If you are a catholic devotee or you want to try new ways to contemplate during this season, here are some of the notable Filipino Lenten traditions that may help in strengthening your faith and pondering how to be a better Christian.
Philippines is considered as the third largest Catholic country in the world. In the recent 2020 census, it showed that the roughly 80% of the Filipino population is Roman Catholic. With this, it entails that religious acts of devotion to Roman Catholicism are considered important in the spiritual life of the majority of the population. One of the most awaited events for Roman Catholics is the Lenten Season in which it reminisces the struggles of the Lord Jesus Christ to save us from our sins. This season is also the perfect time to repent for our sins and contemplate with how we should live our lives according to the scriptures of God. Repentance and contemplation are fulfilled through different Lenten practices in the Philippines.
What is Lenten Season?
Lenten season is a 40-day period of prayer, fasting, abstinence and other acts of penance. It is also a preparation for the second coming of Jesus Christ, our savior, through resurrection. During these times, we try to seek the will of God by reflecting on our Christian life and strengthening our faith to Him through different acts of penance. Lenten season or lent is more than just fasting or abstaining from pleasurable things in life. Lent is more about the inner conversion of our hearts to be a better Christ follower. This is also the period to remember that we are sinful and the Son of God sacrificed Himself by being crucified to save this world from our sinful acts. With this, lent might be considered one of the most important periods to honor and praise God for his kindness. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” this is what is stated in John 3:16 and it sums up how much God loves His creations to the point that He made His son struggle and experience the cruelty of this world to save us from our trespasses. So, this season is sentimental for Roman Catholics especially to devotees because this is the perfect time to ask for forgiveness and appreciate the love and greatness of God to Its people.
Most Common Filipino Lenten Traditions
1. Palm Sunday
Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Lenten season, but Palm Sunday marks the beginning of weeklong and most important activities happening during lent. Nevertheless, this event reenacts the arrival of our savior, Jesus Christ, in Jerusalem which was celebrated by the people by waving woven palm fronds or “palaspas” in Filipino. With this, the occasion implies that Jesus Christ is here again to save us from our sins so we need to surrender ourselves and ask for God’s forgiveness that we are sinful and imperfect children of God.
2. Fasting and Abstinence
Just like Jesus Christ, we need to make sacrifices and accept that we are nothing without God in our lives. So, part of the Lenten practices in the Philippines is sacrificing the luxurious and pleasurable lifestyle temporarily to devote our time for repentance. The most common way to practice this is to abstain from eating meat. But the Church suggests that fasting is done by having one meal a day and two smaller meals which should not exceed the quantity of your main meal. For other Christian religions, fasting includes abstaining from activities that pleasures you like browsing social media or playing videogames. Nevertheless, the true essence of fasting and abstinence is to strengthen spiritual health by depriving yourself and asking God for forgiveness and to fill the void in our lives. With fasting, we may be able to realize how needy we are and that anything that satisfies us is just temporary. Only God can fully satisfy our needs and complete the inadequacy we feel in our lives.
3. Visita Iglesia
This is usually done during Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The activity focuses on commemorating the passion of Jesus Christ through visitation of seven different churches. In every church visited, a prayer is being offered. Some mixed up visita iglesia with the stations of the cross as an alternative or addition to offering a prayer during their visit.
This is a theatrical drama showing the life and death of Jesus Christ. This is a way to commemorate the life of Jesus and his struggles. In this way, it touches the lives of Catholics through a drama showcasing how Jesus Christ tried to survive and surpass all the challenges in His life by staying faithful to God.
5. Pabasa or Pasyon
If you are not knowledgeable enough with the in-depth details of the passion of Christ, this might be the perfect Filipino Lenten tradition to include in your list. This activity involves chanting of “Pasyong Mahal” which narrates the journey of Jesus to fulfill a God-given purpose up to His death in this world. This is usually done by elders but if you want to know every detail on the life of Jesus, this is the best activity to do during Lenten season. In this way, you will be able to contemplate on how to be a better Christian through imitating or thinking of the best ways to embody and exhibit a Christ-like behavior.
Salubong happens every Easter Sunday where it reenacts the meeting of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ after He was resurrected. This marks the last day of Lenten season as this celebrates the second coming of Christ and the fulfillment of His mission to save us from our sins through salvation. In Filipino, this is commonly known as “Pasko ng Pagkabuhay”. Like Christmas, this event is a thanksgiving occasion as the resurrection symbolizes the success of Jesus in fulfilling His purpose as the Son of God and as our Savior.
7. Way of the Cross
This is similar to pabasa or pasyon as it reminisces the journey of Jesus Christ to save the humanity. However, this activity focuses on the last days of our Savior on Earth. It highlights the significant events that happened before Jesus Christ died on the cross. In this tradition, there are 14 stations and for each station there is an image depicting the highlights of Jesus’ suffering before he was crucified. For each, station a prayer is being offered.
This happens during Good Friday after the mass related to the seven last words of the Lord while He was crucified on the cross. This tradition is a procession which simulates the transmission of the death body of Jesus’ to his tomb. The procession also include statue of saints and notable people who accompanied Jesus in His journey to spread goodness and kindness during His short stay in this world.
Repentance: The Real Essence of Filipino Lenten Traditions
Every Roman Catholic country has its own way of commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But the most important aspect in practicing these traditions is knowing its true essence, repentance. Our practices will not have any meaning if our hearts do not repent from our sins to God. With this, lent is a period of self-reflection and strengthening our relationship with God.
In fact, some Catholic devotees visit places where they can find solemnity to self-reflect and pray to God. Nonetheless, the devotion of Filipinos are undeniably strong that is why some groups and locals are going extra with their Lenten practices so that the season will be more heartfelt and exhibit a mood which is perfect to repent on our sins and show our gratitude to the unconditional love of God to His people.
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