[OPINION] Holy Week for non-believers
Mama was furious when she heard that one of my titas would be celebrating her birthday in a resort with the whole family. She called her up and asked her why.
After some squabbling, I saw her put down the phone with a disappointed face. I was there, and I felt her frustration too, though I didn't know what to feel. The reason she reacted that way, and that I couldn't say anything, is because my tita's birthday falls on Good Friday this year.
A matter of faith, I thought. A sensitive territory. So I just kept my mouth shut.
I understand where my mama was coming from. She's a devout Catholic – my whole family is – and she wanted us to spend the Holy Week with full veneration. I understand my tita, too. Like my mama, she's also a devout Catholic and has been very active in the church. In fact, they do Visita Iglesia together every Holy Week. This time, however, my tita decided to do something differently, and maybe that's what mom found disappointing. (READ: Overview: Holy Week traditions in the Philippines)
This led me to think of how other people usually spend this week. I know some people who really put their hearts into it – visit churches, do novenas and penance – and I also know some who see it as an opportunity to finally take the vacation they're craving for and go to beaches, take trips out of town, etc.
In fact, this week could be used in all different ways depending on your religion. I, on the other hand, don't have anything planned. The younger me would surely have something Lent-related planned for each day, but the present me, the one who has learned so much about religion and psychology and like the rest who have no work this week, would just like to stay home, please. (ANIMATION: How do Filipinos observe Holy Week?)
For me, this week is just another week, but with more TV specials and more time for introspection.
It's not that I totally turned my back on religion – I still believe in a Higher Power – it's just that there's something beyond the traditions that religions are pushing down our throats that we should be focusing and celebrating more. I believe in something beyond the tall walls of cathedrals and churches, and beyond the hymns and prayers we memorized as a child.
What I'm trying to point out is that aspect each of us has that may or may not require a religion to flourish: our spirituality. It's that part of us that compels believers to pray after a long, tiring day, and "non-believers" to just simply look up to the sky and breathe. It's in all of us.
A functioning human recognizes that as they should be mentally, physically, and emotionally well, they should also be spiritually healthy. And come to think of it, this week gives us all an opportunity to focus more on that part of us.
See, if we really look into it, the story about Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection has so many lessons we can use, whether you're a Christian or not.
Aside from the narrative being a great literary inspiration used by artists and other writers, it can also be used as a frame for our individual life reflections. This is because it follows the usual hero's journey, the monomyth by Joseph Campbell, the cycle used in many other stories even before our times of how an ordinary man ascends from his normal life, enters a new world, combats the adversary, and returns home victorious.
That very same cycle is embedded in our psyche because according to Carl Jung, each of us has the "hero archetype" in our collective unconscious. The similarity we have with the Lenten hero can be used for us to relate to his story even more.
The Lent story started when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey – dubbed as the most humble of animals – and was adorned by the people. It ended when he was resurrected, but only right after he was beaten and crucified to death 3 days before.
Many other literary works have explored the idea of resurrection and eternal life. There is the legend of the Phoenix and the fountain of youth to name a few. Clearly, it has something to do with our ancestor's fixation on immortality and dread of death. Now this theme is relatable in a whole new different view – of our rebirth from our own darkness, our own struggles, and the end of a destructive cycle.
Side by side we're being pelted by conflicts – with ideas, with other people, and even within ourselves – and sometimes their weight is unbearable. And it's all right to give in and let yourself fall to the ground – just as how Christians remind themselves of Jesus' suffering – because we won't be able to ascend to the light without accepting our own shadows first.
It's not something only Christians know. It is actually recommended that we sometimes have to delve into the emotions that are pressing us – to talk about them, to cry, to accept them – before we could actually break away from them. And then, just as how Christians take pleasure in their savior's resurrection from the dead, we too can also rise up, like how a phoenix rises from the ashes. And that for me, is the greatest lesson we can learn from this season: to rise again.
There could really be a lot more to see and realize. We all have a different perspective on things, anyway. What matters is that we confront something within us and take it into the light, and make this week meaningful, not just emotionally, but also spiritually. (READ: Holy Week superstitions in the Philippines)
In the end, it really doesn't matter how you spend the rest of the week. Do whatever you want, if you'd ask me. But instead of looking at this season as something that divides us – between who believes and who doesn't – this could be a ground for all of us to plant our feet on and let ourselves grow spiritually. – Rappler.com
Lorhenz Lacsa writes about psychology and anything pop culture. In his free time, he sings to his imaginary fans in his imaginary rock concerts.