Over lunch with Anj, she pointed out that we hadn't had lunch together since December. I found that a little shocking, and sad. We did schedule a few get-togethers, but none of them pushed through, for various reasons. We had that conversation that we've had a million times before, about how as we grow older, people are moving in so many different directions, in different worlds. Sigh ....
As Iraqi Shi'ites (which comprise the majority of the Iraqi population) chant "No to America, Yes to Islam!" on the streets, Washington officials are admitting that they failed to foresee the political complexities of a post-Saddam Iraq. A Reuters article in today's Inquirer reported that some U.S. officials have admitted that Washington was too focused on ousting Saddam and failed to understand the political dynamic of the people.
As the administration plotted to overthrow Hussein's government, U.S. officials said this week, it failed to fully appreciate the force of Shiite aspirations and is now concerned that those sentiments could coalesce into a fundamentalist government. Some administration officials were dazzled by Ahmed Chalabi, the prominent Iraqi exile who is a Shiite and an advocate of a secular democracy. Others were more focused on the overriding goal of defeating Hussein and paid little attention to the dynamics of religion and politics in the region.
"It is a complex equation, and the U.S. government is ill-equipped to figure out how this is going to shake out," a State Department official said. "I don't think anyone took a step backward and asked, 'What are we looking for?' The focus was on the overthrow of Saddam Hussein"....
Some U.S. intelligence analysts and Iraq experts said they warned the Bush administration before the war about vanquishing Hussein's government without having anything to replace it. But officials said the concerns were either not heard or fell too low on the priority list of postwar planning.
Meanwhile, here's a related opinion column from Asia Times Online that asks a few important questions: "[If] the American invasion was aimed at liberating the Iraqis and letting them have a free choice about their next government, then why is Washington imposing Donald Rumsfeld's choice, Ahmad Chalabi, as their next ruler? Another related question is, if the Iraqis should be allowed select their own form of government, why is secularism being thrust on them? "
God is trying to tell me something. I was browsing through amazon.com and stumbled upon this page.
I was supposed to take my M.A. comprehensive exams this summer, but I won't be able to finish all my Inc's in time, so I asked my department chair if I could take it next semester instead. The M.A. comps at my university consist of two exams: one synthetic (either Epistemology or Metaphysics) and one on a historical period of Western philosophy (ancient Greek, medieval, modern or contemporary). I'm not absolutely sure yet, but I'm thinking of choosing Epistemology and the Contemporary Period for my exams. Some of my friends think I'm crazy to choose the Contemporary Period (which at our university means contemporary Continental philosophy); the rumor is that the ancient Greek exam is much easier, but frankly I don't really enjoy reading the Ancient Greeks (except maybe for early and middle Plato), so I'm not sure I'll have the discipline to plough laboriously through all those texts again ....
Aaack ... okay, change topic, the mere thought of it is making me nervous ....
(Not that the next topic isn't making nervous too ....)
In the news: The W.H.O. has issued a warning against non-essential travel to Toronto, Beijing and another place in China (not Hong Kong). I haven't been blogging about it much, but, as you can guess, SARS is a major concern in the Philippines right now. The Philippines itself hasn't had an outbreak yet, but we are geographically surrounded by countries that have been afflicted by the virus.
Happy Easter Wednesday! (Belated Happy Earth Day and Happy World Book Day as well.)
Yesterday, I went to the office for the first time since before Holy Week, and frankly, I was having Lenten withdrawal symptoms.
I didn't observe Lent this year to the same degree of "piety" (if you can call it that) as in previous years, but still ... it's difficult to be completely unaware of the Lenten season ... especially in the Philippines, I guess, where Cuaresma is so much a part of the culture. Whether I actually observed the Lenten fast, prayers, and sacrifices or not, throughout the six weeks, the idea of penitence and purification was always somewhere at the back of my mind.
And now ... the shift from that mood to the joyous mood of Easter--or simply to "normal"/"non-Lent" life for that matter--seems a little too abrupt. The feeling is a little bit like the feeling you get after a retreat: a huge part of you wants to go back.
