Sunday, March 27, 2011

A One Trick Pony

I am writing this under an appreciable mental strain, brought about by a surplus of graduation-induced rejoicing; at the moment, it is 6.15 in the morning, and the sun has barely risen; outside, the cock crows have just started, and the birdsong is still light and cheerful. There is something very spiritual about the scene; the half-grey light slowly being overwhelmed by the sun's warm, golden rays, with naught but the witness of a few animals outside to hail the coming of the dawn. Inklings to the spiritual life tend, as of late, to manifest themselves to me in such silences; but there was a time, too, when I associated silence with the deathly cold of the tomb.

The environment I grew up in can best be described as apocalyptic. Though I was born and raised Catholic, the earliest memories I have of religion involved the conversion of the maternal side of my family into Born Again Protestantism. Weekly lunches would often be transformed into lengthy debates about Biblical things; I remember the word "Actually" being bandied about a lot, and henceforth, I would associate that word with a kind of blessed smugness-- as if he who used that word were already "in the know", as it were. There too was the image of an aunt, huddled and kneeling near her closet, eyes firmly shut in mystical contemplation of the hidden truths of God; she was fasting, she said. And lastly, there is the image of yet another aunt, falling down on the floor after being "slain in the Spirit" by a frenetic pastor, then afterwards bursting in tears, where in joy or as a result of a concussion, I do not know. By the time I was in first grade, almost all of my aunts on my mother's side had completed the transition to Protestantism; today, I often find it funny how their political convictions run the gamut from almost libertarian, to batshit crazy conspiracy theories; yet they still somehow insist that theirs is a "universal faith".

The first experience I could truly call "spiritual" happened just after my third birthday. One of the neighbors had given me a plastic bag full of "tex"-- trading cards, usually with images of anime characters or Marvel/DC superheroes, measuring some 3 by 2 inches. The game was simple: you placed a card on the thumb, and then you flick it to the ground. The one whose tex landed face up would win the other's cards. I received probably twenty five of them in total, all of them still crisp and not worn along the edges. Most of them had prints from the X-Men Animated Series (a wonderful cartoon, by the way) or Son Goku (of Dragonball Z fame) in Super Saiyajin Mode. After I had devoured my share of my cake, I took the tex to the living room, and proudly showed them off to family. But an aunt had seen the pagan images on the cards, and brought me to her room. She told me that these cards were tools of the Devil to draw me away from God.; that, if I were to truly love Him and serve Him, I would get rid of them at the soonest possible time. Moved, I promised to God and my aunt that I would not stray away from Him: and, under her watchful eye, I began to tear them up one by one. When I had finished the deed, I went back to the living room as if nothing had happened; I later proudly announced to the neighbor boy that I had gotten rid of his evil presents. I think that was the last time we had guests other than family come to one of my birthday parties.

While stories of extreme self-abnegation often figure in the classics of Christian spiritual literature, one characteristic which could be said of these stories is the presence of a delightful synergy between God and man. There was nothing forced or contrived in them, but on the contrary, were even born out of what one might call a supernaturally inspired spontaneity. In contrast, and in hindsight, I realize that much of the abnegation I experienced as a younger boy were often committed out of a hidden, but very real fear: it is the fear that one would not measure up to an idolized angelic standard. There was an almost masturbatory obsession and neurosis with how I was often expected to act. I was taught that having crushes on girls at a young age was sinful; that to dance the Macarena was sinful (I was in second grade!); that to even listen to love songs was sinful, because only God can be the object of love, and all other loves are depraved and polluting of oneself. Mortification thus became a way to assure oneself of his righteousness, the diametrical opposite of the word. I thus developed a "one trick pony" kind of spirituality, one that seemed to focus exclusively in reminding myself that I am nothing: that I was an incorrigible monster, and that all my actions would somehow ineluctably lead to failure if I failed to keep God in mind.

