Visita Iglesia

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011


SO what is it really? Seven? Thirteen? Fourteen? How many churches do we really need to visit today, the fifth day of the Holy week aka Maundy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Holy Thursday, Great & Holy Thursday, Thursday of Mysteries? Even this day has been referred to with so many names!

The observance of the sacrifice of Jesus for humanity is the holiest in the Christian calendar. Since the day He was nailed on the cross and saved the world, man has committed unaccountable sins anew. The church takes over and assigns a corresponding penance to the sinners as they take their turn in the confessional box.

Bless me father of I have sinned, my last confession was ________(fill in the blank)..
For your penance, say one Our Father and one Hail Mary. (Depending on the gravity of your sins.)
For a few, "self-medicating" is the way to go and taking it to extremes- flagellation and reenacting the crucifixion. They are probably stocking up for future sins.

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To some, the Way of the Cross is their devotion. A spiritual route which started in the fourth century to commemorate the Passion of the Christ in Jerusalem, the seven-stationed Via Dolorosa.

A pilgrimage to the Via Dolorosa is not possible to all and was deemed "not as important as the spiritual pilgrimage." Maybe this was the reason why the stational services were established in the west in the 18th century. It then included the crucifixion scenes thus doubling the number of stations.

Consequently, the number of churches to be visited on Maundy Thursday must have rooted from this Catholic devotion. So seven or fourteen church visits is good. I may have done the Stations of the Cross before, but it is not until today that I found out the reason for the numbers.

But do the numbers really matter? If you believe one church is good, then go for it, most especially if you find yourself in a foreign land on this holy day.

If you're in New York City today and a personal devotion must remain unbroken, then you should be heading to the seat the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the city, the Cathedral of Saint Patrick. Commonly referred to as St. Patrick's Cathedral, this 1976 declared National Historic Landmark on the East side of Fifth Avenue, between 50th and 51st Streets in midtown Manhattan and directly fronting Rockefeller Center, is a must-see as much as your must-pray in.

This Gothic cathedral designed by Architect James Renwick was completed in 1878 after twenty years since it began construction, this was the realized vision of Rev. John Hughes. The old-world design of this ecclesiastical structure stands uniquely contrasting against the modern box type architectural skyline of the Big Apple.

If the magnificently designed exterior put you in awe, the sight of the interiors will give you the goose bumps. This house of veneration is filled with works by great artisans- the great rose window by a renowned American artist, Tiffany & Co. designed altars, a larger replica of the Pieta by an equally as talented Italian sculptor, and many more. Once you have snapped out of your "inside the museum reverie", then you can proceed to what you came in for in the first place- your Way of the Cross.

Going through the cathedral's three-dimensional depiction of the Passion of the Christ, you cannot help but admire and stare at the magnificent artistry of all fourteen stations. I wouldn't be surprised if you get the feeling that you are viewing the entire incident while it is taking place. Maybe you are not alone, the judges in 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois must have felt the same thing back then, they awarded the blue ribbon for artistry to this cathedral's sculptural rendition of the Station of the Cross.

This single church visit will do, indeed. It's a special one you get to remember for a lifetime.

But the Visita Iglesia with my Davao friends, we do thirteen. Why? I have no idea. Nevertheless, in their company, I get to pray, visit this much Davao churches (at least once a year), and get to have a couple of treats after- a fresh start and halu-halo.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 21, 2011.

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