M and I actually decided to get out and see the world today (heheh!). We went to Megamall, where I bought a light fixture and a replacement door handle for my falling-apart house (okayokay, "falling apart" is an exaggeration). Afterwards, we had dinner at a super-yummy Chinese restaurant that Ganns and Cathy introduced to us. Then we walked to Ink and Stone in Podium and, after many long minutes of browsing and struggling with ourselves about whether to buy and which books to buy, we left the bookstore P1400 poorer (between us).
The most profound, the richest, the most moving liturgy of all the liturgies in the Catholic calendar has to be the Easter vigil. Every single moment of the (uhm, looong) ceremony is shot with power and meaning. Ancient traditions, ancient stories, ancient words, made beautifully new each Easter vigil, reminding us that the mystery of Easter--the mystery of our passing over--is a timeless mystery that is the very structure of our history.
Of course, the Vigil is better appreciated as the culmination of the Sacred Triduum. Every Eucharistic celebration is an anamnesis, a remembrance, of the First Mass, but on Holy Thursday, the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper is especially powerful as every aspect of the liturgy centers on Christ's institution of that sacrament, two thousand years ago. It is also the last Mass before the Easter celebration; afterwards, the altar is stripped bare, the crucifixes and crosses are covered, statues are removed, and almost all the lights are extinguished. In the Philippines, many people spend the rest of the evening doing the traditional Bisita Iglesia, a pilgrimage of Churches recalling the vigil that the apostles kept (or should I say, did not keep?) as Christ began his Passion in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Good Friday is the only day of the Catholic calendar when Mass is not celebrated. The congregation enters a silent, bare Church. The liturgy is not a Mass, but a solemn, sombre meditation on Christ's Passion and Death. There is no greeting, no sense of a joyous coming together, and very little music except for the solemn chanting as we venerate the Cross of Death and Salvation. The liturgy ends without even a dismissal; the people silently leave the darkened Church (or stay if they wish, in prayer).
It is this mood of the previous days of the Triduum that one is still in at the start of the Easter Vigil. The vigil is at night, and the congregation arrives at a completely darkened Church. Instead of entering right away, they gather outside around a fire--the Paschal fire--that is blessed then used to light the Paschal candle, the candle symbolizing Christ as Light. The priest carries the candle into the darkened Church, and the congregation follows inside and settles down. Then, from the front of the Church, the flame of the Paschal candle is passed, from candle to candle, to each member of the congregation, until the entire Church is lit up by the Paschal flame on thousands of candles, each member of the congregation carrying a small dot of light. This is the first ritual of the Christian passover: the passing over from darkness to light, because of Christ, who is our Light.
Over the flame of the Paschal lights, the priest's voice carries over in a chant: "Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God's throne! Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!" Then, in the words of more than a thousand years, priest proceeds to slowly and solemnly chant for the congregation the profound meaning of this night of nights, this holiest of nights, this night truly blessed. This is our passover feast, he reminds us, the night of our salvation, the night when we are washed clean, the night when Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant fom the grave. We are reconciled with God.
The liturgy of the Word then begins--the longest liturgy of the Word (traditionally seven pairs of Old Testament readings and psalms, sometimes reduced to three) in the Catholic liturgy. In this most beautiful of word liturgies, the profundity of the Passover night is slowly unpacked; we are transported through the history of God's people, from one covenant to another in Yahweh's salvific plan: from God's Creation of the Universe, to the birth of Abraham's nation, to the passing of the Israelites through the Red Sea, to the prophetic proclamations of salvation. Again and again, we are reminded that the Passover, the Mystery of the Pasch, is central to the story of God's people.
And then finally ... after the last psalm has been sung, and the last communal prayer of the seven (or three) prayers has been said ... the priest's voice booms in the dim Church: "Glory to God!" And with that all the lights in the Church are simultaneously turned on and the Church bells are rung as the congregation erupts in a resounding Gloria. Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth!!! As the congregation sings, the decorations of the altar are brought in once again, and the congregation has now passed over from the sombre remembrance of Christ's Passion and Death to the joyous celebration of His Resurrection.
