Every January 9, we witness the biggest religious procession in the Philippines, the one held in honor of the Black Nazarene. Some foreign senior friends of mine asked me about this religious image, so here are facts which I researched.
THE BLACK NAZARENE: AN INTRODUCTION
The Black Nazarene is a popular life-sized image of a dark-skinned, kneeling Jesus Christ carrying the cross. It is enshrined in the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene1 (simply called Quiapo Church), in the Quiapo2 district of the City of Manila3, Philippines.
This iconic image is called Poong Itim na Nazareno or Hesus Nazareno in Filipino, and El Nazareno Negro or Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno in Spanish.
The image derived its name from “Nazarene”, a title of Christ identifying Him as a native of Nazareth in Galilee.
Source of Picture: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ae/Black_Nazarene.jpg, by Constantine Agustin, https://www.flickr.com/photos/biagkensiak/857870853/
The miraculous Black Nazarene is venerated every Friday. Many devotees relate their poverty and daily struggles to the Passion of Christ4, as represented by this image. Devotees also believe that merely touching this renowned image could cure diseases, so it continues to attract more and more devotees from across the nation and even from overseas. A composite replica, however, was made in recent years for its processions.
Cagayan de Oro City, in Northern Mindanao, has an official replica of the Black Nazarene given by the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene1 in 2009. A replica of the Black Nazarene was also canonically enshrined at Saint Catherine of Siena Roman Catholic Parish in Reseda, California, USA. Another replica can be found at the Old Chapel of St. Rock the Healer Mission Center, Bishop’s Compound, Barangay Cawayan, Catarman, Northern Samar, where devotees venerate the image, especially on Fridays.
DESCRIPTION OF THE IMAGE
The Black Nazarene’s head wears a braided wig made of dyed abaca, along with a golden crown of thorns. Attached to the crown are the traditional “Tres Potencias” (“three powers”), or three rayos (“rays” symbolizing the three powers of the Holy Trinity), exclusively used for images of Jesus Christ in traditional Filipino and Hispanic iconography to signify His divinity.
The original image has lost several fingers over the centuries.
The barefoot image is shown in a genuflecting posture, symbolizing the agony and the weight of the Cross, along with the overall pain Christ endured during His Passion4.
The Cross itself is of black wood tipped with flat, pyramidal gilt brass caps.
The image is dressed in a heavy velvet tunic of maroon, embroidered with floral and plant emblems on gold thread, and trimmed with matching lace collar and cuffs. Around the waist is a gold-plated metal belt embossed with the word “NAZARENO”, while a golden chain ending in spheres is looped around the neck and held in the left hand, representing His Scourging5.
The many devotees of the Black Nazarene relate their poverty and daily struggles to the Passion of Christ4 as represented by the image of the Black Nazarene. His eyes and His mouth manifest the writhing pain He suffered and portrays a calling for someone to help Him carry the heavy cross. Anyone who focuses his eyes for some time on this image will be irresistibly moved with pity.6
The image was originally owned by the Recollects and was carved by an unknown Mexican sculptor using mesquite, a dark wood that was a popular medium in the 16th century in Mexico. The image was then transported to the Philippines in 1606 aboard a galleon from Acapulco. It arrived in Manila on May 31, 1606. It depicts Jesus en route to His crucifixion. A similar image called Cristo Negro7 is venerated in Portobelo, Panama.
It is said, however, that it was either charred by a fire on the galleon or its dark complexion was due to votive candles8 burning before the image. These still have to be proven.
Pope Innocent X approved veneration of the image in 1650 as a sacramental, and authorized the establishment of the lay Confraternity9 of the Most Holy Jesus Nazarene (Confradia de Nuestro Santo Jesus Nazareno in Spanish).
Pope Pius VII gave the image his Apostolic Blessing10 in 1880, which granted plenary indulgence to those who piously pray before it.
The Black Nazarene was originally enshrined in the high altar of the Church of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino11 (popularly known as the Recoletos Church), located some distance away from modern-day Rizal Park12, inside Intramuros13. Both the church and the image perished during the bombardment and the flames of the Liberation of Manila14 in 1945.
