Easter Vigil 2010: “I Do!”

Something profoundly amusing caught me last night during the Easter Vigil. I was carrying 27-month old Hans as he held the lit Easter candle with his right hand. He was wide-eyed over the steady flames in rows and lines from the choir loft to the outflow on the wing sides of the church. It’s those dotted darkness that remains so endearing to me through all these years, the simple interplay of paradox that a linear mind is easily silenced: Creation out of chaos, or the pregnant silence from the tomb. Meanwhile, the talo catcher that Mommy had cut out from a DVD cover had it underneath faces of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Being a chipmunk fan himself, the creatures also became his distraction as he punctuated the surrounding silence with a murmur: “Daddy, munks.” Amusing enough to me already to laugh. But the more amusing part came during the renewal of baptismal vows, my most awaited part. Because every after “I do” of the congregation, Hans overheard it and duplicate with an almost eloquent “I do” for both the west and east sides of the ritual.

I was thrilled that moment, having at the back of my mind that if there is one sacrament that Christians must pay with contemplative attention equal to the Eucharist in this age of postmodern chaos – it is BAPTISM. This is our common heritage from the Holy Trinity, a gift always with the goad for me to claim as boldly as i can: “I am loved. I am loved by the Father. I am safe in the Father’s arms, even in death.” The Cross is telling. The Resurrection is telling. It’s only a matter of saying “I do believe” in words, silence, and deeds.

I need the fire to keep saying “I do”.

So i keep…


Uncle Jose: Thirsting a Man’s Presence

Grief is in the air. What with all the ghastly news of murders and massacres we intuitively associate with MEN. Let’s tweak the issue a little bit. Men-victims of domestic violence seem a silent statistic, isn’t it? My Uncle Jose’s death was a case in point. I was not in his funeral rite nor have visited his grave yet and so I have been wanting to honor him in a small way through this tribute, while keeping in mind also the silent men-victims of domestic violence. Do souls read blogs also?

You were a man of short stature, burly and big-hearted. You were a model of compassion but also a family icon of disciplined ambition. Your life’s vision was as sharp as the command of your eyes; the steps to your dream, as snappy as your gait.

How else will I remember you except with admiration. I admire you foremost for taking charge of your life, and for your heroic journey to break free from the bondage of inherited male complacency. Yes, at a young age, I noticed you joining those drinking spree but only to celebrate from your abundance over your favorite wild boar’s meat. You were the male disciplinarian, with my flighty father often at the hot seat of your brotherly rebuke. To anybody you can be as straightforward as a steady judge. But you can be concern as a loving confessor. You were quite an integrated man.

Why you married in your 40s was not within my childhood curiosity yet. Perhaps as a dreamer, you had more control of your sexual impulse than any of the men in the family. I suppose you had your mind set on the way out of the cycle of complacency, of the wayward trend of family resources wastage, of the alcoholic alter ego, of the demeaning pull of poverty, or of the mess of marriage. Your delayed marital decision did not speak it seems of a poor aesthetic judgment. Assuming it was your free choice, you settled with a bonny mestiza rural girl way younger than you. You must have been ingenious in so many ways in that remote hometown of your wife. Slowly, I witnessed your shift of status from a run-of-the-mill construction employee to a rattan-enriched busybody. You were coming home blithe and bestowed with extra esteem. As a teen, I had breathed in your aura of confidence. There could be no smarter and sleeker man in the family above you. There was jubilation every time you rejoined the family during Christmas or town fiesta. You were always generous of your blessings and this generosity alone commanded respect from among your family and friends. My most vivid of your generous and sensitive spirit was how you bought my class awards and test scores every yearend. I remember how I would doggedly keep those exams because they were potential financial incentive upon your visit.

How you managed your wealth-generating rattan business in that remote place is beyond my retelling. There were only patches of stories about your praiseworthy demeanor in your business dealings, with your trademark soft-voiced diplomacy among the native rattan gatherers and your big-time buyers. I only heard the high level of your likeability among those you work with, evidenced by your being catapulted into a political office. Indeed, your success was as huge as those shiploads of rattan you supplied for your clients. I salute you for breaking frontiers!

