How other faiths in PH observe Holy Week
Editor’s Note: The annual commemoration of Holy Week—marking the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which begins on Palm Sunday, climaxes on Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday and culminates in the joyful celebration on Easter Sunday of the resurrection—and its pious customs observed in Roman Catholic tradition also find expression in the mainstream Protestant denominations and evangelical churches. Following is an informal survey of how other faiths observe Holy Week.
The Aglipayan Church, officially the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) or the Philippine Independent Church, follows the same Holy Week observance as the Roman Catholic Church, according to Rev. Fr. Terry Revollido, rector of the Aglipay Central Theological Seminary.
“I don’t see any significant difference because we’re also following biblical narrative,” Revollido said.
Like the Roman Catholics, the Aglipayan faithful begin the Holy Week with Palm Sunday. On Maundy Thursday, there would be a celebration of the Eucharist and the washing of the feet, while on Good Friday, church activities include the Seven Last Words, veneration of the cross and processions. The Easter Vigil Mass is held the evening of Black Saturday and the “salubong” very early on Easter Sunday.
The Aglipayan Church, which calls itself the national church of the Philippines, proclaimed its break from the Catholic Church in 1902 by the members of the Unión Obrera Democrática Filipina because of the alleged mistreatment of Filipinos by the Spanish clergy. Although a Christian denomination, IFI rejects the spiritual authority of the Pope and emphasizes patriotism in its teachings.
The members of the church are called Aglipayans after its first supreme head, Fr. Gregorio Aglipay.
Iglesia Ni Cristo
The Iglesia Ni Cristo, another homegrown Christian religion, does not observe Lent or mark the special observances and services of Holy Week, as it believes that the pious customs associated with it derive from pagan traditions.
For instance, it believes that Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week commemorating Christ’s triumphal entry to Jerusalem to fulfill his paschal mystery, has pagan origins. INC says the palm symbolizes victory and notes how victorious armies of pagan nations decked themselves and their chariots with palm branches.
According to INC, the word “Easter” was derived by St. Bede from Eastre, a forgotten dawn goddess. Numerous local customs held during Easter, such as the blessing of meat, eggs and other foods, the partaking of which was formerly forbidden during Lent, have pagan origins, INC believes.
The INC members believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and that God made Him Lord and Savior. However, while Jesus Christ is holy and a very special man, he is not God; he is the only mediator of man to God, they say.
They also believe that Christ’s resurrection is the main proof that the dead will rise again. Those in Christ will rise first to be with Him forever in the Holy City. Those who are not of Christ will rise a thousand years after the first resurrection to be cast into the lake of fire.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination whose distinct beliefs are based on their interpretations of the Bible, do not observe Christmas, Easter or other holidays and customs observed by mainstream Christianity.
They believe that Jehovah is the only true God and Jesus, God’s only begotten Son who served as a redeemer and a ransom sacrifice to pay for the sins of humanity as the only intercessor between God and man.
While commemorating the death of Jesus, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not share many of the beliefs and practices associated with the Holy Week of Catholics and other Christian denominations. The Witnesses do not practice the Lenten rituals of fasting, self-flagellation and crucifixion, or pilgrimage to holy places.
The most important and solemn event for the Jehovah’s Witnesses is the “Lord’s Evening Meal” or “Memorial of Christ’s Death,” commemorated on the date of the Jewish Passover.
“This is the only anniversary that Jesus commanded his followers to celebrate. Before dying, he commanded his disciples to keep observing the Last Supper, otherwise called the Lord’s Evening Meal, once every year. Jesus’ command to celebrate this occasion can be read in the Bible,” said Dean Jacek of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, Philippine branch.
To determine the date of the Memorial each year, the Witnesses follow the Jewish calendar.
“Under the Jewish calendar, Jesus’ death occurred on the evening of Nisan 14, 33 CE. Last year, the date Nisan 14 fell on March 26, so on this date, Jehovah’s Witnesses met together in their building for worship (called Kingdom Halls) all around the Earth after sundown. To celebrate, they did exactly what Jesus said should be done. Some 20 million attended the occasion,” Jacek said. This year’s Memorial was marked on April 14.
Those attending the Memorial with Jehovah’s Witnesses for the first time will see a functional, clean venue devoid of religious symbols.
The United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), a Protestant Christian denomination, observes the same Holy Week practices as that of Roman Catholicism, according to Lowell Tac-an, executive secretary of the organizational ministry of UCCP.
“We also celebrate Palm Sunday with a special form of worship. Then we also observe Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Black Saturday. There is a reenactment of the Last Supper and we also do the seven last words. Easter Sunday serves as the culmination of the whole Holy Week celebration,” Tac-an said.
“There isn’t much difference because we also follow what’s written in the bible,” he added.
According to Tac-an, one difference between UCCP and the Roman Catholic Church is that the former does not believe in purgatory. “In the basic Protestant doctrines, we also believe in life after death. But there is no belief in purgatory,” he said.
UCCP also observes other religious Christian festivities, like Christmas and All Souls’ Day. Reports from Almi I. Atienza, Ana Roa, Marielle Medina, Rafael L. Antonio and Kate Pedroso
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