On January 9, 1787, the Recollects donated a copy of the image to the Church of the Camisa (one of Quiapo Church’s original names) and it has been housed there ever since. This “solemn transfer” of the image’s copy from Intramuros to Quiapo was later on celebrated by the faithful every January 9 by means of a procession (henceforth called the Traslacion). This image has withstood four centuries of fires, earthquakes, and even World War II.
The image presently enshrined above the main altar of Quiapo Church is a composite of the surviving copy’s head and a body-replica sculpted by renowned Filipino santero (saint-maker) Gener Maglaqui, who was commissioned by the Archdiocese of Manila15.
The other composite comprises the surviving copy’s body and the head of the Maglaqui replica. Enshrined in a direct part of the Minor Basilica16, it is the second composite which is used in the three major processions (see below). This arrangement began in the 1990s because of security concerns, and to better protect the icon. Until then, the image donated in the 18th century was used in whole during processions.
DEVOTIONS IN HONOR OF THE BLACK NAZARENE
Here are the devotions in honor of the Black Nazarene:
- Every Friday, except Good Friday, is called “Quiapo Day” in Metro Manila, where masses are held in the image’s honor. At the end of each Mass in this Minor Basilica16, devotees pay homage to the image by clapping their hands. Heads up on every Friday in that vicinity because of the heavy traffic due to the high influx of devotees.
- Paglalakad nang Paluhod – The reverential custom of “walking” on one’s bended knees (kneeling down posture) along the main aisle, from the entrance of the church, towards the image at the altar.6
- A nine-day annual novena17 in honor of the Black Nazarene starts midnight, December 31, with a procession in Quiapo2, Manila3, and continues until January 8.18 For the complete novena, days 1 to 9, visit: http://www.god-answers-prayers.com/jesus_christ_prayers/novena_prayer_black_nazarene/day1/index.html
A novena is also held every Friday, attended by thousands of devotees. A note is sounded before the novena begins as the devotees to the Black Nazarene troop in, reciting their strings of petitions.
- Traslacion19 – I will make a post soon.
- Pahalik – This “kissing” ritual of the statue is held during the eve of the Traslacion19, following the folk belief that a cloth can absorb the powers of a holy object, usually and specifically its curative abilities and blessings, originating from the ancient custom of ex brandea (cloth wiped on the bodies or tombs of the Twelve Apostles), itself part of the wider category of Third-class relics20.
- Pabihis–This “dressing” ritual refers to the changing of the vestments of the Black Nazarene which is done by a priest vested in a cope21 and stole22, and devotees either inside the Minor Basilica16, or outside, in Plaza Miranda23. It is performed five times a year during preparations for major religious occasions, and is open to the public.
- Pahawak– This refers to touching the statue or the garments of the Black Nazarene.6
- Pasindi (“lighting”) or lighting of multi-colored votive candles8 outside the Minor Basilica16.
Monsignor Jose Clemente Ignacio, rector and parish priest of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, said that over the years the devotion has increased. He identified three elements for such popularity: miracles and healing; the identification of the Filipinos with the sufferings of Jesus Christ; and, the Panata24 commitment.6
Karl Marx, a German philosopher, socialist revolutionary, sociologist, political theorist, historian, journalist and economist, said: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people,” according to the Wikipedia pages “Karl Marx”25 and “Opium of the people”.26 Other people also say that all these devotions, especially the wiping of the image, represent idolatry or fanaticism.
They may call it as such but how can you explain the conversion of devotees who previously led not-so-good lives? Genuine faith to the Black Nazarene has led to the miraculous healing of devotees. I, myself, witnessed the complete healing of my husband’s aunt who had a terminal sickness. Personally, I believe that we must respect one’s freedom of religion and his/her relationship with God for a meaningful, happy and contented life.