The rest of the liturgy is in the spirit of the Resurrection: the epistle reminds us that we have been born into new life with Christ's resurrection, and the Gospel reading is a simple meditation on the awe of the resurrection. After the homily comes the rite of baptism. New catechumens (if there are any in the congregation) are baptized, and the entire congregation likewise renew their baptismal promises as they are sprinkled with water. The ritual of water, like the ritual of fire, is also a passing over; recalling the Great Flood, and the Israelites' passage across the Red Sea, the sprinkling of water is a reminder that, as Paul told the Romans, our baptism buried us with Christ into death, so that we like him we may also be raised from the dead through the glory of the Father.
The liturgy of the Eucharist--the first since Maundy Thursday--proceeds, with the liturgical prayers once again reminding us of the mystery of redemption and resurrection. The congregation is nourished by Communion, and then, after more praise, they are dismissed, "in the peace of Christ, Alleluia, Alleluia!"
BTW, after many minutes of pushing and pulling and heaving, M and I (rather, M, with barely any help from me) managed to pull out the ancient air-con from one of the rooms in my house, in preparation for tomorrow's air-con installation .... Yes, I am finally going to have a working air-con in my house .... Ahhhhh ....
When I was a child, it was impossible not to realize it was Holy Week. Good Friday and Holy Saturday were the quietest, most solemn days of the year. Most of the radio and television stations did not air anything; if they did, they only aired religious programs (I would watch The Ten Commandments and Jesus of Nazareth almost every year). Even newspapers took the days off and did not publish. Our parents and grandparents forbade us to be noisy, to play, or to make unnecessary sounds. Most years, I would spend the day moving silently around the house; bored, yes, but also very aware that those two days were especially holy. It was the closest experience I had as a child to a Silent Retreat.
A few times, our family spent Holy Week out of town (as many Filipinos do), relaxing on the beach with friends. But even then, there was something different about Good Friday. At two-thirty p.m., one of my tita's would call the children into the house, and by three, we would be sitting quietly as one of the adults read an account of Christ's Passion and Death.
These days, however, it's a little more difficult to maintain the solemnity of the Triduum. With the advent of cable television, children stuck at home can watch Cartoon Network all day ... and Ren and Stimpy don't exactly call to mind Christ's Passion, Death, and Resurrection .... I'm glad, however, that free TV still keeps the Holy Week tradition.
So if you're staying home this week in Manila, and someone in your house insists on keeping the television on, these are some of the programs you might want to turn to (brought to you by Jesuit Communications):
Holy Monday, April 14 RPN 9 The Crab, The Cross, and St. Francis Xavier, 2:00 - 2:30 PM
Si San Ignacio, P'wera Bola, 2:30 - 3:00 PM
Holy Tuesday, April 15 RPN 9 Original Sin: Pari, Propeta, Pilipino, 2:00 - 3:00 PM
Holy Wednesday, April 16 RPN 9 Speaking of Marriage, 2:00 - 2:30 PM
May Call Waiting Ka Ba? Mga Kuwento ng Bokasyon, 2:30 - 3:00 PM
Good Friday, April 18 IBC-13 Message Sent: Mga Kuwento ng Misyonero, 12:00 - 12:30 PM
May Call Waiting Ka Ba? Mga Kuwento ng Bokasyon, 12:30 - 1:00 PM
Sino Ka 'Shua?, 4:30 - 6:00 PM
Black Saturday, April 19 RPN 9 Greater Love, 2:30 - 3:00 PM
Message Sent: Mga Kuwento ng Misyonero, 3:00 - 3:30 PM
Yesterday was Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion. When I was a child, I looked forward to Palm Sunday because I enjoyed the custom of bringing the palm fronds to the front of the Church, raising them above my head and shaking them as the priest blessed them. It was only this year, however (at my old age of twenty-six), that the power of what Palm Sunday means really hit me.
