Friday, April 24, 2009

Ecce Homo - Meinrad Guggenbichler

From the church of St. Wolfgang in Salzkammergut, Austria, comes this masterpiece of a statue, the 'Ecce Homo' of Meinrad Guggenblicher. Sankt Wolfgang was completed in the Late Gothic style and was a renowned pilgrim destination; as is usual in many Catholic countries, the church saw many renovations and additions, stylistically or otherwise. Guggenblicher completed this statue in 1706, and along with his pulpit, also carved for the church, is considered one of the finest examples of his work.

Here is some information on Sankt Wolfgang, culled from this website.

Saint Wolfgang was born in 924 in Pfullingen (in today's state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany). He studied at Reichenau under the Benedictines and at Würzburg before he became head of the cathedral school in Trier. He later entered the Benedictine monastery of Einsiedeln where he was ordained priest by bishop (Saint) Ulrich of Augsburg in 968. He later worked as a missionary in the region of Noricum until he became bishop of Regensburg in 972. According to the legend, Wolfgang tried to get away from political quarrels that had arisen a few years later. After arriving at the monastery of Mondsee in 976, he first lived in a cave in the mountains above the Abersee lake but later decided to build a church and a small hermitage near the lake. According to the legend, he had thrown an axe down the mountain and vowed to build the church where he would find it. A popular version of the story has it that the devil himself offered to help him build the church and for reward demanded the first living creature that entered church. Wolfgang accepted, but of course made sure that the first living creature to enter the church was not a human but a wolf. It is said that Wolfgang spent seven years in this area before he was found by a delegation of his bishopric who asked him to return to Regensburg. Wolfgang died in 994 in Pupping near Eferding in Upper Austria and was buried in the church of the monastery St. Emmeram in Regensburg. He was canonized in 1052, his feast day is 31 October.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Doctrina Christiana

Here is the first ever book published in the Philippines, scanned by the World Digital Library and available for viewing at that website. Written in Spanish and Tagalog, the book was also the first to show a 'distinctly Philippine alphabet', and featured basic prayers, catechism, and poetry about the Catholic faith. Here is the whole story, via the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

RP first book in cyber library

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:09:00 04/21/2009

Filed Under: Books

Published in 1593, the “Doctrina Christiana, en lengua española y tagala,” is the first book printed in the Philippines and the first book printed in a Philippine language. It is also the first book showing an explicit and distinctly Philippine alphabet.

The only known extant copy of the Doctrina is in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. But a copy of the 79 pages of the Doctrina is available just by clicking the image of the Doctrina’s cover page showing the image of St. Dominick.

Aside from the Doctrina, also posted in the World Digital Library is the French version of the Journal of Magellan’s Voyage, dating from 1525.

The work, attributed to Antonio Pigafetta, a Venetian scholar, details Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage around the world in 1519-22 and includes an early Western description of the people and languages of the Philippines.

A search in the digital library for “Philippines” will give six more results.

These are Aguinaldo’s Navy (created in 1900); The Attack of Manila, October 1762; Map of a Part of China, the Philippine Islands, the Isles of Sunda, the Moluccas, the Papuans; Journey to the East Indies and China, Undertaken at the King’s Command, from 1774 until 1781; Conquest of the Malukus; and Religious parade, Santa Rosa de Lima.

Inquirer Research

Here is the link to the World Digital Library's page on Doctrina Christiana. Following it should be easy, if you know Spanish and can read its archaic orthography. The ancient Tagalog used here presents a more interesting challenge, though, especially since it uses Spanish orthography and is generally deeper than the extant variant used colloquially today (especially in Manila).

What Is A Christan Nation?

If, like me, you spent an inordinate amount of time researching how Holy Week was celebrated throughout the world two weeks ago, then you would know that the andas used for the processions in Guatemala are some of the largest in the world; that Franciscan priests use the Greek Orthodox altar in the Shrine of the Holy Sepulcher for the rite of the deposition; that Nazarenos are the ones with the pointed hoods, and costaleros are the ones with the sacks over their heads carrying the paso in procession. You would know that Taranto, Italy, has excellent marches to accompany the processions of Good Friday, and that an Australian comic was crucified in Pampanga here in the Philippines, who planned to use the footage of him in agony for a TV show (he should not have been let down that cross).

