The early parts of January in every New Year mark the time for several very significant moments in the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, namely the celebration of some major feast days. One of these is the Festival of the Black Nazarene, in honor of the famous dark-skinned image of Jesus Christ carrying the cross. The annual commemoration of its “Traslacion” (transfer) from its former shrine to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo is always filled with large crowds determined to touch the Nazarene itself or anything rubbed on it, in steadfast devotion.
Year after year, the multitudes of devotees to the Black Nazarene who come out during its Traslacion feast day every January 9, has sometimes baffled and even concerned many outside observers. Some may have even termed such steadfast veneration, ignoring health issues and risk of injury and actual death, to be unhealthy “fanaticism”. To this, Manila Archibishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle made a tangible distinction, during his Fiesta Mass Homily according to CNN Philippines. Speaking to the Nazarene-venerating crowd at the Quirino Grandstand in the midnight hour of January 9, Cardinal Tagle maintained that there is a difference between a religious devotee and a fanatic.
“True love, honest service, and unity with Jesus, that is what makes a true devotee to the Nazarene,” declared Tagle during his sermon. He elaborates that a fanatic, in contrast to a devotee, goes through his actions of faith only because doing so gives his life meaning and not out of genuine love for the object of his devotion, that is, the Black Nazarene. “A fanatic, once he does not get what he wants, will already stop,” the Cardinal adds. “But a devotee, because he or she loves, will remain faithful, whether or not he gets something out of it.”
Luis Cardinal Tagle further explains that the scope of true devotion to the Nazarene is actually larger than just the January feast day itself. Genuine Black Nazarene devotees hold their faith to Jesus Christ as represented by the centuries-old-icon not just in January but every day of the year, no matter where they are in the world. The latter point hits home with the fact that the first Black Nazarene traslacion in the Middle East happened in the UAE on January 4. Tagle ended the homily with the exhortation, “Let us celebrate this devotion. It’s a blessing, it’s an honor.”
Following the midnight mass, the actual Traslacion of the Black Nazarene back to the Quiapo Church proceeded as scheduled at 5 AM today, and is estimated to take almost a day as with the average procession duration from previous years.
Image from Philippine News Agency