Mahal na Itim na Nazareno. This is the Filipino name of the Black Nazarene, a 400 year-old wooden statue of Jesus, carrying the cross, and thought to hold miraculous powers.
It's venerated during the weekly Mass in a Basilica in Manila, but also in annual processions. The most famous is the procession held each January 9th. This festival has been celebrated in Manila for more than 200 years.
|photo from Reuters|
This Monday, about 3 million barefoot devotees thronged around the carriage carrying the statue as it slowly made its way through the city. Their hope was to have a chance to touch the Mahal na Itim na Nazareno, believing that it would bless them, heal them, or heal loved ones. Do you see the white handkerchiefs they are holding? Devotees throw them to the attendants on the cart, who wipe the handkerchief on the image and throw it back, believing that miraculous powers will be imparted through the cloth.
"The Black Nazarene will not let anything untoward take place," said one devotee who has attended the festival with his entire family for the last 40 years. "He will make miracles so that this feast will not be disrupted."
But the event is notorious for injuries and even casualties. This year nearly 600 people were treated for exhaustion, bruises and minor injuries in a stampede in the early hours of the parade and as people pulled and shoved. Dozens were hospitalized due to hypertension and fractures in the crush of people in Manila's narrow streets, the local Red Cross said. (Reuters)
As they carry their god through the street.
How grateful I am that it's not up to me to support my God.
It is His powerful person who bears me, who carries me.
Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
And I will bear you and I will deliver you.
He is found not in thronging masses of desperation, but in stillness;
it is here He is exalted.
Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
And the miracle that is needed most,
far beyond physical healing or temporal blessing
is His free gift of salvation, the eternal treasure.
Earthly blessings will end, 100% of us die, but His salvation is for ever.
...by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place,
having obtained eternal redemption for us.
The devotees of the Black Nazarene challenge me. Do I exert as much faith, as much energy in trusting the power of God?