In Seville, capital of Andalusia in Spain, they hold what is, quite possibly, the grandest Good Friday procession in the world. Starting at the crack of midnight, La Madruga, as this procession is called, typically lasts 14 hours, with a minimum of a million people joining. The high point of the procession is the image of Nuestra Senora de Esperanza de Macarena-- a three hundred year old image of the Blessed Mother, which Sevillanos believe to have been carved by angels. The face of La Macarena is haunting; it is the face of one trying to comprehend the agony and grief of a loved one. It is at once restrained and gut-wretching. La Macarena is borne on a huge paso (processional platform), a giant, velvet palio above her announcing that she is the Queen of all Andalusia. Before her burn several tall candles, to shield her eyes from the sight of her Son in agony.

The video above shows the much revered image of La Macarena exiting the church where she and her confraternity 'reside'. Amidst much fanfare and cheers from the crowd, and the piercing trills and passion of haunting saetas sung in honor of the Virgin, the image makes its way through the crowded streets of Seville. Grown men and women cry upon seeing their beloved Queen in her grief; words of admiration, as if whispered to a lover, are dedicated to the Virgin, accompanied by thousands of kisses and rose petals blown at her by many a devout member of the crowd. Women in long, flowing mantillas accompany La Macarena, as the carefully choreographed procession relives the passion and drama of Spain's much revered Semana Santa.

All of these scenes seem to paint an image of militantly Catholic Spain, fiercely proud of her Christian traditions. But the reality is far different. Spain today is a vastly secularized nation with a growing population of atheists and agnostics. Three decades ago, it would have been unthinkable to equate Spain with secularism; even today in the Philippines, the contrite prefer to confess to Spanish priests, because they are perceived to be guardians of tradition, and many still equate that country with glorious, triumphant Catholicism. If Wikipedia is to be believed, then the downward spiral of the Church in Spain poses a serious problem, if Europe is to preserve its Christian identity. How did it happen that the land of the Dominicans, the Jesuits, Opus Dei, which traversed the whole world for glory of God and country become so secular?

The answer is not easy to pinpoint. One can perhaps trace it to the La Gloriosa Revolucion in 1869, when Masonry began to visibly flex its muscle against the Church. More recent is the Civil War of 1936, and its Red Terror, which claimed the lives of thousands of priests, bishops, and religious. But popular sentiment simply does not change overnight; less than 40 years before the Civil War, Spain was still an Empire (technically, a collection of kingdoms), but the loss of Cuba and the Philippines, as well as its defeat at the hands of America (then the new kid on the block trying to assert its place among the old powers of Europe)is sure to have played a role in secularization as well. But the bottom line is that the country's Catholic identity had been under attack for a long time. As easly as the mid-19th century, missionaries in the Philippines were already decrying the lax attitude of Spaniards when it came to the reception of the Sacraments.

Today, while the Church still retains a measure of esteem in Spain, its voice has been growing weaker by the decade. We need not look further than the legalization of same-sex marriage in that country, the pitiful church attendance (20%), and the fact that Spain has one of the lowest birth rates in all of Europe. In the face of all these numbers, one is tempted to think that all is lost for Europe. The former champions of Christendom are gone, and with it, a sense of tradition. We ask ourselves, 'Is there still a Christian nation left in Europe?'

For many, there has been a shift in thought in what constitutes a Christian nation. Many of us see the United States, for example, as the pre-eminent Christian nation on earth today, and proof of this are its great wealth and dominance in world affairs. But the United States has never received the Cross, received its pain and its love. It has received its fruits and its commerce, but not its humility, and its glory. Sometimes it can get depressing to think of the rapidly declining voice of Christianity in the world. But then along come these veritable scenes of splendor from the past, and for a brief moment, all the fears brought about by 'supercategorical thinking' cease to exist. We are alone before the Virgin of Hope once again, crying our eyes and our hearts out like children. Streets fill with the thunder of a million footsteps simultaneously pounding the pavement, and the roar of trumpets heralding the passing of the Queen.