I readily admit that one of my worst vices is jealousy. I can easily harbor grudges against people whom I perceive to be better than me-- who excel more than I in academics, in piety, or indeed any and all other categories. There is that drive-- an almost aggressive desire for cold-blooded schadenfreude-- that has always lurked within me that waits to pounce at any opportunity it can latch itself onto. Most of the time it fails; but when it does succeed, when my ego has been succored sufficiently by the losses of my "enemies", I realize how much of a monster I can become. Like Cronus devouring his sons, my ambition and desire for recognition can get the better of me, leading me to choke and eventually vomit. But there is also a realization that this can only happen because I have made spiritual bulimia into an idol: a daunting, immutable, universal standard, wherein hatred of the self is deemed an exemplary virtue, and sin was almost looked upon as the natural state of man. Call it Jansenism or Puritanism if you want; I am not entirely sure if it can be called either. But I am now convinced that I once held sourness as the very odor of sanctity itself, and scornful rigorism, which masked itself as piety, ruled all my actions. To be sure, mortification is needed for the growth and maturity of one's spiritual life; but what must be remembered here, I think, is that one's spiritual life is not a thing divorced from his daily life; the former informs the latter, and the latter mirrors the former. To be bound and shackled to a sickening, depraved angelism-- to exalt the grotesqueness and corruption and boils and festering wounds of the body-- is to turn God into a titanic, cosmic asshole and sadist-- and such a thought can only bode badly for the future.

It may seem ironic coming from one who has always been fascinated with some of the (admittedly) darker aspects of faith; I have written so much about flagellation and other bloody forms of penitence in the past that it may already seem as if I thought of them as necessities. To be honest, not all who undergo such feats necessarily end up having deeper, spiritual roots. But I am always amazed at the remarkable freedom with which they choose to make their pledges. It is said that a panata-- the sacred vow between God and penitent-- must be honored for as long as the penitent has sworn to do so. Still, others (mostly their sons or next of kin) choose to continue the devotion in thanksgiving. Much like the Latin lex talionis, the Filipino word ganti can mean either to take vengeance, or to reward with a gift. The supernatural laws of obligation still remain inscrutable mysteries to me; but there is always that faint, discernible trace of freedom in them that makes the artificiality of this contrived angelism more evident, more incomprehensible.

This is something which I still need to deal with. For a very long time now, that gigantic chip has been burying itself so deeply into my shoulder that to excise it would cause a lot of pain. But such a warped view of the spiritual life is a malignant tumor which needs to be attended to before it metastasizes into something that can no longer be controlled, and I end up becoming a spiritual pervert-- for whom joyless sadomasochism is the very pinnacle of perfection.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Night Terrors

Last night I had the most terrifying dream. Terrifying, not so much because it involved inconceivable cosmic horror or anything, but because it felt so real, so stark, so possible.

In the dream, I was driving my car up a dusty old dirt road that wound up a bare hill, save for some splotches of greenery and the occasional cluster of trees. The sky was dark and grey above, and the birdsong mournful. There was a contemplative silence that hung like doom over the entire hill. The trail led to an old church, its lawn weed-strewn and the the earthquake baroque architecture of it nearly obscured by vegetation. The church looked like it was at least 400 years old; it was enclosed by an iron gate, and there were leering stone eagles that perched atop the posts. I parked my car by the old church; the door was opened, and I stepped in. It was dark inside, the kind of darkness one associated with a coming storm. The altar was obscured by the gloom, but I could tell there was a huge crucifix on the retablo. There was a light that came from northern end of the church; I discovered its source to be door that opened up to a patch of land, an extension of the cemetery. I went there and looked at the names of the people buried; I found many Basque names, and here and there some headstones contained no names but only the carven faces of the cadavers buried underneath. There was a roaring sound, like waves smashing onto a cliff, and I discovered that the hill somehow jutted over the sea, black and foaming and turbulent.

