Thursday, May 17, 2007

Suffer the Little Children

I was at the mall a couple of days ago. Since it was a Saturday, I thought I would treat myself to a movie, so I watched 'Spider Man 3'. I was supposed to meet my mom and my siblings there as well, but since it was still a bit early, I decided to grab a quick bite, since I hadn't eaten lunch yet (it was already nearing supper). I bought myself this 'thing' from Taco Bell that tasted like sweaty socks. Apparently, it was supposed to be a burrito. Then, I went to the bookstore to find myself something to read. I scanned the titles and found very little to my interest. I did see this neat book on Byzantine art, though, and some copies of Urrea's 'The Hummingbird's Daughter', which I had been wanting to read for some time now (unfortunately, I forgot to bring my money!).

In the course of my long wait, I eventually found myself in the mall's fourth floor. Near the escalator were some shops that sold mainly electronics, from cameras to cellphones to televisions to iPods. Sticking out like a sore thumb in the midst of all the high tech gadgetry was a quaint little store that sold religious items. The store is a very popular chain here in the Philippines; it is called St. Paul's, and it carries everything from cheap, mass produced religious statuary to glow in the dark crucifixes to Mexican lazzos to Byzantine icons to Novus Ordo Charismatic pamphlets and even the rare copy of Butler's Lives of the Saints, as well as tabernacles and crowns for images of the Blessed Virgin. To one side was a wall literally covered with all sorts of crucifixes-- from revoltingly sappy Risen Christs to the gaudiest, bloodiest Spanish baroque syntheses of pain and suffering.

I did not enter the store, but I kept watch outside. Then, all of a sudden, a yellowish blur obscures my view, and this kid, who was probably no more than two years old, passes in front of the store, seized by an obviously excited state. The boy was jumping and grinning; in the store's display window, there was a monstrance, which by all accounts was probably the same height as the boy. Next to the monstrance was a santo image of the Risen Christ, its wig braided somewhat insouciantly. Its head was a bit too big for its body, and its robes weren't exactly the tailor made, either. The way in which it was sculpted made it look like as if it were waving at the child.

Suddenly, the kid's dad catches up to him. He hurriedly points to the store and begins to rush inside, where he was pointing at several images of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, and even picks up a beautiful, jeweled rosary, handling it with all the care of a butcher holding a string of sausages. The kid begins to jump again; his yellow shirt and khaki pants made him look like a hamburger. After a few more minutes of frenzied excitement, he and his dad eventually leave the store; judging from his dad's expression, I could tell he was a bit embarrassed about his son's behavior. They leave, but not without the kid planting one last kiss onto the store's window, where the statue of the Risen Christ waved back at him.

Children are the purest of God's creatures; in them is manifested the wonder that we adults have lost in the course of our growing up. A child, then, is able to do things that we would normally be afraid to do, and he does it with love and affection. This kid was yelling 'Papa Jesus' for all the world to see, but he did not mind, because for him, that statue of the Risen Christ was really Our Lord, and its gentle smile obviously made him feel loved. This is what is lacking in the Church today. This is what real religion looks like. As the boy finally left my sights, I looked at the store once more, and I thought of entering it, when my mom and my siblings finally arrived. We went off to dinner, and I digested the incident that had just happened while I munched on my tenderloin. It was good, but it needed some more spice.


Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

I just read something in van der Leuw about Mozart where a person is quoted saying that only a neophyte in the ancient church could sing like Mozart and that a child at prayer was superior to them (I suppose he meant musicians and composers.)

Archistrategos said...

You should have seen me when I was younger, Arturo. I used to sing the Philippine National Anthem with as high a falsetto I can muster, much to the consternation of my classically-trained musician relatives LOL.

Archistrategos said...

By the way, I was driving around town in a horrible traffic jam today when I saw this man, hunched by a corner and taking some swigs from a small mineral water bottle he had with him. He was an ice cream vendor, and his cart was parked in front of him. When he finally sat down, he pulled out a St. Josemaria Escriva prayer card, mulled some of the words, crossed himself, kissed it, then put it back in this pocket. I didn't see anymore as the traffic jam finally alleviated, and I returned to my normal cruising speed of 100kph. Still, a powerful scene.

Andrew said...

I live about 20KM away from my workplace and it takes me about 40 mins to get there because of the jams... and I'm riding a bike!

The Bangkok jams are much worse I hear....shudder

Archistrategos said...

^ We used to have an Indian neighbor in our old apartment. She said she would much rather be stuck in the traffic jams here instead of the ones in her own country. I imagine it must be pretty bad there, since she has to pass through a 3km stretch here in Manila that could swell up to two hours long-- and she considers it a blessing! LOL