Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Easter people just as much as a Christmas people

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Happy Easter to all my readers!  Easter is such a joyous occasion that even Mother Nature celebrates it. In our country, with its searing temperatures during the Holy Week, the hope is that the succeeding days after Lent would bring cooler weather. In the temperate countries the change is more dramatic, as Easter Sunday always occurs after the first full moon in spring.  In this new season of the year nature ushers in its renewal in the greening of shrubs and bursting of flowers, after a dark season of long hoary nights and shrubbery laid fallow.  While winter generally depresses a lot of people, they feel good and upbeat in the spring with its cool nippy weather. In fact in New York City, the Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue is an iconic event held every year, where the ladies don fancy hats of all sizes and shapes and gay apparel and enjoy one another’s company as they parade down in the springtime. 

Deeper meaning of Easter

But it's in the spiritual sphere is where the deeper meaning of Easter lies. Recently a survey came out here which showed that the Filipino people value Christmas more than Easter---true to the observation that we are more of a “Christmas people than an Easter people.” Proof is that while in the temperate countries families fly from various points just to get together for the Easter break, perhaps more than the Christmas celebration, in the Philippines, our loved ones fly or sail in from different directions to reunite with the family at Christmastime.

Perhaps we appreciate Christmas more than Easter because it’s easier to identify with, especially given the Pinoy’s penchant for children. Christmas is the Christ Child born in the manger, and as I’ve heard argued in the simplicity of the minds of local folk, if Christ had not been born as a human being, there would have been no Christianity.  Easter, however, is more abstract. Our faith tells us that Christ suffered and died on the Cross, but on the third day He rose from the dead; thus, truly, if he did not triumph over death, then He wouldn’t be the God deserving of our worship.

Christ was ushered into the world in a little stable in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph on that midnight the world now celebrates as Christmas, to begin the process of redemption that culminated on His paying the ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. But as was noted by civic leader and intense Pro-Life advocate Ma. Luisa Fatima Nebrida-Ballesty on our dzRH Easter Sunday show, it was His glorious Resurrection on that first Easter that firmly established His Divinity.

The story of Easter as told by Matthew

The New Testament relates in St. Matthew, 28: 1-10, that late into the night of the Sabbath going into the third morning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the sepulcher owned by Joseph of Arimathea, where the Master was laid to rest after his crucifixion.  After a great earthquake an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and drawing near, he rolled back the stone of the sepulcher and sat upon it. The angel, whose “countenance was like lightning, and his raiment like snow,” told the women after the terrified guards had fled, that Jesus whom they sought “has risen even as he said.” The angel took them to see the now-empty tomb and bade them to “go quickly, tell his disciples that he has risen; and behold, he goes before you into Galilee; there shall you see him.”  

And as the two women departed quickly from the tomb “in fear and great joy,” lo and behold! Jesus met them, saying “Hail” and “they came up and embraced his feet and worshipped him.” Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go, take word to my brethren that they are to set out for Galilee; there they shall see me.” Days later He appeared to two disciplines on their way to Emmaus and later to the Apostles assembled in Galilee.

This is the significance of Easter Sunday which the whole Christendom celebrates today---it’s the remembrance of His conquest of death and sin that firmly established His divinity.

Experience of a Lifetime

One of my most treasured experiences in life was my entire family’s trip to the Holy Land in Holy Year 2000, where we retraced with several dozen other pilgrims, organized by Arlina Onglao of “Journeys of Faith” the footsteps of Our Lord from the Annuciation of Mary’s motherhood, to Christ’s birth and ministry, and His bitter passion and death on the Cross.  For me our trip’s climax was the visit to the gigantic Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, wherein is housed under one roof the mount of Calvary where he was nailed on the Cross, the tomb where He was interred and nearby the tomb of the rich faithful disciple Joseph of Arimathea

We climbed up a wooden platform on Calvary where Church authorities have reconstructed three huge crosses with life-size statues of  Christ and the two thieves. Interestingly, as we meditated on the Calvary scene, a Franciscan priest beckoned to me to follow him to a room at the rear where he  showed me the deep hole which had once held one end of the True Cross;  my mind raced at the thought that Christ’s precious blood had poured into that hole.  

As we filed past the Holy Sepulchre and the long granite slab where Christ’s sacred body was lain after it was taken down from the Cross, the details of the Passion and Crucifixion became so vivid and the solemnity of these religious monuments engulfed us all.  I sat by the granite slab for so long, just imagining how He lay there. Afterwards, we were allowed to walk around the cavernous church and I imagined how Christ met the two Marys that early dawn of Easter, after their terrified encounter with the angel who first delivered to them the message that Christ had risen.

Indeed I would recommend a visit to the Holy Land for anyone---it’s guaranteed to be your experience of a lifetime.

John Paul’s intercession

My good friend Mely Parungao of Ayala Alabang recently told me that these days many of her friends are recounting their experiences with Pope John Paul II, who, it seems, has been showering his devotees with intercession graces these days, in the run-up to his beatification in Rome on May 1. I do not doubt the shower of graces through JPII’s mediation, for just as Catholics believe that God sees to it that the hands of a newly-ordained priest are a source of many blessings, JPII’s coming big event should be far richer in intercessions. For those who would want to take advantage of special graces through his intercession, allow me to reprint here the official prayer for private devotion to Blessed John Paul II:

“O Blessed Trinity, we thank you for having graced the Church with Pope John Paul II, and for allowing the tenderness of your Fatherly care, the glory of the Cross of Christ, and the splendor of the Spirit of Love, to shine through him. Trusting fully in Your infinite mercy and in the maternal intercession of Mary, he has given us a living image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and has shown us that holiness is the necessary measure of communion with You. Grant us, by his intercession, and according to your will, the graces we implore, hoping that he would soon be numbered among your saints. Amen”

Kanapi family draws consolation from Easter

By the way, my good friend from our Camp Aguinaldo days, Erlinda Lopez-Kanapi and her children laid to rest this Easter morning the cremated remains of her husband, Brig. Gen. Angel G. Kanapi (ret.), former PMA Superintendent and later Chief of Toyota Philippines, who died after a painful bout with cancer.  It’s doubly painful for Linda as they have been married for 52 long happy years; she asked her widowed friends how they cope with such passing of a loved partner.  I can only think of how her burying him today brought the message of Christ’s Resurrection into sharper focus and a deep consolation for bereaved families: how for us Christians the immortal souls of our loved ones pass on to a new life of hope with the Heavenly Father. 

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