(News Feature)The many faces of the Black Nazarene

He is known as the dark-skinned image of the Christ--the Messiah sent to earth to redeem mankind of his sins. He bears a heavy cross, crouched, and walking towards his own death, His ashen face grimacing in agony.

This is the Black Nazarene as the world knows it. This is the image revered by millions of Filipino devotees. Ironic though that he is garbed in opulent robes--an otherwise temporal embellishment on a spiritual figure.

But the true face of the Black Nazarene is the middle-aged lady suffering from a bad back and bouts of arthritis, the single mother who tries to raise five children because her husband is jobless and hooked on alcohol and illegal drugs, the unemployed father whose wife is suffering from a terminal illness, the businessman on the brink of bankruptcy and contemplating suicide.

For many devotees, the image of the Black Nazarene is a cure-all for whatever ails them physically, emotionally and often, financially. More often than not, devotees will cite some form of material need that only the Black Nazarene can fill. It is very rare that Filipino spirituality will manifest itself in what probably is the biggest religious event of the year.

Although the Filipino is known to be industrious and very productive, one can only wonder why a lot of the devotees who flocked to Luneta seem to be wandering aimlessly, seemingly needing to tire themselves out by doing the most trivial things like walking to one end of the street then back again and keep doing this practically most of the evening.

There was a Holy Mass being held but no one seemed to be listening to the Homily. Not many even made a simple gesture of prayer. There were individuals who were seriously engaged in a religious debate. There were self-proclaimed healers professing a remedy for everything including a broken heart for the price of a few pesos.

Hundreds of thousands--perhaps, millions of devotees flock to Quiapo for a million different reasons--a million different faces looking up to a figure reflecting their own suffering as if that itself was the solution.

It is not difficult to see why devotees see themselves in this physical representation of Catholic faith. They see their own faces in the pained expression of the Senor Nazareno. Their problems are the crosses they each bear and the robes remind them of the material world they are inextricably bound to.

Source: Philippines News Agency