In a Christmas message, the Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, told of a lady from Palo on the island of Leyte, who, as if replying to a question he himself was pondering:
With persons and things associated with Christmas either destroyed or gone, what would Christmas be?, said:
With the ruins around us, this would probably be the first time I would understand and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.
And on Christmas Eve, in the now roofless Cathedral of the Transfiguration in Palo, the Papal Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, offered Mass with the faithful standing under umbrellas in the night rain. On Christmas Day at 10 a.m. he celebrated Mass in the devastated city of Tacloban at the Sto Niño Church there.
The text of Cardinal Tagle’s message, which can be found here, is below:
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Many people have been wondering what Christmas would be like for the survivors of the Zamboanga crisis, the earthquake in Bohol and super typhoon Yolanda. With persons and things associated with Christmas either destroyed or gone, what would Christmas be? One lady from Palo gave me her answer to this question, “With the ruins around us, this would probably be the first time I would understand and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.” A mysterious answer indeed, but because it comes from a survivor, it must contain truth and wisdom. Her statement brings us back to the central sign of Christmas: the humble baby in the manger who is truly the Son of God, God with us. God is near. God remains with us.
This was the sign foretold by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 7:10-14) and indicated by the angels to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:8-14). All other signs of Christmas (lights, food, revelry, costumes, and gifts) must be rooted in and draw their meaning from the core Sign: the humble person of the Son of God who emptied himself to become one of us. Divine glory is seen in a child’s weakness; heavenly radiance is made manifest in humility; and God’s justice is revealed as compassion.
Let us not forget the Christ-child. Beholding, contemplating and adoring Jesus, who is truly God’s presence among us, let us be transformed into signs of his coming. Christmas 2013 should be a Christmas of solidarity and communion. But this will happen only with serious soul-searching, review of values, reordering of priorities, and commitment to God, neighbour, country and creation. The survivors of recent disasters will teach us how to see the Child promised by God with fresh eyes of faith and hope.
I wish all of you, especially Filipinos who are striving to reconstruct their lives and who are far from home, a Blessed Christmas. May God surprise you anew with the Sign of His love.
+ Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle
Archbishop of Manila
(No need to turn your screens upside down for this picture. It’s a reflection in puddled rainwater below the altar in Palo Cathedral, of course)