He was sprawling in the burning pavement. His company surrounded him, holding the huge wooden cross to prevent it from falling to him. Another man is on the end of a rope tied the other end to his waist. Pulling it slightly to intimate it is time to get up and move on. He tried many times but failed. He was so exhausted. Some of his friends are now trying to help him on his feet to complete the task. As we moved along the highway of Dinalupihan, Bataan, we have ran over on more cross-carrying lads. Some are trudging hard their way up to their destination, some have their bodies contorted by heavy cross, some, like the one I described first, slumped in the pavement almost at the brink of giving up.
On our way, we observed very few of flagellating penitents, that makes cross carrying as probably the favorite form of “panata” in that area.
One of my biking buddies tries to interrogate me. Mistaken probably to be a religious man, he wishes to extract an answer from me. He asks why those people are doing those excruciating pain to themselves. I decided to keep my silence. To be honest, I had a prepared answer to that question years ago, but now I too am confuse like him.
The truth is, all possible reasons were probably offered already. From selfless one as partaking with the suffering of Jesus, to personal as in form remission of one’s sin. Different fields of science have tried to evaluate the value of those justification adduced for self-inflicted harm during the observance of holy week. And many are quite convincing and have moved others to try the experience of imitating the suffering of Christ and follow the Via crucis. When most reports say that our farmers are about to disappear in a matter of time since no new bloods are taking their place, most of the people we have seen carrying that heavy wooden cross, however, are fresh generation. Many things in our society will surely go, but self-flagellation as pious observance of Holy Week is here to stay.
There the question of my friend returns to me. Why many remain enticed to it, of inflicting pain to oneself, that influx of new actors secure its continuity up to the coming generations? The source of my discomfort might be different from my friend’s. It is not more on inflicting pain to oneself, but the way we choose something to imitate from what Jesus did, and also said, which are all recorded in the Bible. Why imitating the most gory and horrible one? Does spilling your own blood much easier than to mourn with those who suffer? Does carrying an onerous wooden cross comes satisfying than taking the burden of maintaining peace? Does whipping your own body purifies you than simply having a pure heart? That bleeding yourself to death is easier than preventing the hunger and death of other people”?
Why we are so attracted to violence, that with so many things to imitate from Jesus we chose the bloody one?
Was it because our notion of post-Jesus salvation is by and large a product of this violent death of the “sacrificial lamb”? That our entire Christian faith is dependent now in this “foundational violence” that tacitly accorded violence with sanctity and rendered it necessary to achieve reform, renewal and rebirth? Inevitably eclipsing the Sermon of the Mount and the rest of saying and acts of Jesus that emanate from the moral rubric of justice and righteousness?
As I have said earlier, I am more confuse today than before. Happy Easter anyway!