Pope Benedict explained popular piety in the devotion of the Black Nazarene. “I urge you to retain an appreciation for popular piety, which is different in every culture yet always remains very similar, for the human heart is ultimately one and the same. Certainly, popular piety tends towards the irrational, and can at times be somewhat superficial. Yet it would be quite wrong to dismiss it. Through that piety, the faith has entered human hearts and become part of the common patrimony of sentiments and customs, shaping the life and emotions of the community. Popular piety is thus one of the Church’s great treasures.” Pope Francis is also asking us to support and strengthen, understand and find meaning in popular piety.6
THE THREE PROCESSIONS OF THE BLACK NAZARENE
The image is brought out of the church three times a year:
- January 9, for the largest procession in the country, drawing millions of devotees for the anniversary of its translation19 or “solemn transfer” in 1787 from its original shrine inside Intramuros13 to the Minor Basilica16 where it is currently housed.
- Good Friday27, the Nazarene’s liturgical feast, commemorating the culmination of the Passion4; and,
- December 31, New Year’s Eve, the first day of its annual novena17. See Devotions above.
The information was obtained from the following Wikipedia pages: “Black Nazarene”28, “Quiapo Church”29 and “Translation (relic)”30.
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Viva, Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno!
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These footnotes are specially made for foreign viewers and those who would like to know more about the terms below:
1The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, commonly called Quiapo Church, is a prominent Mexican Baroque31 minor basilica16 in the district of Quiapo2, in the City of Manila3, Philippines. This minor basilica, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist32, is the home of the revered Black Nazarene. It was founded in 1586 by Fray Antonio de Nombela, OFM, and is under the Archdiocese of Manila15. You can visit its website: www.quiapochurch.com. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Quiapo Church”.33
2Quiapo is a district in the city of Manila3, in the Philippines, with 16 barangays34. It is the home of the Quiapo Church and known as a place for marketplace bargain hunting. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Quiapo, Manila”.35
3The City of Manila is the capital of the Philippines and the most densely populated city proper in the world. It was founded on June 24, 1571 and became the first Philippine chartered city, on July 31, 1901. It is the city where the Rizal Monument, Fort Santiago, Malacañang Palace, and University of Santo Tomas are located, among others. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Manila”.36
4The Passion of Christ, in Christianity, refers to the short final period in the life of Jesus, covering: the portent grievance of the Blessed Virgin Mary; His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper; His bleeding and Agony in the Garden; and, His crucifixion on Mount Calvary, defining the climatic event central to Christian doctrine of salvation history. In the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, the Passion is commemorated during the Holy Week, beginning on Friday of Sorrows, followed by Palm Sunday, and culminating on His death on Good Friday. NOTE: Passion comes from the Latin word passionem, meaning “suffering, enduring”. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Passion of Jesus”.37
5Scourging is the act of inflicting severe corporal punishment or self-mortification using a whip or lash, usually made of leather, according to the Wikipedia page “Scourge”.38
7Cristo Negro is a wooden statue of Jesus Christ carrying a cross, located in Iglesia de San Felipe, a Roman Catholic parish church in Portobelo, Panama. The life-size statue is carved of heavy cocobolo wood which is dark brown in color. It was found on the shores of the town’s harbor. It is adorned with a robe that is changed twice a year, wine or red in color during the Festival of the Black Christ on October 21, and purple during Holy Week. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Cristo Negro (Portobelo)”.39
8A votive candle, or prayer candle, is a small candle, typically white or beeswax yellow, intended to be burnt as a votive offering40 in an act of Christian prayer, especially within the Anglican and Roman Catholic Christian denominations, among others. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Votive candle”.41
9A confraternity is generally a Christian voluntary association of lay people created for the purpose of promoting special works of Christian charity or piety, and approved by the Church hierarchy. It is most common among Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and the Western Orthodox. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Confraternity”.42
10The Apostolic Blessing or Papal Blessing, is a blessing imparted by the Pope, either directly, or by delegation through others. Bishops are empowered to grant it three times a year, and any priest can do so for the dying. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Apostolic Blessing”.43
11Saint Nicholas of Tolentino (c. 1246 – 1305) was an Italian saint and mystic, known as the Patron of Holy Souls, and was canonized on June 5, 1446 in Vatican by Pope Eugene IV, the first Augustinian to be canonized. At his canonization, Nicholas was credited with 300 miracles, including 3 resurrections. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Nicholas of Tolentino”.44
