Mystery of the Black Nazarene

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Sunday, January 13, 2013


LOOKING deeply at that statue with eyes as if still alive made my body shiver. All the people around started to cry as they glanced at that life-sized, dark wooden sculptured statue of Jesus Christ carrying the cross.

Having the chance, I went nearer the statue and found myself touching and wiping my handkerchief on it. I was curious, why am I doing this? Why are these people so engrossed with this statue?

I was then in high school studying in a catholic school when luckily I had the chance to see the real Black Nazarene at St. Vincent Parish church. To some believers, it is said that it symbolizes the passion and sufferings of Christ and touching it will perform miracles. The revealing images of the Black Nazarene strengthened the belief of many people both the young and old.

The Black Nazarene for these believers represents the solutions to their hopes, their problems, answers to their prayers and a blessing for a better life.

According to Wikipedia, the Black Nazarene was “originally with fair complexion, it is believed to have turned dark after the statue survived a burning galleon ship on its arrival from Mexico. The statue is currently enshrined in the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo district, Manila, Philippines, where it is venerated every Friday with Novena and Holy Masses. The Black Nazarene is publicly processed on three annual occasions: New Years' Day, Good Friday, and on 9 January, when its first novena feast. Official transfer and enshrinement in the present Basilica is commemorated. The event is attended by several million devotees that crowd the streets of processional route in Metro Manila.”

Some of the usual traditional celebrations of the feast usually observed in January according to Jane Nepomuceno were: 1. Pahalik (Kissing of the Image) - people line up to kiss the foot of the Black Nazarene; 2. Pabihis (Dressing of the Image) - done five times a year before major events; 3. Pasindi (Lighting of the Candles) - accompanied with prayer intentions; 4. Bendisyon (Blessing of the Faithful) - people catch the droplets of holy water during the blessings after the masses

What makes this statue so unusual? Why are these people so fanatically and emotionally gripped by the Black Nazarene? Where did this statue come from?

Wikipedia stated that “The Black Nazarene derives its main title from the citizenship of Jesus of Nazareth, and its external local title regarding the present skin dark complexion of the statue. Atop the statue's head are the three traditional "Tres Potencias" symbolizing the three powers of the Holy Trinity, which also symbolize the "Rayos" or rays protruding from the head of the statue as a form of a Christological halo used to identify Christ in mainline traditional Hispanic iconography. The statue's original body has lost several fingers over the years, and the original head has since been transferred several times onto a full-scale replica body by renowned Filipino sculptor Gener Manlaqui as commissioned by the Archdiocese of Manila. The statue also bears a large wooden cross with brass gold-plated ornamentation on its tip while the image's head wears a braided wig made of dyed abaca, along with its golden crown of thorns.”

In addition, the image wears an embroidered maroon tunic with gold thread floral patterns embroidered into the fabric, along with lace trimmings on the collar and cuffs. A gold-plated metal belt embossed with the image's name encircles its waist, with a golden chain-ball representing the Flagellation. The barefooted statue is in a genuflecting posture, symbolizing the agony and heavy weight of the cross. The image's wooden base is referred to as the peana, while its carriage or carroza used in processions is referred to as the Ándas (from the Spanish andar, "to move forward") and is pulled by devotees using a pair of 50-meter long ropes. The statue was made by an anonymous Mexican sculptor, and the image arrived in Manila via galleon from Acapulco, Mexico. Folk tradition attributes the dark color of the statue to a fire on the ship that charred the originally white skin. Church records in Intramuros note that there were originally two, identical images of the Black Nazarene brought to Manila. The first was kept in the San Nicolas de Tolentino church in Bagumbayan and was later transferred to Intramuros when the former was demolished. On January 9, 1787, the Archbishop of Manila, Basilio Sancho de Santas Justa y Rufina, ordered the transfer of the Black Nazarene to its present location within the Quiapo church. This Black Nazarene was destroyed in the bombardment during the Battle of Manila in 1945. The surviving image was given by the Recollect Order to the Parish of Saint John the Baptist, presently designated as a minor Basilica, and it has often been thought to be the one lost in the war. (Reference: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Nazarene)

The mystery of the Black Nazarene still continues today. To all our brethren in the Christian faith we greet you for this very important occasion a blissful and faithful Feast of the Black Nazarene.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 14, 2013.

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