Suddenly, I saw a figure to my left. It was a man, naked and tall, his back turned to me. He stood maybe fifty feet away from me, and I somehow knew that, despite his age and gravity, he was no more older than I was. I felt compelled to approach the unmoving stranger. Hesitantly, I approached; strangers in dreams are always bad omens, I thought. My footsteps were becoming increasingly louder, crunching twigs and dried leaves under my feet, but still the boy made no movement. Finally, I was just a foot behind the stranger, when I heard a voice. "You've been here before", he said, "In fact, you've never left. You were always here." Then suddenly, the stranger turned around; and as I beheld his countenance for the first time, a chill crept up my spine as I discovered that there was no countenance; the man's face was as blank as a fresh slate of tombstone, as silent, as deadly, and as brooding as the stone witnesses around me. Then it began to rain violently; the storm winds whipped up the rain into a frenzy, hitting my face with such power. But the naked stranger remained as immobile as ever; and somehow, I understood that he was crying, despite his lack of a face. He pointed some distance behind him, and motioned for me to follow him.

We came to the edge of the cliff, a point which somehow sloped upward and then ended abruptly. Directly below were some ships that seemed to have been magically transported there from vast gulfs of time and space. They looked as if they were Viking longboats, but instead of a dragon prow they had lion heads, and the ships were painted black and their sails were red. He then pointed to a pile of rocks I had noticed before. "Dig", he said. And somehow that voice became feminine and melancholy. I quickly distended the pile of rocks with surprising ease; I dug through the layer of soil freshly laid, and after some time, I discovered a coffin. I smashed the coffin with a hammer the stranger gave me; and as the wood splintered and eventually gave way, I saw what looked like a mannequin lying in it. A terribly hyperreal mannequin-- which, while plastic, had been given glass eyes, hair, and all manner of varying imperfections to make it seem as human as possible. The eyes of the mannequin were open in a sort of dumb expectation. I heard the stranger speak once again. "I told you; you have always been here. And I have never left, too."

I felt my blood boiling for some unknown reason. I screamed at the naked stranger, struggling to get out of the pit as quickly as possible. In rage, I dove at him with the hammer, with which I sought to bash his brains in. But no sooner had I thrown myself at him did I trip and fumble, as if I were felled by some invisible wire and now gotten myself entangled in it. Then I discovered the source: the wires were very real, and attached to the naked man, as if he were a gigantic marionette-- and that, indeed, he was. I turned him over, and discovered that he still had no face. The wind and the rain were howling then, and in no time, the pit began to fill with water. I felt like crying; and then I woke up.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ite Ad Joseph

"He has made him master of His house, and ruler of all His possessions"

March 19th, of course, is the Feast of St. Joseph. Incidentally, in a most remarkable case of serendipity, I also found out that I was baptized twenty two years ago today. Perhaps it is not too late to add "Jose" to my name; it would be a good way to honor this most noble of saints. Saint Joseph, pray for us! (Image source: Patrocinio de San Jose, by Gaspar Miguel del Berrio, 1706 - 1761).

Thursday, March 17, 2011


 The Church condemns the belief in anting-anting, or amulets, as superstition, but that has not stopped many Filipinos from putting their trust in them. A lot of folk Catholic myths and legends really have to do with anting-anting; among the many beliefs associated with it, it is believed that the power or efficacy of these amulets tends to wane over time, and therefore, must be recharged; Good Friday is thought to be a most propitious day for this. Various amulets are said to be able to grant different powers, from invisibility, protection from curses, invulnerability to bullets and knife-thrusts, and even a supercharged libido. The documentary above is really more about martial arts, but it shows how strongly these superstitions have been wedded with the culture.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Some Brief Ramblings on the Mass

In general I have resolved not to write too much about liturgy or indeed matters liturgical, for several reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, I am not an expert on the liturgy, and to speak of it so inadequately and would only serve to embarrass me. Secondly, there are other bloggers and other sites who write of the liturgy far better than I could: the New Liturgical Movement immediately springs to mind. In addition, I think I am just fine being a sort of "spiritual tourist", as many of the laity actually are. I am not too sure if this is an attitude that gels well with the current (or ideal) Catholic zeitgeist, but it has helped me keep my sanity so far. This is not to say that I have an aliturgical attitude, or worse, that I am indifferent to it; but I find often that I have other, far more "earthly" things to worry about than what cut of chasuble Father Presider would be wearing in his next Mass (in short, I have a life, believe it or not). If I must crystallize my position about the liturgy, I will say, for the record, that I do think it is highly important; but try as I might, I simply do not have the energy anymore to obsess and lose sleep over it.