12Rizal Park, or simply Luneta, is a historical urban park in Roxas Boulevard, Ermita, Manila3, in the Philippines. It is a major tourist attraction in Manila and a favorite leisure spot, especially on Sundays and national holidays. The execution of the national hero, Jose Rizal, on December 30, 1896, happened in this park, thus, the park was named after him. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Rizal Park”.45
13Intramuros, or Walled City, is the historic walled area within the modern city of Manila3, administered by the Intramuros Administration. It was the seat of government and political power when the Philippines was a component realm of the Spanish Empire.The Spaniards constructed the defensive walls in the late 16th century to protect the city from foreign invasions. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Intramuros”.46
14The Liberation of Manila was the result of the Battle of Manila from February 3 – March 3, 1945, during World War II. It was fought by American and Filipino forces against Japanese troops in Manila and resulted in the death of 100,000 to 240,000 civilians, 1,010 Americans, and 16,665 Japanese, as well as in the complete devastation of the city, destroying architectural and cultural heritage sites. The city’s capture was marked as General Douglas MacArthur’s key to victory in the campaign of reconquest. It is the last of the many battles fought within Manila’s history. With Intramuros13 secured on March 4, Manila was officially liberated, albeit completely destroyed with large areas leveled by American bombing. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Battle of Manila (1945)”.47
15The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila is the archdiocese of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church in Metro Manila, Philippines, covering Manila3, Makati, Mandaluyong, San Juan, and Pasay City (except for Villamor Air Base and Newport City which is under the jurisdiction of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines), with headquarters in 121 Arzobispo Street, Intramuros13, Manila. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila”.48
16A minor basilica is a title given to some Roman Catholic Church buildings by apostolic grant or immemorial custom. Presently, the authorizing decree is granted by the Pope though the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disciple of the Sacraments49. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Minor basilica”.50
17A novena is an ancient tradition of devotional praying in Christianity, consisting of private and public prayers repeated for nine successive days or weeks. During a novena, the devotees make petitions, implore favors, or obtain graces by worshipping Jesus Christ, and ask for intercessions of the Virgin Mary, or the saints of the faith. Persons may express love and honor by kneeling, burning candles, or placing flowers before a revered statue. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Novena”.51
19Traslacion is the Spanish term referring to “passage” or “movement”. In Christianity, the transfer (or translation) of relics is the removal of holy objects from one locality for placement in another. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia pages “Black Nazarene”52 and “Translation (relic)”53. For the devotees of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo2, this term means the procession held every January 9 to honor the said statue.
20A Third-Class Relic refers to any object that is touched to a First- or Second-Class relic54. Most are small pieces of cloth that touched the bones of saints or touched the body or tombs of the apostles. NOTE: A First-Class relic is an item directly associated with the events of Christ’s life (manger, cross, etc.), or the physical remains of a saint (a bone, hair, skull, limb, etc.). A Second-Class Relic is an item that a saint owned (e.g., a shirt, glove, etc.) or frequently used (e.g., a rosary, crucifix, book, etc.). The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Relic”.55
21A cope is a liturgical vestment, i.e., a long mantle or cloak, open in front and fastened at the breast with a band or clasp, in any liturgical color. It may be worn by any rank of the clergy, and also by lay ministers in certain circumstances. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Cope”.56
22A stole is a liturgical vestment of various Christian denominations, consisting of a band of colored cloth, formerly usually of silk, about seven and a half to nine feet long and three to four inches wide, whose ends may be straight or may broaden out. The center of the stole is worn around the back of the neck and the two ends hang down parallel to each other in front, either attached to each other or hanging loose. It is almost always decorated in some way, usually with a cross or some other significant religious design. It is also often decorated with contrasting galloons (ornamental trim), and fringe is usually applied to the ends of the stole following Numbers 15: 38-39.The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Stole (vestment)”.57
23Plaza Miranda is a public square bounded by Quezon Boulevard, Hidalgo Street and Evangelista Street, in Quiapo2, Manila3. It is the plaza which fronts the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene1 (Quiapo Church), and is considered as the center of Quiapo as a whole. It was inaugurated by Mayor Arsenio Lacson in 1961, named after Jose Sandino y Miranda, who served as the Philippines’ Secretary of the Treasury from 1833 and 1854. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Plaza Miranda”.58
24Panata is a Filipino term for a solemn promise or vow.
