropes and pull it to make the carriage move. Many will attempt to touch the image while some throw their handkerchiefs and towels in the air. People who join in the procession walk barefooted as a sign of humility.

The devotion to the Black Nazarene is long time practice of the Filipino Catholics and they believe that through their faith with Jesus Christ, there will be peace and harmony among families, long life and good health among people, deliverance from all calamities and disasters, and prosperity, joy and love among nations.

Some of the most noted personalities who's been a devotee for years now is former Vice President Noli De Castro and Coco Martin.

The question is, why do people keep coming back to celebrate the Feast of Black Nazarene despite of the struggle in going there and the risk of terrorism? The answer is simple, whether they have a petition or not, it's because of their gratitude to God. And while they are giving thanks to God, the more they feel the love and presence of God.

Wish I can witness it myself someday, when I am fully equipped to cover this event but until then, I know God will always be there for all of us, I'll be praying for a harmonious and peaceful country for all us. To God be the glory!

Photo credits to ABS- CBN News and GMA Network

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