In the Catholic liturgical calendar, Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week. The Mass on Palm Sunday is longer than most Masses, because it is often celebrated with two sets of scripture readings: First, Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem is remembered (Mark 11:1-10 and parallel accounts), and the congregation reenacts the welcome that Christ was given by raising their palm fronds while singing joyous Hosanna's. Then later, during the usual liturgy of the Word, the account of Christ's Passion and Death is read (Mark 14:1-15:47 or parallel accounts) and the congregation solemnly meditates on them.
When I was younger, I thought that the Palm Sunday Mass reenacted two separate events, and the stark contrast in mood between the beginning of the Mass and the middle of the Mass heightened what appeared to me to be disjointedness of this strange celebration. It was only yesterday that I realized that the two events are not separate at all. When Christ rode the donkey into Jerusalem, he was being greeted as King. When Christ hung from the Cross a week later, He was dying as King.
The Mass only seems disjointed because of the Paradox of Christ's Kingship. Christ's entered Jerusalem to assume His throne as the Son of David; except that the throne He assumed was different from the throne we normally associate with earthly Kings. His throne was a Cross, His crown a crown of thorns, His royal garb the blood that He shed for all humankind.
As a child, I considered the Palm liturgy to be a happy one; the Hosanna's that were sung were triumphant and joyous, the vision of palm fronds was festive and celebratory. Yesterday, however, the custom of the palms was an entirely different experience; I felt myself surreally being transported back 2000 years to the day when Christ entered Jerusalem, and I watched with dread as I realized the irony of the tableau: Here we were, happy citizens of Jerusalem, welcoming this miracle-worker as our Messiah, not realizing that His greatest miracle would require Him to be nailed to a Cross .... Later in the Mass, as the congregation shouted "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" during the reenactment of Christ's Passion, my heart ached even more: We who had welcomed Him so joyfully were now condemning Him to death.
When I was in college, during a prayer session, our prayer group meditated on some of the Resurrection passages in Gospel. I remember sharing with my friends how struck I was that the passages were not filled with the giddy joy usually associated with Eastertide. Rather, all the Resurrection passages described moods of ambivalence. As the Eleven waited in hiding, for example, there was sadness over Christ's death, fear of the authorities, and when Christ appeared before them, their reaction was not one of unadulterated joy, but relief mixed with confusion, solace mixed with pain. Even Christ's body, made perfect with the Resurrection, still bore the wounds of His crucifixion.
Perhaps, this is really what our Paschal Mystery means: perhaps this tension is really at the core of our Christian lives. As Catholics we are told that our call is to live the Paschal Mystery. But what does that mean: the Pasch? The Pasch is the passing over from death to life, but a passing over that requires a dying: a dying to one's self that we may live, a passing over that is triumph through our trials. Through the Paschal Mystery--which we celebrate not only every Holy Week Triduum, but at every Mass, and really, in every day of our lives--we die with Christ and we rise with Christ for in Christ's death, because of God's love, there is life. This is the greatest miracle of our Christianity: that the love of God should transform our dying into the miracle of Resurrection.
In high school, our final exam for World History included a blank map test. On our exam papers was printed a long list of important events in world history; had to identify the place where each of those events happened, and indicate on a blank map where each of those places was.
I didn't do very well in that blank map test, and I didn't do very well in this Middle East blank map game either. West Asia wasn't too difficult, but the only African country I got on the first try was Egypt. Ack!
(Well, at least I could distinguish between the Asian countries and the African countries. A pet peeve of mine is when Western media portrays "Asia" as only East Asia or sometimes, East Asia plus Central Asia [as on British TV]. Argh!!!!)
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.
I've just come home from a friend's presbyteral (i.e. priestly) ordination. It was alternately moving, powerful, and happy. I found myself choking up a few times during the most solemn parts of the Mass.