The more I think about it, the more I see the Church like an immovable rock wall, or a majestic mountain undaunted by the tricks and artifice of man. You can butt heads with a wall all you want, but the wall always wins, leaving you with a cracked skull and perhaps more than a few broken bones. In Spain, as in Italy, Portugal, and especially France, the Church has so embedded itself in the culture that it is practically impossible to think outside of its framework. The Church has influenced food, culture, music, even the way we talk, or bid someone goodbye (e.g., Adios - to God)-- even the way we hate has been influenced somewhat by the Church. Even Luis Bunuel, who was rabidly anti-clerical, who toasted the death of bishops and priests in the Civil War, and who threw an image of the Virgin into the sea, would recall the God-haunted days when he yet had faith, citing how the rituals of Viernes Santo always brought a chill to his spine, and not a few tears.

Perhaps it is a new phenomenon to Americans and other people of non-Catholic countries, but Church attendance is never really an excellent gauge of one's faith or religiosity. To be sure, it helps a lot, but at the end of the day, it is not a direct correlate to something that is unquantifiable in the first place. In Italy and Spain, for example, one can be non-religious but still feel insulted by Communist politicians disobeying the Church. Similarly, people who are not regular church-goers can still be moved to tears by the sight of the Virgin in her grief. They cry out to her, their Mother and Queen, and wish that it was them suffering instead. Again, there is that image of the Church as an immovable brick wall; ultimately, it still deserves our respect, whether given grudgingly or not.

Admittedly, the diminishing influence of the Church is something to be lamented. But at the same time we should not expect an overnight 'reversion' to Christian truth. One thing which I fervently believe in is that being a Christian is to be incorporated into the Body of Christ, in all its wounds, bruises, and brokenness. It is not for naught that the defining symbol of Christianity is the crucifix. It is no accident that He died, and it is certainly not a mere trifle that we celebrate His sacrifice. And while a Catholic culture is not the be-all-end-all of our woes, it is certainly a good place to start. A nation is built on ideas; we cherish them with great affection, and in so doing, form our consciousness as a people. I believe that Spain's identity as a Christian nation is crucial for the Church, not only for the sake of its history, but ultimately for the sake of its survival. If indeed culture is the expression of the ideas upon which our nation (or other imagined communities) is built, then the tradition behind it must be preserved as well. You can only have too many glass houses and diamond-studded skulls to last a lifetime before obscurity or the next big fad swallow them into oblivion.

It is said that a drunk man once hurled insults at the image of La Macarena, punctuating it by following his sacrilege with a beer bottle that hit the right cheek of the Virgin. Later, upon reaching sobriety and realizing what he had done, the man was overcome with great grief and resolved to walk in the procession of La Macarena with his ankles bound in chains, and a heavy cross on his shoulders. Even when the man had died, his descendants continued the tradition, and even today, it is said that the tradition continues. Those who wish to purge Spain and indeed the rest of Catholic Europe of every last vestige of their Christian heritage seeth in hatred at the processions of Sevilla's Semana Santa, but the great multitudes who participate seem to defy the desired effect of their opinion-makers. They hate this relic of the superstitious past, because they see that it is alive, despite the onslaught of years and ideologies. They hate it, because ultimately, they are the ones in most need of the light and peace of Christ.

Semana Santa is over, and most of Spain has returned to its former habits. But the Church remains, undaunted-- though perhaps diminished and more than battle-weary-- waiting for that day when it may start to rebuild itself in Europe. And while that day seems far off, one should never underestimate the power of the Church. It is a pledge of hope and a sign of future victory that we can cling to, and ironically, but not accidentally, its herald is the image of the Crucified Lord and His Sorrowful Mother, who is nevertheless ready to forgive and forget all our offenses. That is why she is called Esperanza---Hope--, after all.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Arcade Fire - Wake Up

Roadside Shrine, Quiapo, Manila

I just thought it was an incredibly whimsical photo. Found on Flickr.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Vere Surrexit!

"Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas"
-the Nicene Creed

May the peace and joy of the Risen Christ be with you and yours. May the glory and splendor of this day radiate within you and inflame you with the ineffable love of the human God. For truly, Christ the Lord is risen from the dead, and has trampled it beneath His mighty heel. The angelic hosts rejoice, the whole universe rejoices and stands in awe before this most awesome mystery-- how the Uncreated took on dust and ash became as one like the created, and how the Invincible and the Almighty succumbed to mortal sleep-- and rose, a victorious conqueror, bringing desolation to desolation itself. Christ the Lord draws all the world to Himself; let us heed His call and worship Him. Christ has risen from the dead; nothing else matters. But had He not, then truly, nothing else matters.

Santissimo Cristo de Buena Muerte de Malaga

(Link if video does not show)

I realize this is a bit late, but I think it's still worth posting. On the morning of Maundy Thursday members of the Spanish foreign legion arrive in Malaga to participate in the rites of Holy Week. In particular, they lift the larger-than-life image of the Santo Cristo from the cathedral and place it on its processional 'trono', a 4-tonne veritable moving altarpiece. They subsequently carry the image to the cofradia in charge of carrying it in the actual procession at night. I really like the marcha in this video; I did some research behind it but cannot find the name of the tune nor its composer now. Any help would be appreciated.

EDIT: The name of the song is El Novio de la Muerte. Link.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Saint James the Great Church, Ibaan, Batangas

I really liked the way this photo turned out. On our way home from our mini-vacation, we stopped by the sleepy town of Ibaan in the Batangas province to visit their church. We got there around 3pm; outside, a group of people were doing the Via Crucis, while inside, small families gathered to pray. From the looks of it, a Mass was probably going to start in a few minutes-- a lot of the people inside were all properly dressed and some were praying the rosary. We spent a total of fifteen minutes there, as we had to be on our way; Holy Week traffic in the Philippines can literally be a Calvary of a time. Curiously, the images weren't veiled, despite it already being Palm Sunday. I was told by my father that the custom there was to cover the images after the Palm Sunday Mass-- but which, he didn't know. Despite the 'abuse', I was thankful to have been able to see the retablo in all its glory.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Benedictus Qui Venit In Nomine Domini

I took this photo outside the church of St. James in Ibaan, Batangas, where a group of women and their children were selling these palms for Php 10 a piece. For us Catholics, the waving of palms ushers in the most sacred week of the year, when we commemorate the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Son of God. I came back from the beach on Palm Sunday, and the 5-hour traffic, as well as the multitudes of people crowding the streets, were an instant reminder of the solemnity of this week. I'll be honest and admit that I'm not exactly a paragon of virtue, but if anything, this week should remind us that there is nothing too great for God to forgive. May God grant all of us the grace to repent of our sins.

Hosanna, Hosanna filio David.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna, Hosanna in excelsis.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Cebu Cathedral Altar Update

Found on Flickr (see link), here is an image of the new retablo of the Cebu Cathedral. It's not yet finished; there are still some adjustments and polishing to be made, according to the craftsmen who built it. Here is a message from Robert Cruz, also found on Flickr, whose group was responsible for its construction.

We were supposed to install on the 3rd week of April yet. But the pastors requested to have them for the Chrism Mass. It took us six days to put up the structure. So many Masses celebrated daily, we could only work at night. Minutes before the Chrism Mass, we were still working on it. [I'm guessing by Chrism Mass he meant its blessing and dedication]

Thus, up-close you'll still see a lot of finishing work and adjustments yet to be done. The statues, relleve, and many of the carvings didn't make it for this shipment. We still have to clad the post-WWII marble canopy jutting out of the center. Expect the retablos to be ready for the Apr. 28 anniversary.

All components were pre-fabricated in our Laguna workshop. The main body is made of Philippine Mahogany with gold leaf appliques (carvings), internally supported by a steel structure.

The left retablo niches will have St. Valeria (top), the twins Sts. Gervasio and Protacio (left, right), bas relief of the Martyrdom of San Vitale (center).

For the right retablo: St. Joseph (top), St. Anthony (left), St. Vincent Ferrer (right), La Inmaculada (center).

The IHS logo was re-used, while the old Crucifix was decorated with rays.

Harvey, thanks for the compliment. We're also working on a proposal for four stained glass windows at the facade (choir and chapel windows).

By the 3rd week, we will start installing the twelve-bell carillon in the belfry.

Robert Cruz
Vitreartus Liturgical Arts