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BLIND SPOT: Holiness in Holy Week

When I was growing up, I both delight and dread in the anticipation of the Holy Week. I would delight for the simple reason of part of it being holidays. No classes. So, if the week falls on March, schools pause from regular activities; and isn’t that pure bliss. I would dread it because despite its holiday status, the mood is melancholic, no parties or parades. To further dampen the mood, regular TV programming takes a back seat for inspirational programs that would often start late afternoon or early evening; that is, if the TV station signs on at all. Then, if I turn on the radio, the few stations which would be left on air would be limited to a somberly slow playlist. And why did they keep showing “Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston on theaters? One Holy Week, my father cut me from playing my Pearl Jam and Metallica; out of respect for the neighbors. No offense, but it had just been purely boring. My mother tells me that this stage which I had grown up through is already an improvement because during their time, absolutely all broadcast media goes dormant for the whole week. Thanks to cable television and the Internet, those days are gone. Here’s just a thought. Supposedly, this imposed lethargic atmosphere is a show of sympathy for the death of Jesus Christ who traditionally is believed to have died on Maundy Thursday and is resurrected on Easter Sunday, then why do activities liven up a bit on the Black Saturday? Should not the mourning continue consistently from Thursday and abruptly halt on the Easter? These and other Filipino folk superstitions that come along this Week have been either a curiosity or culture that we have unwittingly swallowed, hook, line and sinker. Have you ever wondered why some fast food places suddenly offer tuna or fish filet on their menu during this season? And what’s with not taking a bath? For starters, why doesn’t Holy Week have a fixed date? “In A.D. 325, the Council of Nicaea (of the early Christian Church) set the date of Easter as the Sunday following the paschal full moon, which is the full moon that falls on or after the vernal (spring) equinox. In practice, that means that Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon that falls on or after March 21.” ( This is to set a uniform date among Christian churches that does not coincide with the Jewish Passover, which was the prior practice. ( Well anyway, if we dig further deeper, the reasons would be irrelevant to the contemporary Christian. So, first, the Easter Sunday is determined. Then the week preceding that Sunday would be the Holy Week for the year. A Filipino folk superstition goes that “traveling at this time may not only result in more frequent accidents – any injuries and wounds sustained during this period are believed to heal slower as well. (So, we all become diabetics during this time.) This is due to another early belief that evil spirits gain strength during Holy Week, mainly due to Christ’s passion and death. Beliefs put emphasis on Good Friday, as it is when aswangs are said to be at their strongest. But on a good note (or is it?), Good Friday is also said to make albularyos (witch doctors) and faith healers become more effective and powerful. It is also a day when amulets or charms work best. ( Okay, let’s take this slowly. Isn’t the Holy Week a commemoration of the death, passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ? How does evil which is the supposed adversary of good that is represented by Jesus Christ gain strength in the supposed anniversary of his death? Does the Spanish colonial government regain its power during the death anniversary of Jose Rizal on December 30? Does the Marcos regime regain dictatorial rule for a day on August 21, the death anniversary of Ninoy Aquino? Does a death anniversary give power to the opponents of the deceased person who is the subject of the death anniversary? “Superstitions disallow baths or even laundry at 3 pm of Good Friday, considered the hour of Jesus Christ’s death. Anyone who disobeys this belief is said to be befallen by evil.” ( Now, let’s apply some logic and history here. Where did this come from? In what way is bath and laundry related to Jesus’ crucifixion and death? Another superstition prescribes that attachment of palm leaves that have been blessed by a priest, on the door would ward off evil spirits. ( The Jews placed palm leaves on the path of Jesus’ donkey because they run out of clothing to serve somewhat as a red carpet for the arrival of Jesus. (Matthew 21) This is a Jewish cultural expression of welcoming a royalty. The palm leaves were supposed to serve as sort of a carpet; not in any way an anti-aswang repellent. Taking the premise that Holy Week is a time of reflection of Jesus’ death, passion and resurrection, according to an authoritative document which is the Holy Scriptures, Jesus died for the sins of men (1 Peter 3:18); and an appropriate reaction to this are acts of love for other people (1 John 3:16). No mention was made of a particular date or occasion; which means that the attitude of repentance from sins, and action of love for other people should be embedded in everyday life, not just on a particular week. “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8

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