TODAY is the feast of Quiapo’s Black Nazarene, which the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy together with the millions of devotees formally call “Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno” (Our Father Jesus the Nazarene).
Tradition, romance, legend and folk Christianity cloak the devotion to the Black Nazarene. Some strictly doctrinal Catholics frown on the practice for they think the devotees are venerating only the image of Christ not Christ the Second Person of the Holy Trinity Himself. Perhaps scores of thousands—of the 10 or so million who go to the Luneta from dawn of January 8 and pray there to be with their beloved Black Nazarene image and join the procession on January 9 through Intramuros and Sta. Cruz districts before bringing back the blessed lifesize image to Quiapo Church—do worship the image like pagans and not the baptized Christians that they are.
We believe, however, that the massive majority of the 10 million or so who are devotees of Jesus, the Black Nazarene, know their Christian, Roman Catholic, doctrine. After all, and this is something Protestant, atheist and agnostic critics of the Black Nazarene devotees often do not take into account, these millions don’t just show up to express their faith and cry out their love for Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno on January 8 and 9. Most of them go to Quiapo Church almost every Friday and for sure every first Friday of the month to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus and His manifestation as the Nazareno. They also throng Quiapo church and its surroundings during the Lenten services, especially on Good Friday.
In these Sacred Heart and First Friday novenas, at the Lenten Masses, and in the mortifying lessons of the Seven Last Words on Good Friday, Black Nazarene devotees get lessons in sound doctrine. The priests of Quiapo, and the priest-monsignors and bishops, who preside over the liturgical and pastoral activities there, make stirring calls to live with gratitude to God for His painful sacrifice and death on the cross for the salvation of sinful men and women. They are always doctrinally correct. They often warn the masses against making the mistake of worshipping the awesome image of Christ the Nazarene and not the God-Man Christ who is the Incarnate God the Son conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There can be no doubt that the majority of Quiapo-church goers, who make up the millions who sacrificially participate in the January 9 Black Nazarene rites and procession annually, truly understand the essentials of their faith.
They are not pagans. But they are passionate Catholics. Their hearts are filled with sorrow for their sins, their need for God’s mercy, their hope to be saved from their desperate situations of distress, poverty and victimhood. They genuinely feel the awesome drama of God’s love for His people. They feel the Spanish Passion, from which, let it not be forgotten, Philippine Christianity came.