25“Karl Marx,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx.
26“Opium of the people,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_of_the_people.
27Good Friday is a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus and His death at Calvary, observed during Holy Week.
28″Black Nazarene,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Nazarene.
29“Quiapo Church,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiapo_Church.
30“Translation (relic),” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Translation_(relic).
31Mexican Baroque is a variation of Baroque architecture, a European style which is highly ornate and extravagant in style. It was introduced through Spain, then adapted to reflect the taste of Mexican indigenous works and criollo, i.e., Mexican-born Spaniards. It has the following characteristics: ornamentation (of most architectural facades and interior walls); hybridity (the combination of European and Spanish-Mexican/Armerindian aesthetic traditions/tastes); the use of azulejos, or ceramic tiles, in decorative patterns in the facade; the use of a wider array of materials (a technique called yeseria where plaster is carved into complex geometric patterns); the use of polished and gilded wood; the use of retablos, paintings of saints set in wood frames; and, the use of life-sized wooden statues of saints.59
32John the Baptist (late 1st century BC – 28-36 AD) was a prophet, even considered a saint, who baptized Jesus Christ in the river Jordan, according to the Wikipedia page “John the Baptist”.60
33 “Quiapo Church,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiapo_Church.
34A barangay is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines, headed by a barangay captain, aided by a Sangguniang Barangay (Barangay Council). It is the native Filipino term for a district or village. It was formerly called a barrio. In a metropolitan area, a barangay is an inner city neighborhood, a suburb, or a suburban neighborhood. The information was obtained from Wikipedia page “Barangay.”61
35 “Quiapo, Manila,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiapo,_Manila.
36“Manila,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manila.
37“Passion of Jesus,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passion_of-Jesus.
38“Scourge,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scourge.
39“Cristo Negro (Portobelo),” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cristo_Negro_(Portobelo).
40A votive offering, or votive deposit, is one or more objects displayed or deposited, without the intention of recovery or use, in a sacred place for broadly religious purposes. Some offerings are made in anticipation of the achievement of a particular wish. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Votive offering”.62
41“Votive candle,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Votive_candle.
42“Confraternity,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confraternity.
43“Apostolic blessing,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostolic_blessing.
44“Nicholas of Tolentino,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_of_Tolentino.
45“Rizal Park,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rizal_Park.
46“Intramuros,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intramuros.
47“Battle of Manila (1945),” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Manila_(1945).
48“Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholic_Archdiocese_of_Manila.
49The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is the congregation of the Roman Curia63 that handles most affairs relating to liturgical practices of the Latin Church64 as distinct from the Eastern Catholic Churches and also some technical matters relating to the Sacraments. Its functions were originally exercised by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, set up in January 1588 by Pope Sixtus V. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments”.65
50“Minor basilica,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minor_basilica.
51“Novena,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novena.
52“Black Nazarene,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Nazarene.
53“Translation (relic),” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Translation_(relic).
54A relic, in religion, usually consists of the physical remains of a saint or the personal effects of the saint, or venerated person, preserved for purposes of veneration as a tangible memorial. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Relic”.55
55“Relic,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relic.
56“Cope,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cope.
57“Stole (vestment),” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stole_(vestment).
58″Plaza Miranda,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plaza_Miranda.
60“John the Baptist,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_the_Baptist.
61“Barangay,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barangay.
62“Votive offering,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Votive_offering.
63Roman Curia is the group of administrative institutions of the Holy See and the central body through which the Roman Pontiff conducts the affairs of the universal Catholic Church. It acts in his name and with his authority for the good and for the service of the particular Churches and provides the necessary central organization for the correct functioning of the Church and the achievement of its goals. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Roman Curia”.66
64The Latin Church is a particular church of the Catholic Church. It is headed by the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, with headquarters in the Vatican City, enclaved within Rome, according to the Wikipedia page “Latin Church”.67
65“Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congregation_for_Divine_Worship_and_the_Discipline_of_the_Sacraments
66“Roman Curia,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Curia.
67“Latin Church,” accessed December 30, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_Church.