TO CATHOLICS all over the world with varied nuances based on different cultures and race, Holy Week is supposed to be the time for spiritual cleansing and reinforcement of faith. In the Philippines, indulging in penitence like self-flagellation or being nailed to the cross to immitate Jesus is not unusual to Filipinos whose original belief in spirits and animist practices did not find it difficult to be assimilated with ancient religious rites introduced by colonizers from the west.
Before the advent of the era of Information Technology (IT), Filipinos observe the Holy Week with much piety, keeping away from carnivorous diet on Good Friday and observing fasting and abstinence during the days leading to and until Black Saturday, though not many understand the true purpose of such religious tradition, especially when many people are going hungry and the more affluent are on a diet of healthy vegetables anyway. The tradition of pabasa was common in many households while old folks warn the younger ones to avoid merry-making activities because Christ himself was suffering and was about to be nailed on the cross. Even loud voices were avoided in order not to disturb the solemnity of the observance of the suffering of Jesus Christ.
Back then, processions were more solemn and the faithful were more dedicated in observing religious practices or ceremonies in different hours and days of the Holy Week because those are things that Catholics should observe and obey.
On the other side of the observance of the Holy Week are the rituals the traditional faith healers perform in order to seek and regain supernatural power from the world beyond.
But times have changed. The observance of the Holy Week has become more of a family reunion or reunion of friends. With the long vacation free from the burdens of the daily grind, many opt to use their time meeting old friends and holding parties for the lost time they were away from home. Consequently, the spiritual value of the observance of the Holy Week has been reduced to the immediate concerns of the family and friends. The conscious effort to maintain the spiritual tradition may still be there but the intensity of the practice may have unconsciously waned.
Nowadays, people are not only concerned with the material and spiritual worlds but the world of virtual reality where letters and audio-visuals can stir perceptions and aggressions. The advent of the IT era has changed the way we perceive things because of the boundless information we can access and share through the Internet. In many ways, the way we practice our faith, if we have one, has been transforming without us knowing. Somehow, our world which is much busier, closer and wider now than before has chipped away some of the foundations of the old faith we have had decades ago. Even the rituals of the traditional healers are now vanishing such that we no longer hear about persons doing the ‘gabas’ or searching for supernatural power on the night of Good Friday, the time when Christ died on the cross.
A week after the Holy Week we are back to the same realities of the 21st century. Our concerns in our work that had been temporarily suspended and placed in the backburner by the long vacation have again resurrected before us that we have to deal with squarely. It will be one whole cycle again until we pause for another year’s Holy Week. But in all honesty, we may ask ourselves whether we are truly looking forward to another chance to renew our faith or at least cleanse ourselves of the excesses that our temporal bodies have accumulated during those regular days.