This hasn't stopped me from joining the local Latin liturgy association in school, though.  Recently, our little group celebrated its first Latin Novus Ordo in campus, in what I can only surmise to have been a very long time, probably decades. Under the glare of incandescent lights and in the stifling heat of the tropical night, the chapel, the Holy Mass proceeded; prior to it, our motley crew had not even met, and so it also served as a sort of icebreaker for us worshippers. Perhaps it was the buoyant mood that came to me as a result of the Mass, but I have been thinking a lot about the Mass lately; I've even found my old sketchbooks (this blogger is a frustrated artist) where I drew some plans for a church altar or two several years ago, when I was still very much a triumphalist. This post, however, will make no attempt at any deep, spiritual reflection about the liturgy; rather, I will just try to give some semblance of shape to some thoughts that have been percolating in my head lately.

The main problem, I think, with the liturgical consciousness today is that there already seems to be a concession that the Mass exists primarily as a textual artifact. Indeed, much of liturgical discourse one comes across concern themselves with the proper wording, proper translation, and proper theology of the text of the Mass. The apotheosis of this kind of thinking is the conviction that the Mass is normative of theology; the fidelity of the texts to Tradition (i.e., patristic thinking, Scripture, etc.) is therefore a matter of life and death for Catholics. While I agree with this line of thought to an extent, I would sooner think that the laity of the past-- meaning those who actually lived in the era of so-called "Tridentine orthodoxy"-- didn't really care too much about the words of the Mass. They were conscious of the Mass, first of all, as "the priest's thing", something I used to hear a lot from my grandmother before she died. The Mass, for them, was first of all a series of actions and stylized gestures, a thing seen, heard, and smelled, but never really read.  Additionally, concern for the textual integrity of the Mass seems to require a certain societal paradigm in order to work. I would say that such concern is only possible in a society with a very tangible "open source" mentality, meaning a flattened, non-stratified society where everyone is theoretically equal. This paradigm reads almost like a business model: the Church (or at least its hierarchy) are seen as the custodians of the investments of the laity (i.e., their obedience, and in a very real sense, their monetary contributions), much like how a CEO and his crew have a certain obligation to make returns on his investors' capital. This kind of paradigm works best in a necessarily transparent society.

The Church, however, hardly fits this paradigm. Even now, the most radical reduction of clerical obedience can be summarized as follows: the word of the Pope should be followed as if it were the word of God. It is, in short, a very monarchical model; and while, to be sure, the formulation I provided above is little short of barbaric, it does drive home the point that the Church is a society which places value on hierarchy. What are the clerical castes, after all, but assertions that not everyone is called to the same degree of perfection, or the same level of "nearness" to God. If conversion to Catholicism entails an acceptance of its cosmos, however undemocratic or merciless(and indeed, the Catholic cosmos is too often unforgiving) it may seem, one would also have to accept the fact that God chooses certain men to be directly responsible to him; and not just any Tom, Dick, and Harry, now matter how many letters he has after his name. Again, this is not to say that textual fidelity of the Mass to authentic Tradition is not important; only that it must also be capable of "telling the story".

Which brings me to my second point. The most opprobrious thing about the Novus Ordo (and by this I mean the NO that is celebrated in your average parish), in my opinion, is how little "narrative sense" it makes. I would say that the primary mark of good liturgy is if it is able to relay the story of our redemption. This is of course hardly the case with many a Novus Ordo, where the priest seems more concerned with running a life-coaching session than to provide edification and spiritual sustenance for the faithful. The lack of awareness of entering into the mystery of redemption, of coming face to face with the eternal, seems characteristic of the very self-conscious New Rite. My own opinion is that this quotidian consciousness, though, is far greater than the textual issues of the Mass.  The various liturgical movements that have arisen in the last hundred or so years, and perhaps stretching all the way back to Trent, seem primarily preoccupied with making the Mass and the celebration thereof as rational and rationalizable as possible. Elaboration and sumptuousness seem to have been cast aside in order to accommodate uniformity-- both in form and theological points. The Low Mass is thus born, the simplest "reduction" or "condensation" (and not to mention the most easily exported) of Catholic worship.

