COVID-19 cancels ‘only’ the Lent activities, not the faith
CEBU CITY, Philippines — The sight of faithful carrying palm fronds weaved as crosses to church on a Palm Sunday ushers the start of the Holy Week and nearing the end of the season of Lent.
For Carmelle Claire Therese Estenzo. a youth volunteer at the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish in Danao City, northern Cebu, the Palm Sunday tradition or “Domingo sa Bindita sa Lukay” is a gathering of faith that she would always look forward to.
Read more: Palm Sunday and palm crosses
The people falling in line as they waited for their palm fronds to be blessed, Estenzo said, showed how individuals from all walks of life could be brought together in celebrating one faith.
“Symbolic kaayo ang people bringing palms, mo-wake up very early and gather together in front sa parish, professing their faith and all,” Estenzo told CDN Digital.
But this Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020, there were neither palm fronds, devotees or “physical” Holy Masses in all churches because of the threat of the coronavirus disease.
The Catholic Church in Cebu earlier announced the suspension of all Masses and lenten activities due to the public health crisis.
Instead of going outdoors and documenting Lenten activities, Estenzo, who heads the STVP’s Committee on Social Communication, manned the live streaming of their Palm Sunday Masses via Facebook.
While she believes that only the traditions and activities, and never the faith, were cancelled by COVID-19, Estenzo said she could not help but be emotional as she thought about how different the Palm Sunday Mass this year as compared to the past seven years when she started serving the Church.
“Karon murag mingaw. Tanan tawo naghandum nga magkahiusa. Tanan uhaw sa sacramental nga pagkalawat. Kahilakon ko ganiha pagmisa (Today the church is empty. All the faithful are one in wishing to be one in celebrating these event in church. All are thirsty of the sacrament of communion) because the priest stressed in his homily nga Palm Sunday is the shift between the triumph and tragedy — the triumphant entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem with people welcoming Him “Hosanna! Hosanna!” but tragedy because those were the same people who shouted “Crucify Him!” But it didn’t end there, He became triumphant again with His resurrection,” Estenzo said.
“It pains me knowing that we are on the same situation now. COVID being our present tragedy, but we know too that this won’t end here. That this will end, we just have to hold on and keep the faith,” she added.
Retaining the faith
Despite the sudden break in faithful traditions because of COVID-19, the 23-year-old church volunteer said what would be more important would be to retain the faith and to continue the practice of prayer.
“Sakit man tuod pamalandungon nga daw nahunong ni COVID ang atong mga tradition and activities, pero we know that we will still be one in prayer to commemorate Christ’s saving passion,” she said.
(It might be painful to think about it that COVID stopped our tradition and activities but we know that we will still be the one in prayer to commemorate Christ’s saving passion.)
Although there is no longer a procession of palm fronds and the parishioners now tune in to virtual Masses on Facebook and on TV, she said the essence of the prayers continue to be as solemn and important as during the time when physical Masses were held.
“For me lang, wala ang more dramatic and physical procession for the blessing of the palms pero in terms of solemnity sa Mass, wala man kaibanan. Wala lang tuod physical presence sa tawo or walay congregation, pero the liturgy, the Word of God, especially the Passion narrative makes it very solemn gihapon,” Estenzo said.
(For me, there is no dramatic and physical procession for the blessing of the palms but in terms of solemnity of the Mass, there is no lack of it. There is just no physical presence of the faithful or no congregation but the liturgy, the Word of God, especially the Passion narrative makes it still very solemn.)
Estenzo has also urged her fellow youth to have faith, hold on and continue their prayers even when they are at home.
“We may not be able to fully exercise our traditions like going to church and such, but we can still express our faith in our homes, in our hearts, in prayers and conversations with God,” she added./dbs
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