Ah, but success, often, is escorted by the serpentine seduction of Satan. It is self-defeating for those ego easily swelled by its seeming eternal surfeit.The most evil of all happened to you, in the middle of your life of service and success: the total betrayal of your wife and your right hand guy who, in an adulterous connivance had murdered you. It was a couple of grotesque photos I received back in college – your body sprawled and bathed with your own blood in your own domicile. I couldn’t believe it – how the perpetrators could swelter with those relentless stabs of anger, horror, vile, ingratitude…of demonic force to the abysmal degree. God, forgive them. Your death simply silenced me in a painful way and for years.

“When we meet love, we kill love,” wagered theologian Brendan Lovett on the innocent death of Jesus. Perhaps, you loved enough to be hated; you loved enough at your life’s expense. I believe you did. You died as a good man, father, uncle and friend but not the kind of death you deserve. Do I have the calming answer to your fate? I can only hope you now are enlisted in the League of the Nailed Innocents.

I apologize for this long overdue tribute; grief at that time was a word foreign to me. Over the years, I am learning its art and necessity. Please know I miss your big man’s heart for the world. May your peaceful spirit joining Great Spirit intercede for us – men who are still trying to break from the small and big bondages of this world.

Haiti: of Faith and Suffering

217,000 Deaths

300, 000 Injured

1 Million Homeless

Thousands of Protesters

A Number Violently Arrested for Looting

There’s not much to say these days about Haiti. Pardon me for using these images without permission, images that speak of the seemingly unspeakable suffering of the Haitians, very sacramental to command its own reverence, all enveloped in sacred silence. My earnest intention is simply to spread compassion. I pray the photographers will become instruments of touching further the conscience of the world.

Friday Fasting will be my simple way of knowing the face of your hunger, of what it means to crave even for crumbs…

New Year “by another route”

“And having been warned not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another route.” Mt. 2:12

Two things described as well my Advent and Christmas: sleep-deprived and overfed.

I don’t admit i’m getting insomnia, only sleep interruptions sometimes at midnight, but mostly around 3AM all the way to the hour-and-a-half away Simbang Gabi. But i suspect this is less of the dawn masses chain effect. It is more of the brain’s traffic during the day more activated by a pre-bed practice of mental silence. I’m finding out an hour of pre-bed mental silence is really interfering my sleep. A nighttime recollection may sound ideal a good centering of the spooks of activities of the day. But i recall an article i read years ago and slowly concede to its practical truth on how silence in its varied forms including Christian meditation or yoga becomes an impediment to an early, smooth slumber. Silence simply but deeply activates the mind.

It’s worthwhile to hear your experience in so far as pre-bed mental silence is concerned if you are into the practice, mindful that every experience is unique even if laden with commonalities we can resonate with.

So, one new-year-by-another-route i will pursue is to keep the practice of mental silence but not as a springboard to bed. Cursory reading, be they Scriptural or otherwise, or a pillow fight with Mommy and son will still close my waking hours. Beyond my knowledge, silence still works its way into my sleeping time even after a pillow fight.

Another new-year-by-another-route resolve relates to food. i admit i was overfed this season more from the generosity of others. To temper the season’s lavishness, i opted for dried fish during one lunch. The whole afternoon until midnight, i got so grouchy and restless, wanting to know what demon had been whipped up. Aha – that tempting salty dried fish (Eve is my mother, remember) scrambled my BP! It’s appalling how a couple of dried fish could terribly alter my biochemistry and mood, piquant enough for me to make pact for my health this year: avoid the imagination of it as a carinderia dish. Or simply avoid it this year.

Today is Epiphany Sunday. Or simply Manifestation Sunday of the Light who is God. Through the magi by a guiding star from the east towards the House of Bread otherwise known as Bethlehem.

Herod was freaking out. He doesn’t want to give up his kingly power, much more to the weakness of a mere child. He was obstinate about it, like people in power familiar to us. It makes me muse whether he really had a happy childhood because probably, all he sauntered with were power-grabbers.

So the magi said “No” to the Herodian ploy, not an easy thing by the way. “And so they departed for their country by another route.” Scripture scholars could suggest lifelong conversion of the magi as the deeper meaning of “another route”.