I will not make any attempt to claim that the Low Mass is necessarily inferior than the High Mass or that it should be abolished; however, I will say that, in my experience, the heart of the Catholic is a baroque and ornate jewel: a gaudy, florid, and hopelessly ecstatic jewel that beats and longs for the gigantic, crowded vistas of light and shadow. Spanish Catholicism, with its Virgins caught up in mystical melodrama, its Christs pierced and dripping gore, its fiery devotions, mournful wailing, and triumphal processions, is probably the most lasting legacy of Spain to the Philippines; and even today, Catholicism for the Filipino is a colorful mix of the bizarre, the emotional, and the stupefying. Like the Spaniards, we embellish our Madonnas with gowns of gold thread and crown her with real gold and frame her face likewise; our Christs, following the Spanish-Mexican tradition, are all caught up in the grief of His Passion, the holy countenance burdened with the sins of the world. The baroque, it is said, is essentially the sacred made gaudy. Some months ago, I posted an image of the Santo Cristo de Jerusalen, an image of Christ venerated in a Mexican church, where the wounds of the Lord were made out in horrifying detail-- yet Whose hair remains as blond and as bouffant as ever.

But what is the point of this excursion into baroque aesthetic? It would seem to me that, as a phenomenon, the Mass was traditionally and primarily perceived through the eyes, ears, nose, and touch. But more than the ceremonial of it, what many people in this country seem to identify with the celebration of the Mass are the para-liturgical devotions, most of which were forgotten in the wake of Vatican II. Tenebrae, for example, used to be celebrated with a heightened sense of theater: at the appointed time, sacristans would climb to the roof of the church and pound it with hammers to simulate thunder, whilst outside, firecrackers would detonate, and more altar boys pound on the closed door. Candles were blown out and thrown to the floor, and in pitch perfect mise en scene, the woman of the church would groan and wail loudly, in fear and in trembling, sounding midway through a bad orgasm and labor pains. On Good Friday, the sanctuary would be draped in a rich, red curtain, with naught but the Crucified-- and on either side, His Mother and St. John-- visible for the Seven Last Words. Again, this devotion occasioned loud wailing from the women, many of whom would then get on their knees and extend their arms crosswise, as the Siete Palabras were timed so that they ended exactly at the hour of His death. The procession of the Dead Christ would follow, the image being hauled on an elaborate funeral casket attended to by the town elite, whilst the long, torturous procession would wind about the whole town, with nearly all the Catholics following it. Easter Sunday, on the other hand, started with the Salubong, where men would carry images of the Risen Christ and the Mater Dolorosa just before dawn, from different ends of the town, to meet at the parish square. At their meeting, an "angel" would descend from a platform and remove the veil of the Blessed Mother, after which she would intone the Regina Coeli.

While the above scenes are not, per se, part of the liturgy (except the Salubong), they are nevertheless the cues to which the average layman refers when asked about the importance of the liturgy. I sometimes get the sense that Tradition-- and orthodoxy-- for my grandparents was a matter of correct piety moreso than thinking like the Pope. Again this hearkens back to the notion that the Mass was the domain of the priest: it was his duty, his action, his responsibility. At the same time, however, these devotions seem to acquire a liturgical "sense" as well, however fleeting it may be. I say this because they have so ingrained themselves into that inscrutable, delightful, baroque, Catholic heart, which yearns not for any minimalist condensation of theological truths, but an experience of the eternal. Only a baroque heart would think of shielding Mary's eyes with a blaze of candlelight-- as is the practice in the procession of Nuestra Senora de Esperanza de la Macarena of Seville-- to prevent her from seeing the torment that her Son is to endure.