It was a High Mass, and the Liturgy of the Word was sung. The first reading was from Paul's letter to the Ephesians (1:1-7, 11-13--the unity of Christ's body), the Psalm was Psalm 116 (loving the Lord), and the Gospel passage was John 21:15-17 ("Peter, feed my sheep..."). During the homily, Bishop Tagle tied together the themes of ministry and love in the three readings. He reflected on how Christ, before calling Peter to "tend His sheep," first asked his disciple, "Do you love me?" Tending Christ's sheep, the Bishop reminded the new priests, was founded first and foremost in a passionate love for Christ. Bishop Tagle counseled the ordinands to always remember this: There would be times, he said, when as priests they would struggle with disappointment and fatigue; it was at those times, he said, that it would be most important to hold fast to their love for Christ.
Then, the most solemn parts of the Ordination Rite began. The prayer of supplication (the litany of the saints) was sung so beautifully; as the choir's voices resonated through the Chapel, it felt as if tongues of fire were pouring down onto the congregation and on the candidate-priests who were being ordained.
The laying of hands was one of the most humbling ceremonies I've ever witnessed. More than a hundred Jesuit priests--from the young Jesuits, themselves recently ordained; to the mighty "legends"; to the quiet sagely old priests some of whom needed young Scholastics to guide them as they hobbled across the chancel--took turns laying their hands on and praying for their Jesuit brothers and newest brethren-priests.
And it was an incredibly moving sight to see the parents and immediate family members of the new priests come up to the altar to help the Bishop vest them with the stole and chasuble. The choir was singing Veni Creator Spiritus and a mystical warmth descended on the congregation; the Creator Spirit was truly "kindling light in the senses" of everyone present.
After the rite of ordination, the five new priests joined the Bishop behind the altar table to concelebrate the Mass. In effect, then, I not only attended my friend's ordination, but also his first Mass.
Towards the end of the Mass one of the new priests came up to the microphone to speak on behalf of the ordinands. He echoed Bishop Tagle's homily as he spoke about how the call to the priesthood was motivated, very simply, by having fallen in love with Christ.
Before the recessional, the Father Provincial announced where the new priests were going to be assigned, and the congregation cheered and applauded as one was assigned to the Jesuit Prison Service, one to leper colony in Culion, one to a high school, one to a seminary, and the last to East Timor.
Today is a truly blessed day. Let's pray for our new priests and for all who minister to Christ's flock in different ways.
And even as we express our joy about the ouster of Saddam, let us also remain in solidarity with those who are grieving.... (Update: ... as well as with those who are suffering from the horror of war on either side of the spectrum.):
A Baghdad family wept last night after hearing that three male relatives had been shot to death in their car by American marines when they failed to obey an order to stop. The dead were a father, his son and another man. (Tyler Hicks / NY Times.)
Ali Ismail Abbas, 12, wounded during an airstrike according to hospital sources, lies in a hospital bed in Baghdad, April 6, 2003. Abbas was fast asleep when war shattered his life. A missile obliterated his home and most of his family, leaving him orphaned, badly burned and blowing off both his arms. 'It was midnight when the missile fell on us. My father, my mother and my brother died. My mother was five months pregnant,' the traumatized boy told Reuters at Baghdad's Kindi hospital. 'Our neighbors pulled me out and brought me here. I was unconscious,' he said on Sunday. REUTERS/Faleh Kheiber
I've never had a full day when I've actually managed to do everything on my checklist. Without fail, whenever I plan a booked day (i.e., a day scheduled by the hour), at least one of my planned tasks gets bumped off the to-do list.
"Salam Pax" of Where Is Raed? hasn't updated his blog since March 24. Then again, there have been power outages in Baghdad all week, right? So maybe he just hasn't had Internet access.
Well, whatever the explanation, I hope he's okay. Weird, this world of blogging. You actually start to care about complete strangers .... You half-fool yourself into believing you know them personally but you actually don't ....
Worked on Ricoeur paper, tried to sell some beachwear, went to the grocery, ran some errands .... And now I'm very tired. Ah ... summer vacation!
