One of the most obnoxious images I have seen this year is that of a young city mayor, a male, canopied by an umbrella by his bodyguard around midnight. The comical, if not infuriating thing was there was no trace even of a drizzle. It is a video from a CCTV at one of the gates of a posh village that belongs to the citydom of the mayor. The mayor, along with his convoy of 3 more SUVs coming from a party, wanted to pass through the gate but the security guards barred them by refusing to lift the boom because of the Village’s policy not to allow anyone to exit through the gate past 10PM. The option was for the mayor to drive a block away to exit. But his ego, fed by his political entitlements as a family political dynasty would not take it and wanted to prove to everyone else around that he was god. He dared to ask the guards: “Don’t you know me?” The tension took about 15 minutes as the mayor contacted the city police chief who arrived at the scene with police arrogance by forcibly lifting the boom, pointing fingers at the lowly security guards, then brought them to the police station without even the protocol of issuing a warrant of arrest and held them for 4 hours after being faithful to their job. Meanwhile, the mayor walked to and fro followed by an open umbrella. Then someone ingenious put this image alongside Barack Obama holding his umbrella as he deplaned in one of his trips and then Queen Elizabeth holding her own umbrella, smiling.
This is Philippines where politicians are more hungry than crocodiles for recognition, entitlements, or privileges. This is Philippines where success or so-called “dignity” is often measured in the manner of having been elected to a political office or have turned into a media celebrity and then get filthy rich while mastering the art of escape from any moral accountability otherwise known as impunity. And the young mayor, no doubt, had gazed on this image once as a child foremost from his father and cast his “faith” on the image. And the image is symptomatic of what is sickeningly cancerous in this country, pushing the already poor into deeper pits of poverty or its cycle.
Christmas may have a melange of images, mostly out of our consumeristic impulses. But it is highly probable that these images of lavishness especially in the consumption of electricity for all sorts of Christmas “lights” are forms of denial, of turning away from the truth of one particular image this country needs to be honest about. It is the image of the Child in the manger. It is the image of what Maggie Ross has termed as “inviolable vulnerability” – fragile yet truthful. The image is eucharistic – the Holy offered as “food” for our hunger for this eucharistic (self-forgetful) holiness. Paradoxically, the event happened in the outskirts, in the “little” town or “house of bread” also known as Bethlehem, away from the cities and posh villages of power tripping and games. The “manger image” here could also mean that the truth of our eucharistic capacity is more luminous than the lavish lights of Makati City – the citydom of the family, the manger lit by the seeming darkness and silence of the place rather than drowned by the noise of our usual self-parade and flaunting.
In our indecision or fear of this truth lurking in the seeming darkness and silence of our being, we over-lit our little homes and streets and those with more money and power easily turn trigger-happy and degrade the lowly. And people complain as if every Christmas has lost its magic, or at the least, a repetitious habit of putting up the Christmas lights and keeping those again after. But then again, Christmas is an invitation to the paradoxical joy of self-forgetfulness. The Child in the manger was already a forecast of Calvary in a subdued and simple gossamer of truth.
I found these lines from Maggie Ross’s Pillars of Flame: Power, Priesthood and Spiritual Maturity deeply moving:
“Our lives are promethean and the kenotic God rejoices; Christianity is audacious, but not presumptuous. We steal our light and the intensity of our lives from death, but we may not presume to sidestep death itself. I would rather choose that my taper shine brightly, penetrating the darkening edges of the unknown; I would rather that my taper be blown into a perilously bright flame in the Silence of God at risk of being extinguished by the force of the divine Breath, rather than have it gutter low and safely in still but dead air, where it finally goes out without having illuminated anything but its own closed space.”
A joyous Christmas everyone!
Image from lusile centerbog