If there is any point to this reflection, it is to say that, if we are to recover any sense of the sacred from the detritus of Vatican II, the only way to do so would be to stop believing in the fiction that the Mass is primarily a pedagogic tool-- as if it were some sort of celestial booklet to be defended, amended, and edited at human convention like some poorly written college thesis. Perhaps I am already launching into a romanticism ignorant of the sorry state that both clerical and laical castes are in, but I do believe that the Mass teaches precisely because it also conceals so much from us. The sacred language, the eastward direction, even the silence of the Mass all adumbrate to a kind of teaching greater than to what any so-called expert can attest, and more illustrious than any information an open source mentality might produce. I mentioned above that the Catholic cosmos can be unforgiving: it is, after all, a cosmos which acknowledges the imperceptible nearness of Hell to the human condition. Such a paradigm seems largely lost now, but it does not take a genius to say that the Mass was seen more in its propitiatory, sacrificial lens then--as a means to placate the vengeance of God-- than anything. I have repeated, time and again, that our notions of God have largely been bifurcated of His menacing aspects. The baroque heart is configured along the lines of the chiaroscuro, of light and shadow intermingling to produce an intense vision of the spiritual realities of Catholicism. For us, then, it is necessary to always keep in mind the grotesqueness-- but ultimately the splendor-- of the divine mysteries. And perhaps that is what it means to have a sense of the sacred: to acknowledge the necessity of performing the sacrifice despite any and all distractions.

I think an anecdote I came across once of Archdale King's (at least I think so) books would be a propos to end with. A certain bishop was on his way to the cathedral to celebrate High Mass; on his way to the cathedral, he chanced upon two boys, both of whom were saying the Canon of the Mass very loudly. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck the earth, hitting both boys. The bishop alighted to check on the boys; both were surprisingly alright, despite the terrible ordeal. The bishop warned them that it was the anger of God, for profaning the holy words of the Sacrifice. At that, the bishop resumed his journey to the cathedral, while both boys knelt down in prayerful humility.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Ang uica'y matatalian,
Daracpin nang sandatahan,
Mumurahi't di igagalang,
Siya'y pagiiuan naman
Discipulong caibigan.

Totobonga't isosombong,
Daraiguin sa pagtotol,
Casinongalingan yaon
Doon nila ioolong
Cay Poncio Pilatong hocom

Ang manga hula pa't isip,
Ay hahampasing masaquit
Nang limang libong mahiguit,
At popotongan nang tinic
Ang Olo niyang mariquit.

At toloy susugatan dao
Yaong dibdib niyang mahal
Uala na niyon ang buhay,
Toloy ibabaon naman
Sa baonang hirang.

- Mahal na Passion ni Jesu Christong Panginoon Natin na Tola,
  G. Aquino de Belen

Ngayong pagsapit ng Cuaresma ay tila yatang mas lalo pang tumitindi ang aking mga pagkukulang. Mainitin anf ulo ko; mayabang ako; makasarili ako; at hinding hindi ko maukha maging positibo sa maraming bagay. Imbes na maging malumanay, mas tumitingkad pa yata ang bagsik ng aking galit sa mundo, at maging mga magulang ko ay napapasuko na lamang dahil sa kawalan ko ng modo paminsan-minsan. Napakadaling mabinyagan at tawagin ang sarili bilang Kristiyano; iyan ay alam ng lahat ng kinagisnan ang pananampalataya ng Santa Cruz. Ngunit mas mahirap ang mabuhay bilang isang Kristiyano: ang kalimutan ang sarili, at unahin ang kapakanan ng iba; ang magmahal ng walang kondisyon, maliw, o hangganan. Kani-kanina lamang ay napasali na naman ako sa isang away, at dahil dito, sumabog na naman ang pilit na tinatagong kabagsikan, at nakapagwika ng masakit--tunay na masakit-- sa aking mga minamahal. Sa isang banda ay hindi na rin ako nabibigla; kilala ko na nang sapat ang aking sarili bilang isang taong kayang-kaya magwika ng nakasasakit noon pa man. Ngunit ang hindi ko inakala ay ang aking kabihasnan sa gawaing ito. Sabi nga ni Dostoevsky sa The Brothers Karamazov, tao lamang ang kayang gawing isang sining ang kasamaan. Ang tao lamang, sa lahat ng mga kinapal sa gumagapang o lumalangoy o lumilipad sa sangkalupaan, ang may kakayahan maging metikuloso at artistiko sa larangan ng pananakit sa kanyang kapwa. Natatakot ako na dumating na ako, at hindi na makaaalis, sa ganitong estasyon. Na nagagawa ko nang planuhin at pagisipang mabuti ang paggawa ng kasamaan sa mga minamahal ko na wala man lang takot sa paghihiganti ng Diyos, na hindi na ako nasisindak sa katotohanang pamilya ko na ang naapektuhan ng init ng ulo ko, ay nakalulungkot isipin. Marahil siguro ay tumatanda na nga ako, at unti-unti ko nang naaaninag, kahat bahagya pa lamang, na malayo pa ang tatahakin ko; at sa gayon, malayo pa rin ang hahantungan ng aking pagiging makasarili. Ayo kong isipin ang mga di-maaninag na dulo ng pagiging mabagsik ko.