People in Metro Manila, it's time for you guys to update your summer wardrobe! Please do check out the high-quality beachwear that M and I are selling at very affordable prices! Click here for details.
My hat goes off to all the journalists who have given their lives to bring news of the war to the people ... and to all the journalists who continue to place themselves in the gravest of danger with the same intention.
I've been tuning in more and more to Channel News Asia's coverage of the war; their coverage includes some interesting details about Baghdad not mentioned on the other international networks, such as the mood of citizens (fear, mostly) amid the power outages in the capital, and the report that American soldiers have resorted to shooting anyone who approaches them.
I'll tell you something: every day
people are dying. And that's just the beginning.
Every day, in funeral homes, new widows are born,
new orphans. They sit with their hands folded,
trying to decide about this new life.
Then they're in the cemetery, some of them
for the first time. They're frightened of crying,
sometimes of not crying. Someone leans over,
tells them what to do next, which might mean
saying a few words, sometimes
throwing dirt in the open grave.
And after that, everyone goes back to the house,
which is suddenly full of visitors.
The widow sits on the couch, very stately,
so people line up to approach her,
sometimes take her hand, sometimes embrace her.
She finds something to say to everbody,
thanks them, thanks them for coming.
In her heart, she wants them to go away.
She wants to be back in the cemetery,
back in the sickroom, the hospital. She knows
it isn't possible. But it's her only hope,
the wish to move backward. And just a little,
not so far as the marriage, the first kiss.
1. How many houses/apartments have you lived in throughout your life? Wow, a lot. Ten, I think ... unless I missed any.
2. Which was your favorite and why? Hmmm ... difficult to say. There was something I loved about every single one of the places I lived in.
3. Do you find moving house more exciting or stressful? Why? Exciting!!!! There is something immensely satisfying in being able to clean out and let go of your physical possessions, and reinvent your physical space. Somehow it translates into an inner, psychological and emotional spring-cleaning.
4. What's more important, location or price? Location, location, location.
5. What features does your dream house have (pool, spa bath, big yard, etc.)? "Simplify, simplify, simplify." -- H. D. Thoreau
You know how it is when you're away for almost a week, then you come back, and you suddenly feel a mad panicky need to check your mail, check the news, etc., etc., because of some secret fear that maybe something really horrible has happened somewhere, and you wouldn't have heard about it ...?
Or is it just me?
So anyway, I'm back and I actually managed to fill up a 128Mb flash card with photos of Iloilo. The resort we stayed in had, aside from the swimming pool and the other usual resort amenities, a mini-zoo with all sorts of fish, birds (I took several pictures of the ostriches--I was so amazed), snakes, deer, monkeys .... It was a little depressing to see all those animals locked up in tiny cages actually, but let's not dwell on that ....
The conference itself was like most conferences: there were some good talks, some not-so-good talks, and some wtf am I doing here? talks. I learned something new about Levinas, and I heard about Nicholas of Cusa's philosophy for the first time.
The organizers had also arranged some sightseeing for us; we got to see a few beautiful, beautiful Spanish-era churches (that's where the other 64Mb of my flash card went). It seems that every town in Iloilo has an old Spanish Church; several from the 19th century, and a few even older than that. One of the churches we went to was particularly interesting because all of the statues, save for Jesus' and Joseph's were of women saints. I wonder why ....
Before flying back to Manila, a few of us took a short side-trip to Guimaras, and now I can actually say I have been to a Trappist Monastery.
And of course, it was fun hanging out with my colleagues; it always is.
Caliraya was just what I needed: a nice break after three weeks of stressful work.
More stories to remind me how real the news on TV is:
(1) My elder brother (who is based in Hong Kong and works in KL) e-mailed to report that he is now on house arrest has been quarantined by his KL office for ten days. No, he does not have SARS.
(2) Valkyrie missed the Davao blast by 10 minutes. :( Luvya, anj, and hope you and the volunteers are all doing all right (emotionally)!