The Nazarene Devotion
“Faith is about doing. You are how you act, not just how you believe.” - Mitch Alboom
Manila, Philippines (2014) - An eerie atmosphere greeted me as I arrived 7 in the morning at the Quirino Grandstand to venerate the centuries old image of the Black Nazarene. Thousands of Nazarene devotees in maroon and yellow shirts nearly covered the entire area of the Grandstand, which some have probably camped out overnight just for this annual religious event celebrated every January 9. Every year, the event draws millions of devotees to join in the annual celebration of the feast. Where devotees join the procession in barefoot as a sacrifice.
A mass was held led by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle before they started the annual “Traslacion”, or grand procession of the Black Nazarene back to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church). But the mass was interrupted when some devotees broke the barriers and climbed the stage to hold the Black Nazarene image. Archbishop stopped the mass when security officers were unable to control the crowd who eagerly wanted the Black Nazarene image transferred on its “Andas” (carriage). This causes a delay to start the procession. Devotees started to wave their white towels and chant a monotonous hypnotic phrase, “Isakay ang Poong Nazareno” (“Carry the Lord Nazarene”) while waiting for the start of the procession. As soon as the religious image was transferred to the majestic carriage, the procession had started.
The carriage surrounded by thousands devotees, swept slowly like driftwood in an open sea. Devotees jostle with each other just to climb the carriage and touch the dark image of Jesus Christ. Even experienced devotees find it hard to reach the carriage in a strong current of a whirlpool of devotees. So others were further away just contented waving and hurling their towels to marshals in the carriage to wipe the religious image. It is believed that those who take a glimpse or touch the miraculous image of Christ carrying the cross grants their wishes and brings them good fortune.
Many non-believers still consider this Catholic tradition as a mere fanaticism and idolatry.
But for those thousands of barefooted devotees who have sacrificed participating in the annual Traslacion, the feast of the Black Nazarene is a celebration of gratitude of all the blessings they have received in the past and to honor Christ as their one true lord.