Ang mga bersong sinipi ko sa taas ay nagpapakita, sa isang banda, ng mga sukdulan na kayang matamo ng kasamaan ng tao. Diyos mismong nagkatawan tao ang pinagbuntungan natin ng karumaldumal at 'di kapani-paniwalang kalupitan. Pinadugo natin siya at sinugatan ng ating inipong malisya: mula sa kanyang mukha, hanggang sa kanyang mga kamay at paa. Winasak ng tao ang mukha ng kanyang Tagapagligtas; at hindi na tayo nahiya. Hindi na tayo natakot. At hindi na tayo natuto. Ang kanyang pagmamahal ay sinalubong natin ng pangungutya at kamatayan. Sa mga ganitong oras, halos naaamoy ko na ang baho ng apoy at asupre ng Impiyerno, at ang bakal ng martilyo na nagbaon ng mga pako sa kanyang kasantu-santuhan niyang mga kamay. Ngunit kahit hindi ko man makuhang maluha sa ngayon sa aking mga pagkukulang, buong puso kong idinadalangin sa Kaniya na ako'y patawarin: dahil ako ay lubhang nagkasala, at dahil din sa ako'y lubhang magkakasala pa rin.

Cuaresma na naman ulit, at gaya ng dati at lagi, dadami at hahaba na naman ang mga pila para sa Confesion. Marahil ay naging taunang ritual na lamang ito sa karamihan, pampapogi, ika nga, sa harap ng Diyos.At kadalasan ay ganito rin ang nararamdaman ko; paulit-ulit na lamang ang mga kasalanan ko at parang hindi na naiiba o nasosolusyunan. Ngunit kapag kaharap mo na ang katawang iyan, na sinugatan at pinagpakasakit alang-alang sa iyo, sa atin, sa akin: hinding hindi mo maiiwasang hindi mapahiya. Dahil ang kaharap mo, natin, ko, ay sadyang inosente at walang bahid ng kasalanan. Napapasigaw na lamang ang kaluluwa ko, na tila bang nilalamon ng mga apoy ng Purgatorio: Panginoon, kaawaan at patawarin mo ako, alang-alang sa iyong pusong lubos na nagmahal at nagmamahal, ngunit hindi namin makuhang mahalin--at maunawaan-- nang lubusan.

Lord, forgive me, for I know exactly what I am doing.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Pater Noster

I recall, with particular fondness, listening to this version of the Lord's Prayer during an especially turbulent period in my life almost three years ago. It would be an exercise in futility to count all the laurels of the Philippine Madrigal Singers, one of the most foremost, if not the foremost, choir in the country. I first heard this interpretation of John Pamintuan's Pater Noster, sung at the European Grand Prix 2007, in September of 2008; it was a time of severe trial, as I have mentioned, for a variety of reasons I am still uncomfortable talking about. It was in the dead of night, when the feeling of abandonment was at its most oppressive, that I first listened to it. And like a gentle rain falling down on parched, dead earth, I somehow felt the reassurance of hope blossom in me again. Like the sweeping tide of a calm but unconquerable sea, I remember it washing over me and drowning away the fears and sorrows which gnawed, with gluttonous delight, at the core of my being. It still puzzles me how hope, beauty and the like have always come to me in such fragile and delicate forms, and with such resounding force.