Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cuaresma (if you do not wish to be Catholic/Christian/religious, stay clear of this post)

I've been feeling extremely restless due to the conflicting thoughts and emotions I have experienced in the past 12 (and more!) months, so much so that all I've been doing is pray desperately, like in the unfinished choral psalm of Henry Purcell: "Hear my prayer, O Lord / and let my crying come unto Thee." Yes, that's pretty much it - I don't even know where to begin defining what the cause of my desperation, dissatisfaction and depression is. The reason is actually the sum of so many things. And what's even more frustrating is that things are actually starting to look up for me, considering my personal history, so why do I still feel this way?

I began my search by going to the Relics of the Passion visiting Exhibit in Makati Medical Center's Chapel in Makati City on March 2nd. The event was hosted by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila, and organised by the Apostolate for Holy Relics. I'm still very sorry I wasn't able to bring any friends; it was a spur-of-the-moment visit with Dad, who had found out that the exhibit would last only till that day (it ran from February 24th to March 2nd ... right on time). Here are some photos, with matching information from the accompanying information booklet:

This is basically what the exhibit was. Of course, it is airtight to protect the small items within, which are said to bear the DNA of Our Lord Jesus Himself. (It's sad though that, with all the manhandling through the ages, it's actually safe to assume that it ISN'T all His DNA anymore...)

A portion of cloth which touched Veronica's veil (hidden in the framed photo) and some reliquaries. The one most visible at left contains a piece of the Crown of Thorns, the one in the middle is said to have a portion of the items from the Upper Room (more on that later), and the one at the right keeps a piece of the Holy Column of Flagellation.

Left: Mensae Coenae DNJC - according to the booklet, this relic is "from the table or the upper room (I'm quoting almost verbatim here) where the Last Supper took place.
Right: The Holy Column of Flagellation - according again to the booklet, the column against which Jesus was scourged was "transported from Jerusalem to Rome by John Cardinal Colonna, one of the leaders of the north Crusade, in the year 1223, and was placed in his title church of St. Praxedis." That's all. :S

Clockwise: Reliquary of the Lance/Spear of St. Longinus, frame reliquary containing the part of what once wrapped the burial Shroud (of Turin?) of Christ, and the replica-reliquary of the Holy Nails.
Lance/Spear of St. Longinus - This is said to contain part of the lance/spear which pierced the side of Christ to ensure His death; a few other bits are said to be found in one of the four pillars over the altar in St. Peter's Basilica. Its owner, Longinus the centurion, is credited to have said, "Indeed, this was the Son of God." He soon converted, left the Roman Army, worked with the Apostles, and became a monk in Cappadocia; he was shortly arrested and beheaded hereafter, with part of his body buried somewhere in the church of St. Augustine in Rome.
Sindonis DJNC - The relic contained inside is believed to have come from the exterior wrapping that would contain the burial Shroud (of Turin?) when it was not travelling or simply being venerated.
Holy Nails - The nails contain filings from the true Holy Nails, three of which have been lost due to natural and supernatural reasons. Only one nail survives, in Sta. Croche church.

Also, during Holy Week, I took two "online retreats" ("online recollections" would be a better term, considering none of the retreat modules last longer than 1 hour). The first would be Meeting Places, run by Fr. Johnny Go of the Society of Jesus and hosted by the Philippine Jesuits' official blog site. The second is the Holy Week Retreat Special on Video run by noted lay preacher Bo Sanchez on his video-streaming blog site Preacher in Blue Jeans. (Special thanks to my dear friend CJ Latosa and Ms. Lori Tongco for the online retreat recommendations. And, the website of the Philippine Society of Jesus is also handling Easter/post-Lent mini-retreats called "Easter Moments.")

I am learning that the reason I continue to feel restless is because I am still as infirm spiritually, morally, emotionally and even mentally as I used to be. I am still very painfully shallow and heavily set on my exterior self, as indicated by my still-strong fandoms for animanga and video games, and my rapidly returning passion for fashion. I still hate looking inside myself, especially because I don't like what I see. So much for maturity heh. The stress and duress of living have gotten to me, but since I just can't afford to go on an out-of-town retreat, I am very glad I found these online "retreats" so that I can reflect peacefully, detached from the rest of the world for a few cherished minutes. It amazes me every single time that just when I thought I knew everything I needed to know about my religion, my personal beliefs and myself, a few seconds of meditation will obliterate all of that, and force me to re-evaluate. It amazes me that I am still so undeserving of God's sacrificing love, and that I have already lost so much of myself - or, rather, what I used to be - in the world. It's sad. There is no way you can return to the past, after all. But now I am determined to be more alert with my thoughts, words and actions in the present, and to hopefully make better decisions for my own future. And hopefully, I can make do without the online shopping pages I have now become a slave to...

I will acknowledge that I am an avowed Roman Catholic, and it scares me that the one I love is not religious, not because he does not believe at all, but because he has a whole other system of belief that I really cannot understand. I am trying my very best to see everything from his point of view, but I guess the key difference between us is that my faith and my experiences have always been intertwined, while he bases his beliefs from his experiences, and can even keep the two separate. I am hoping and praying this won't be a source of conflict later on, since we're compatible in many other ways. I am going to anticipate the worst though, and try to make our relationship work no matter what.

Which reminds me, since I couldn't find the original recording of UP ICTUS singing the psalm by Purcell, I found some videos of other choirs rendering it. (Being a choral geek, I couldn't pass this up. Some of the best songs have always been the depressing ones, and this is an excellent example. XD;)

This first one is by the Choir of Clare College Cambridge. This choir's version is very nearly perfect in pitch and timing; the beauty of the song is because of the thickly textured polyphony inherent in it, given that the lyrics are composed of only two phrases and repeated throughout the entire course of the song.

This second one is by the Monteverdi Choir. Their pitch is a bit off (like, a step or so lower) and the Spanish pronunciations of the choir stick out during the entire song, but the video makes up for it by featuring only the soprano, alto and tenor 1 sections (both notations and lyrics), making the song fairly easy to follow - perfect if you can't get a copy of the original notations online.
I sang soprano 2/mezzo-soprano with my orgmates/choirmates, and I was pleasantly surprised that although I can't remember reading the notes, I could still follow the flow of the song through this video.