Monday, April 18, 2011

Pinoys start Holy Week with Palm Sunday Mass

Filipino Catholics started the Holy Week on Sunday with Eucharistic rites that focus on remembrance of the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ to Jerusalem.

In many churches in Metro Manila, churchgoers waved "palaspas" (palm fronds) at the priest, as they call to mind the similar act Christ's followers did to greet him when he entered Jerusalem. Also, at certain points of the Palm Sunday Eucharistic rites, the faithful hold their palm fronds aloft as the priest sprinkles Holy Water on them.

They also recalled Christ's subsequent Passion and Death as the Gospel passages detailing these events were read during the Mass.

Priests wore scarlet to symbolize Christ's shedding of blood as his supreme sacrifice.

Sunday's activities ushered in the Holy Week, where Filipinos recall Christ's suffering and death, and his eventual Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

In Quezon City, radio dzBB's Manny Vargas reported vendors were selling palm fronds from P10 to P25.

Appeal for 'green' Holy Week

Meanwhile, a Catholic bishop and an environmental group called on Filipino Catholics to observe a “green" or environmentally friendly Holy Week from April 17 to 24.

Caloocan bishop Deogracias Iñiguez Jr. said a green Holy Week is a timely call in response to the wastefulness that threatens the environment.

"A green Holy Week is a timely call in response to the wastefulness and greed that is blatantly trashing our fragile environment. I encourage everyone to plan for an earth-friendly and spiritually-nourishing week. As stewards of God’s Creation, it is our shared responsibility to respect and preserve Mother Earth and protect her ability to support and perpetuate life," Iñiguez said.

He also pointed out this year’s “Alay Kapwa" theme is “Our Neighbor and Environment, Our Responsibility."

“Let our Christian faith radiates in the way we relate and nurture the environment," said Iñiguez, who heads the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines public affairs unit.

For its part, the EcoWaste Coalition also noted that this year's Earth Day coincides with Good Friday.

“We are inviting the faithful to celebrate the Holy Week with a pledge to cut back on garbage and pollution as part of our spiritual works of penance, charity and reconciliation. Abstaining from wasteful consumption during the holidays and beyond augurs well for both Mother Earth and the future of our climate change-threatened nation," EcoWaste president Roy Alvarez said.

He added the fact that this year's Earth Day falls on Good Friday is indeed good for the environment as this should "mean less cars on the streets, less energy use in malls, less noise, less non-essential consumption and less garbage."

"Let Good Friday be a Good Earth Day as well," he added.

Holy Week not a vacation

Holy Week should be a time for conversion and not vacation, Catholic bishops reminded Filipino Catholics over the weekend.

Batanes Bishop Camillo Gregorio lamented the habit of some Catholics to observe Holy Week by going on vacation somewhere, such as the beach in Boracay.

“It’s saddening because Holy Week has become a time for vacation for some people. They forgot that it is a time and opportunity for a deeper conversion. This is also a time where we can be one with God," he said in an interview on Church-run Radio Veritas.

Excerpts of the interview were posted Friday night on the Union of Catholic Asian News website.

But Gregorio said he is hoping that the faithful will learn the importance of silence in the observance in the coming days from Palm Sunday up to Easter Sunday.

“There is a reason why God taught us how to be silent and that is a very good lesson for all us. Let us be silent so as to deepen our faith and reflection," he said.

“That is my advice to everyone. Allow the Lord to enter you in the hours of this silence in your hearts," he added.

For his part, Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo echoed Bishop Gregorio’s appeal to the faithful.

“Holy Week is a time when we relive the passion and death of Christ which led to our salvation," he said.

“This week is not for rest and recreation, rather it’s a time for prayer and sacrifice," he added.

Spend Holy Week with charitable works

Instead of just the usual Visita Iglesia, one can spend Holy Week visiting the sick in hospitals, or doing other charitable work, a Catholic bishop suggested.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said such activities can reinforce the traditional activities like the Visita Iglesia and Stations of the Cross.

“As we keep our pious practices like the Stations of the Cross, confessions, Visita Iglesia and penitensiya, let us also consider making acts of charity to the poor as the way to share in the spirit of the Lenten season," Villegas said in an article posted on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines news site.

He said doing acts of charity can be an alternative way of spending the Holy Week meaningfully.

The prelate said one may “consider visiting 14 patients in our government hospitals and meditate, as you visit them, on the sufferings of Christ."

Near them, one can see “how the sufferings of Christ continue in the midst of us," he said.

"Prayers can be inspiring and penances can be admirable but only love can redeem. Only love saves. Love alone sanctifies us," he added.

Villegas also recommended jail visitation as another way to share God’s love and mercy to those behind bars.

“We can bring them our prayers and greetings and volunteer to be couriers of their letters that they want to send to their loved ones who are unable to visit them," he said.

Villegas said one can also bring food and clothes to the poor in honor of Jesus’ humiliation at Calvary.

He recalled the late Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Philippines in 1981, when lepers from Tala Leprosarium were brought to him so he could bless them.

Yet, the Pope knelt before a leper and kissed his leprous hands and exclaimed, “My Lord!"

“Give love this Lenten season. Pour love into your prayers. Let your penance overflow into charity," Villegas stressed.


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