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08 April, 2007

Semana Santa

It's Easter Sunday, when American Christian families celebrate life and spring with chocolate bunnies, colorful peeps and egg hunts.

Celebrating Easter this way is fun, especially with kids around, but not what I grew up with. I was born and raised in the Philippines, a Catholic country where the focus is on the Crucifixion rather than the Resurrection, and where Semana Santa (Holy Week) is considered a time of abstinence and penitence.

Unfortunately, some of the devoted go overboard, publicly flagellating themselves until they break flesh and draw blood. A few go further and literally have themselves crucified to fulfill a promise of atonement or to show the strength of their faith. The Vatican has officially frowned on this practice, but it continues to this very day.

Below is a video clip of devotees performing penitensya (penitence) and literally being nailed to the cross (take note: not for the squeamish).



A photo album with commentary on this religious practices, including the strange but colorful moriones festival can also be viewed at slate.com here.

I always felt strongly against these extreme displays of religous fervor. Though intentions may be pure, I regard them more as acts of fanaticism than devotion, acts that make a spectacle of religion and faith.

It's for the same reason that I felt strongly against the movie The Passion of the Christ. I've resisted seeing it all this time for several reasons, but mainly because sensationalizing the Crucifixion outside the larger context of Christ's life trivializes the enormity of the sacrifice. I don't need to be assaulted with relentless gore to appreciate the reason for His death, just as I don't need to see a graphic re-enactment to grasp the heinousness of a violent crime. The movie is merely art attempting to imitate life, and in this case, art truly pales in comparison.

Tags: easter, holy week, semana santa, philippines, you tube, flagellation, crucifixion

posted at 1:17 AM by City Muse

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