pastoral letter

Should you blindly follow those Holy Week traditions?

By: Archbishop Socrates Villegas

Holy Week is about what Christ has done for humanity. Let the memory of God’s mercy sink in without any compulsion to do something. Just relish His mercy and bask in the radiance of His love. During Holy Week, tell God “Thank you.”

Holy Week is not what men and women do to make these days holy. It is not about what Catholics must do, nor is it about religious traditions and pious practices done to “feel good” after.

Fasting is good, but without malasakit (concern) for others, it is nothing. Prayer is good, but without remembering others and laying aside personal comfort, it is just an ego trip. Helping the poor and giving alms are good, but if you do it for show or to get a “feel good” reward later, it is just a noisy bell.

Can we go to the beach during Holy Week?

If it will help you love like Jesus, yes, you can. But if it will distract you from the story of His love, please don’t. The highest law is not silence but love. Silence speaks only if that silence is loving.

Do we need to visit churches during Holy Week?

That is good practice, but you might want to visit seven patients in the charity ward of a hospital instead and bring them some food. Choose to love.

Do we need to scourge our backs until they bleed to show atonement for our sins?

Instead of spilling your blood on the streets, why not walk into a Red Cross office and donate blood? Choose to share life. Share your blood.

Do we need to walk barefoot till our soles get blisters as a form of penance for our sins? Why don’t you buy a pair of slippers and give it to a child who goes to school dragging his torn footwear?

Do we need to sing the “Pasyong Mahal” as an act of devotion to the story of Christ’s sufferings and death? Why don’t you buy a Bible instead and read one chapter a day with your family for the rest of the year?

Do you need to get the flowers from the Holy Week carrosas to bring home and adorn your family altar? Why don’t you bring flowers instead to a home for abandoned seniors and brighten the faces of lonely grandparents with the love you bring?

Must the face look sour and gloomy during Holy Week? Love begins with a smile. Make someone happy this Holy Week. Make someone feel loved. With your smile, show that God is love.

Holy Week traditions vary from country to country. Holy Week practices evolve with time. For 2,000 years now, only one tradition has remained—the Christian tradition of Love. It is really not just a tradition. The first Christians were known to be the most loving of all. Love is our identity. This week is holy because of love. Love alone can make us holy.