My first Holy Week here in Israel was rather special. I got to enjoy another tour of Jerusalem (for the 3rd time in 6 months), and Massada and finally, Jericho (Will be soon posting my happenings on this three magnificent places).
The Filipino Lenten Season, just like in any other Catholic nation, starts on Ash Wednesday. Sadly, I missed going to church on this day - so I was not able to have my forehead with the ash sign of the cross, which I never missed having while I was in Manila.
In this modern times, Filipinos now see the Holy Week more as a holiday, as we have the penchant for making the most out of it by holding family reunions, dinner parties, mahjong sessions, and going on out-of-town trips.
Well, it is not like a total merry-making week. Masses are still heard, the Holy Rosaries are said, Novenas and every known prayers are recited. It is just so unlike the olden times when things were more solemn.
In my younger days, I used to experience everything going to a halt during Lent. If we have to go out-of-town, it should be because of a religious retreat or excursion. No TV programs. Nothing on the radio, not even on AM - only static. No open malls and theaters. All roads lead to the churches. Everybody's quiet. No loud conversations. You could only hear the narrating and singing of the Passion of Christ in most barrios and cities.
The Holy Week is supposed to be the time for mourning, doing penance, fasting and abstinence, performing sacrifices and reflecting on our lives. It is the time for spiritual renewal. But nowadays, it is apparent that strict adherence to the religious customs and traditions during the Holy Week is not followed anymore. Ironically, we Filipinos have always been proud in saying that ours is the only predominantly Catholic nation in Asia. Yet, it is very apparent that these are just proud words that are not put into practice.
At least here in Israel, being alone and away from my family afforded me the opportunity to have a better understanding of the true meaning of Christ's suffering and death - that is, our Lord's unconditional love for us.