Thursday, November 27, 2008


There was a day in my life, when suddenly I remembered the past. It was not long ago ,when I was a child of not quite five. The edifices that surrounded me went up to the sky, pointing as if to escape from the embrace of the earth. When I go about playing, the shrubs were no less taller than they, my neighbours, well in age. I could still remember them: their different faces, their gait and poignant postures, their voices and tones, their topics while washing clothes at the nearby water pump, and the busy street where our rented house was. Just lying across, well within the compound, stood the dirty kitchen, which now has been lost in the passage of time. The stories surrounding the eccentricities of the people living within. The aroma of the barbecues grilled at a stone's throw away from where I could peep over. When the storm came one time, a galvanized iron flew away, detaching itself from the gathering tempest, while a woman was running after it - it was bitter cold in the night. Whenever I pass by the old neighborhood, my memory would instinctively scour those places, like vanguards long vanquished by no known forces. The sound of it all still bears its identity, not quite distant to pacify it to die.

On days prior to the annual fiesta in honor of San Nicholas, carnivals pitched and made noises. Now, they were never disconsonant sounds but music reverberating from history. These were days of merriment, and father rode once on these rides, which he promised that he would not do again. The festivities were noisier then, the laughs were heard from children. Gone are they now. Numbers flock to these distinct places, while the church sings its praise to God in the sacral space. When the Benediction ends, the congregations mixed themselves in the hustle and bustle of the festival. The starking contrast of its sheer unsophistication to today's standards was never judged as backward and rough. It was taken to be as it is. While horses rode to their fight on the town 's grassy plaza, the audience hoots in content, to their hearts' desire, that made the celebration complete. Even my grandfather had to skip the fiesta lunch just to watch this once-in-a-year faunal duel.

On other days, Christmas seasons were days to look forward to. The anticipation was filled with vivid imagination of the same elements: Santa Clauses, Christmas trees, nativity scenes, Christmas parties, Christmas carols and carolling, parties, and more. The faces of the young was the face of the season; the joy in our hearts was the same for all. Looking back, I wondered why time was cruel - has time been so selfish? To look back is to stop stepping yet again into the unknown future. An inch into the way beyond is to encounter the bitter taste of mortality - the reality of a transiting man in a changing world. It is to end one thing and to begin another. What would the world be for me had my memory rested on a dark world? A world of fear and violence.

My summers were spent usually in the hilly places of Bohol, the place of my ancestors: my grandmothers sing their prayers to God and my grandfathers tilled the soils of the earth to earn its produce from the sweat of their brow. In the night, when the work was done, my paternal grandmother recounts the past, on which earth our lives were lived - eccentricities and conflicts, stories of fairies and magic, narratives of genealogy and geographical boundaries, and traditions and practices. I often found it a wonder that accounts of spirits that dwell in woods combined with the piety of Christian faith. It is well to note that here the Christian religion has not eradicated this oriental belief of beings in competition with the Triune God. I find it that both concepts are dialectically harmonized in our dual concept of the realms good and evil. The God of Christianity is superior to any class of spiritual beings that might dwell in the temporal sphere, which the latter is at the power of the former. The categories of these lower beings might differ from place to place, where the Christian faith has thrived; but one character is evident, we have this class of things that share space and time with mortals.

As the Week of the Pasch approaches, the towns of Bohol changed color, like a leaf of the approaching winter from the falling autumn. The passing drought of scorching sun is a distinct drama of the agony of Lent. The countless years that the old friars had continually celebrated the passiontide, the Roman Liturgy has found home within the endemic traditions of the people. Where the heavenly, eschatological orientation of the Mass of Pius V was spoken, the mood would change all the land over, sweeping a silent mood after bringing down instruments of music, and the meals were restricted from meat of any kind. It all began in the wednesday of the Ash. The glorious Easter was anticipated in the depths of sorrows of the passion. The bells hung low as the last note of the Gloria ends, intoned on Maundy Thursday. The belfry slept in the town of Loon, the church bells would not be heard until the Easter Gloria.

But the corrosive character of today's world has left bare the celebrations of the old. Nowhere people celebrate in unison of their faith. What world we have found today has alienated our past. It looks sternly on where we began, the eyes of the children were suspicious of its mother. My vivid recollections of the naive world in my adopted place of Bais and the memories I had with my vacations in Bohol were a world apart though only in a generation from the realities of what I have seen at the present times. Gone are the houses I have almost revered, daunted by the passage of time, gone are the familiar faces that seemed to be omnipresent, gone are the stories that were heard from the lips of those who knew them. It is almost as if to say that the world has forgotten. We are into a new kind of world, bereft of one's self-knowledge - an existence ready to embrace an existentially new way of doing, being, and knowing.

But this could not hold up. The breakdown of the economic systems has unveiled an ugly face of modernism. The post-modern world will bear a different kind of story - a disjunction from the project of the enlightenment that is parallel but different. The reshaping of life to this social phenomenon is what we are seeing everyday: the radical individualism that holds any community suspect though not stricken down to destruction. The vapid sexual awakening that started as a revolution in the 1960s has become the standard thinking of today - the sexualism if one may call it. But beneath this non-taboo, there is still this lingering and faint apprehension of what is pure and wrong if not sinful. I have come to realize this from conversing with my generation. This constant pursuit of happiness is always seen on the top of everything, but the mode through which this is sought have come from one extreme to the other and always on the same side of the social spectrum.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mass of the 30th Sunday

Brothers and Sisters, this Sunday is the 33rd of Ordinary Time. The Day of the Lord gathers us all in this special space to give time to God from the different cares we had of the week and contemplate the gifts we have received together in the banquet of His sacrifice.
Today, we are taught in the 128th Psalm the blessedness that awaits to those who fear the Lord. The fear that becomes the beginning of Wisdom - the Wisdom that is especially described in the the First Reading that opens in the Book of the Proverbs on the 31st Chapter. Upon textual examination, this book belongs to the category Hagiographa by the Jews and is a part of the Sapiential Books of the Old Testament, adopted from Proverbia Salomonis in the Old Latin version into the Vulgate in the 4th century. It is no accident that this Book has been referred to as Mishle by the Jews, which is roughly translated as Proverbs in English. Traditionally, this has been referred to as Míshlê Shelomo (Míshlê Shelomoh) in the original heading of the book in Masoretic text. There is one aim of the Book of Proverbs, that is "at inculcating wisdom as under(s)took by the Hebrews of old, that is perfection of knowledge showing itself in action, whether in the case of king or peasant, statesman or artisan, philosopher or unlearned". In the reading, Wisdom is personified in the person of a Woman - a woman "who fears the Lord". Wisdom that bends through fear to the Lord, the giver of wisdom itself.
This Wisdom is borne in the consistency of our faith as evidenced in the exhortation of St. Paul in the Second Reading in its 5th Chapter that teaches the early Christians in Thessalonica to stay 'alert and sober" in the enveloping darkness of our times for the "day of the Lord comes like a thief at night". It is remarkable to note that the Epistle to the Church at Thessalonica among the Textual Criticism scholars is the first written by the Apostle Paul, and here, it is unmistakable that the urgency to become witnesses to the coming of the Lord is given importance. This alertness of Christians is given a more concrete teaching in the parable of talents in the Gospel taken from St. Matthew. We know that the gift we have should be grown and to grow for the Lord who comes to collect what He has given. Truly, this Sunday prepares us for the great Advent - a season of hope.
Let us rise and face to the east where the Lord comes to our aid and in our hearts may we joyfully hear the invitation He gladly gives to those who bear the marks of faith - the persevering faith to the end - "Come, share your master's joy.’ Please stand.