It may be so. Their “another route” could also be mine or yours. But i suspect only at the price of not taking for granted those small guiding stars unvarnished as sitting in calming and sometimes boring silence. Or pillow fights. Or dried fish signal.

Got fresh salmon, anyone?

Photo credit: Valley Views

Homosexuality and the Body of Christ

“The religious discussion of homosexuality often degenerates into a conversation about “them” — punctuated with fantasies of baths and bars, and studded with stories of promiscuity and perversion. These extravagances distract us from a simple truth, profound in its implications: we are the body of Christ and part of our body is gay and lesbian. Who are the homosexual members of the body of Christ? They are not “them”; they are “us.” They are our siblings and our children, our friends and our fellow-parishioners. They are persons like us, striving to live generous lives of maturing faith. They are the ministers among us — priests, religious, lay — who, knowing themselves to be lesbian and gay, struggle to serve with integrity in a church that proclaims publicly that their innermost inclinations are shameful and base.”

James and Evelyn Whitehead

Lovey Dovey Moment with the Vicar of Dibley

This top British sitcom is memorable to me as part of our modular classes on spirituality. The main actress, Anglican vicar Geraldine Granger is described by Wiki as:

“a “babe with a bob cut and a magnificent bosom”. She is a bonne vivante and a large, liberal woman who enjoys nothing more than a good laugh, much to the consternation of David Horton. Despite her fun-loving and sometimes outrageous behaviour, she is deeply caring and does her best to help those in her parish in any way she can. She is well aware of her obesity but seems to take a relatively laid-back attitude towards it. A self-confessed chocoholic, she often will go on a diet only to break it within minutes by eating one of the innumerable chocolate bars that she has hidden throughout her house (even in hollowed-out Bibles).”

Enjoy another hilarious YT clip of the sitcom here:

My Silent Madness

With my bike, i was out alone last moonnight in a churchyard that is becoming my mall of silence. You can make me sit and face an empty wall and give a reading on Gibran while everyone in the house snores audibly. Such a tryst is more than consuming a half-gallon of Selecta ube ice cream to me. (I often think of food indulgence these days as a rebellion against the human spirit’s craving to be simple and sacrificing in small, many ways.)

But nothing beats going out into the wild expanse of Nature, peering through my minute eyes into its uncontainable vastness, being awed endlessly by its seemingly eternal presence. The past 2 weeks had been alternate nights of clear, star-dotted and cloud-shrouded skies, as the moon gradually without maneuvering other physical beings around her, revealed its full grandeur. Last night, i was one witness, wondering over its seemingly late showdown from the horizon. The security guard likewise wondered when at 9PM, the moon emerged with its melon-hued fullness from the veil of clouds like a 6AM sunrise. We are in for longer nights and shorter days plus the cool breeze i can only savor in silence.

I walked to and fro on the concrete ground, craned my neck upward to wonder with the stars and the festival of celestial lights crowned by the lunar light. Priceless! Incomparable to any man-made entertainment!

But even the simple thought of joining their silent festivity could shock a consciousness hardened by noise. The human mind tends to think, imagine, plan, worry, or chatter endlessly so that submission to the silence of the moon and the stars is no eating of a Red Ribbon choco moca crunch. It takes some efforts and intention – from foregoing TV time to saying no to a child’s after dinner cajole to play. Just around 200 meters outside the churchyard is a bustling street. I have to be conscious of the difference between a city street and a silent churchyard because each demands two different kinds of consciousness: the city – at least an awakened sense of control and mindful activities (hindi pwedeng patanga-tanga sa kalsada); silent churchyards, or any ground of silence – of carefree, no wristwatch wondering.

In silence, time is less segmented into minutes, hours or days characteristic of city life because Silence is the Great Uniter of past, present, and future. It’s where i’m going in the ultimate sense of the word. And so you are. Never too bad to get to know it in the fullness of the moon and the glow of the stars. Tonight, i might go out again, moonless or otherwise, pedal from a city-consciousness to Nature-mindfulness, leaving behind a sleeping mother-and-child, believing that the silence that charges my being effuses and blesses everyone around me in return. Tonight, i will empty my mind again, leaving up to Silence to fill it. And i can tug some into the space because Nature is always community-minded.