A timely reminder
It was five centuries ago when the Pasos procession was first introduced in the Philippines by Spanish missionaries. Since then, the devotion has not died down.
From a tableaux of Jesus’ last supper with His apostles to an image of the dead Christ lying in repose, the Pasos procession has become part of the Philippines’ rich Holy Week tradition to commemorate the passion and death of the Lord.
But heritage enthusiast and renowned Cebuano church art collector, Dr. Clodoveo “Louie” Nacorda, sees the need to revisit the tradition to make sure that people fully understand the meaning behind the images that portray Jesus’ final hours on earth instead of just simply identifying the personalities involved in the story of redemption.
“The Pasos are meant to instill in the hearts and minds of the faithful the price of our redemption and the love of God as shown by the willing sacrifice Jesus Christ made to redeem mankind from the slavery of sin,” he said during his lecture on “Pasos de Cuaresma” (Lenten Pasos) at the Casa Gorordo Museum.
The ultimate goal of the Pasos processions, he said, is the strengthening and renewal of the faith.
“Religious processions are public manifestations of the faith. It is a prayer in motion and as such, proper disposition and behavior are required,” Nacorda said.
Derived from the Spanish word paso or step, the Pasos procession takes the faithful back to Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice to save mankind over 2,000 years ago.
The procession, which is usually done twice on Holy Week, includes solitary images of the sorrowful Blessed Virgin Mary, the apostles, and the women disciples who stayed with Jesus before He breathed his last.
The oldest known image of the Pasos in the Philippines, Nacorda said, is the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno of Quiapo, Manila, which was brought by the Augustinian Recollects from Mexico in 1606.
In Cebu, the Saints Peter and Paul Parish of Bantayan town on Bantayan Island have the biggest number of religious images and tableaux depicting the passion and death of Jesus.
The original processional images were listed by former parish priest Fr. Leoncio Aguilar in a June 1887 inventory which can still be perused in the parish’s archives.
At present, 33 heirloom images and tableaux of the passion of Jesus Christ are brought out during the Good Friday procession in Bantayan town.
Also popular for their pasos images in Cebu are the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Catherine of Alexandria in Carcar City, National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City, the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, and the St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Balamban town, west Cebu.
The common passion tableaux include the last supper, the agony in the garden of Gethsamane, Jesus’ arrest and trial before Pontius Pilate, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the cross, the crucifixion, La Pieta or the image of the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus, and the burial of the Lord.
Another image, not possessed by all parishes, is the Señor Desmayo which depicts how Jesus fainted after He was whipped 39 or 40 times.
According to Jewish law, a person who was to be scourged must receive not more than 40 lashes, Nacorda said.
A “whip of mercy” brings down the number to 39.
Records would show that a Roman scourge had three leather ropes attached to a wooden handle.
On each length of the rope, there would be a number of bone pieces attached at intervals of every three inches.
With the sharp edges, the bones cut deeply into anybody’s skin, shredding their flesh.
Aside from the tableaux of Jesus’ passion and death, key personalities who accompanied Jesus in His final hours are also presented in the pasos, or the religious images that portray Jesus’ final hours on earth.
Among them are Jesus’ sorrowful mother, popularly known as the “Mater Dolorosa” (Sorrowful Mother), St. John the Evangelist, St. Peter, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Mary Jacobe, St. Salome, and St. Veronica.
St. John was the only apostle who remained with Jesus in Calvary.
On the other hand, St. Mary Magdalene, the woman Jesus freed from seven demons was among the few who were on the foot of the cross; and who on Easter Sunday morning Jesus sent to tell the apostles that He had risen from the dead.
Contrary to earlier claims, Nacorda said, there has been no sufficient proof that St. Mary Magdalene, her image bringing a bottle of perfume, was the same woman portrayed as a prostitute in the Scriptures.
St. Mary Jacobe, depicted as carrying the flagrum or Roman whip, or in some images a broom, was the mother of St. James the “lesser one” of the apostles of Jesus; while St. Salome, another follower of Jesus, is depicted bringing incense.
By tradition, the woman who wiped the bloodied face of Jesus using her veil was known as St. Veronica.
St. Martha of Bethany, who prepared meals for Jesus and his disciples, joins the women in the passion of Christ.
The other personalities in the passion of Christ were Joseph of Arimathea, a follower of Jesus, who along with Nicodemus, a Pharisee came to see Jesus one night to clean and bury the body of the Lord; and St. Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced the side of Jesus and was eventually converted.
Nacorda said the image of the repentant St. Peter usually leads the pasos procession and the sacred walk on Good Friday since the icon embodies the essence of Lent which is repentance.
“The St. Peter you see in the pasos is the image of the apostle who denied Christ three times, never lost hope, and repented. He represents the true essence of Lent because he mirrors all of us, sinners, who should find our way back to God,” he said.
Nacorda said the Pasos images must remind the people, including their respective owners, to ponder upon the sacred passion of the Lord.
“The images of the passion constantly remind us how much God loves us, and what he did to save us from eternal death. Being devoted to the images should bring us closer to Christ,” he said.
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