Church number seven: St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Parish, with its Garden Way of the Cross. Finally. I parked my car and sat there for a bit, eyeing my copy of the Stations of the Cross on the dashboard. After taking a deep breath, I picked up the booklet and got out.
It’s Maundy Thursday, the day of the Holy Week when everyone in the Philippines would participate in Visita Iglesia. When doing Visita Iglesia, you travel from church to church while recollecting the passion and death of Jesus through the fourteen Stations of the Cross. It’s a pilgrimage of sorts that’s become customary among many Filipino families, and it’s one I religiously follow every year. Some say one station for every church they stop at, but I personally do two. That’s how Ma used to do it anyway, and old habits die hard.
As this was my seventh and last church for the day, I walked slowly towards the garden where the stations were splayed out. This was one of my favorites, and one that I always left for last. Not only did it have a unique artistic styling per each station of the Way of Sorrows, but it was also the last one my mom and I used to visit when I did Visita Iglesia with her.
I walked past the bells and the first few stations, and saw how there were already a few people scattered here and there. It was nearing 3 PM, and most people usually did Visita Iglesia in the late afternoon. I preferred the post-lunch hour, since I enjoyed having less crowds to deal with.
11, 12, 13. This was it. I stood before Station 13 and opened my booklet.
“The Thirteenth Station is Jesus is taken down from the cross,” I murmured, reading from the guide. “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.” I paused for a bit, awaiting response, but checked myself and shook my head. It’s my first year of doing Visita Iglesia on my own, so I guess I couldn’t help but default to how Ma and I used to do it: taking turns with the readings and responses.
I smiled to myself and continued. “Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”
I read the Bible verse that came along with the station, and slowed down when I got to the last line. “Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.”
I paused, and tears fell down unbidden from my eyes. Memories of another body I buried last year came back to me, and I was filled with a sorrow that I knew time would not quite heal. I remembered how Ma looked like she was sleeping even after her heartbeat flat-lined, after she was dressed up in her favorite dress by the embalmers, after the wake I oversaw for her. I wondered if that was how the followers of the Christ felt when they received his body: filled with an undeniable sadness and a void that they knew would never be filled again.
I cried for a while, grateful that there weren’t many people nearby. It felt good to let it out, and my heart felt a peace it had not known in a while.
I took out my handkerchief, wiped my tears away, and cleared my throat. I recited the accompanying prayer, then said an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be.
When I was finished, I walked to Station 14, and consulted my guide. Jesus is placed in the tomb. I smiled, took a deep breath, and began to read it aloud.
St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Parish’s Garden Way of the Cross: http://www.saintalphonsus.church/
Image source: deviantart.com/stolenartist/art/stations-of-the-cross-149896592
First written March 29, 2018.