Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Santo Nino 2013

Celebrating Santo Nino at Mount Angel Seminary
Story by Gonzalo Siller; photos by Ivan Garcia

Editor's Note: In the spirit of the colorful celebration of Santo Nino, some of the photos by Ivan Garcia have been artistically edited with different effects.
Pit Senor!

We have been called to live a new life!

I am honored to write about Santo Nino (Holy Baby Jesus), his message of new life, and his beautiful celebration on January 19, 2013, at Mount Angel Seminary.  Therefore, I want to share this honor with you, and so I invite you to say together in one voice to our Lord Jesus Christ, "Pit Senor!" (Call upon the Lord!)

The Abbey Church was ready to receive the image of the Santo Nino and all of our guests as well.  The ceremony began with a delightful burning of incense, a procession, followed with songs, and carrying the image of the Santo Nino.  These religious expressions showed and pointed beyond us and towards God.  So, what is the meaning of this celebration, and why is it so important for the Filipino community to celebrate it?  What are the spiritual benefits of it?

Throughout the beautiful liturgy of that day, I noticed how the readings and the Gospel were interconnected in such a way that the celebration of Santo Nino was an invitation to recognize our Lord.  Indeed, in the first reading the prophet Isaiah (Is 9:1-6) proclaimed the Messiah as "Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, and Prince of Peace."

After Father Alvin Cabacang, OSM, presided at Mass, I interviewed him, and he told me about how this devotion of Santo Nino became an official celebration and why it is so important.  He said this celebration has a special indult from the Vatican in order to be celebrated by "all Catholic churches in the Philippines on the Sunday following the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord."

The Abbey Church was packed with pilgrims, believers, and followers.  (Left) Deacon Carlo Tejano from the Diocese of Sacramento; (Right) Father Alvin Cabacang, OSM, who was the principal celebrant and homilist.

Seminarians from Mount Angel Seminary gathered with other pilgrims from around Oregon to gather as one family at the Eucharistic celebration.

Father Alvin also told me how this image of Santo Nino de Cebu is that of a child dressed as a king, with a crown on his head, a scepter in one hand, and the universe in the other.  He said this is not difficult to trace because it is what we heard in our first reading.  The passage from Isaiah is the most famous prophecy of the promised Messiah.  God is to deliver his people from oppression, through a child, a prince of peace.  If the image has any meaning at all, it is meant to convey that this child, helpless and innocent through he is, is also the king of peace, all-powerful and able to hold the world in his hand.

According to Father Alvin's homily, the child Jesus, despite his ordinariness, is not an ordinary child.  He is really a king, and more than a king.  He is God among us, Emmanuel (Matt 1:23).  Which is why, although the image of a Santo Nino might appear absurd, for how can a mere child place the whole world in his hand, its meaning is entirely correct: God has decided to show himself in this child of Bethlehem.  Frail and lowly though he is, he is worthy of praise and worship.  Small and voiceless though he is, he is really the revelation of God.

I was told by some of our Filipino guests who came to Mount Angel Seminary from all around the area about the comparison between our baptism and this celebration and how we receive benefits of conversion through Santo Nino.  Some of our guests said that the way we celebrate Santo Nino conveys what is being said in the Gospel of Luke (15:7) and is celebrated by the angels in heaven when a sinner converts his life and when we truly accept our Lord in our lives.

After Mass, the Santo Nino celebration moved to the Damian Center.  There was food, music, and even cultural dances performed by the Filipino community.   The people cheered "Viva Pit Senyor!"

The image of the Santo Nino from the Abbey Church comes to rest in the Damian Center as the celebration continues.  

Msgr. Joseph Betschart, President-Rector of Mount Angel Seminary, welcomed everyone to the hilltop and invocated the Rite of Blessing of Religious Statues for all those who brought their own statue of Santo Nino.  He also blessed the food the Filipino community had prepared and cooked for the Santo Nino celebration.

The Samoan community and other cultural communities performed songs that represent their cultural spirituality to Santo Nino de Jesus.

The Feast Day of Santo Nino de Jesus was very well supported by the Filipino community and other cultural backgrounds.

As a matter of act, according to the worship aid of that day (see above photo), which provided background information for this celebration, Santo Nino is rooted in the conversion and acceptance of the historical baptism of King Humabon and his wife Queen Juana on April 14, 1521.

We can see how the Spirit of the Lord is guiding us through the history of the Filipino community to recognize in our lives the lordship and love of God.  Let's continue to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit to live the salvation of Christ in our daily conversion of heart and mind.

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