The Way of the Cross is a religious ritual Filipinos do during the Holy Week. This can be done at one stop in a single church. But, for penitence’ sake, devout catholics extend this into a Visita Iglesia, where they would read the novena by visiting several churches. Sometimes one station per church.
I didn’t join my family for the visita iglesia, because I would want to hang out with my PhD classmates. I thought Bonifacio High Street would be dull, but to my surprise it was just full of people. People were lining up, families and friends. Curiousity pushed me to check what people are up to. What caught my attention was an Art Installation of the Way of the Cross, at the middle of that posh and classy shopping center.
It has 14 interactive stations, postmodern representations of the way of the cross. It uses non traditional art multimedia, glass, plastic bottles, stones, wood, metal among others. Music is also played in the background. It didn’t have any face of Christ, neither Biblical passages. Instead, on the black panels that served as post for each station, were literary excerpts that describes various author’s constructs of each segment of Christ’s passion. After each, description is a writing about how that segment of Christ’s passion applies in one’s life.
I didn’t have the chance to check all the 14 stations, but my eyes were really fascinated with what I saw. There is a station on Christ’s betrayal where the penitent needs to pick up a pebble, as representation of someone he has hurt in life. There is a station, where people can experience carrying a huge cross and moving it from one point to another. There is a station where the penitent would hit a nail with the hammer, on a huge slanted black cross.
It is an innovation, that blends well to the contemporary times and the culture of people. It challenges the people of the same moral, religious and spiritual reflection in an artistically interactive way. While there were still those who would read their novena’s at each station, others would just read what is presented to them in the panels and take the act suggested.
On the shirts of those assisting the pilgrims was a print that says “Church made simple”. This to me sends a concrete message, that the Church is not really about dogmas, that the church is not a house of stone, but a congregation of believers. The Church in the ebb of times ought to evolve to have meaning on people, reverberating the same Gospel in ways that present generation of believers would be able to understand.
In a society, where individuals are given control of things at the touch of their fingers, this art installation brings a new face to religious practices. In a society of people whose multi-sensory perceptions should be stimulated before they could understand, this reinvention of a religious tradition brings people back to their sense of spiritual self in a postmodern way. It is hard to determine though up to what extent will this work though.
While that place is full of pilgrims doing their penitential way of the cross, at the sides the restaurants are full of diners, eating and drinking with gusto. There’s a festive mood. I, myself was there not to do penitence, but to hang out with my friends. Religious tradition anyway is but a practice. True religion is an expression of faith to unseen God who came into flesh to bring salvation to all. With that my altar of faith is not limited to a specific place or time.