LENTEN EVENTS. Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma leads clerics in reciting the morning prayer to mark the Paschal Triduum at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral on Thursday (April 14, 2022). The faithful are back inside Cebu churches after two years of commemorating the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ via an online platform due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Cebu)

CEBU CITY – After two years of celebrating Lent at home using the online platform, the Roman Catholic faithful in Cebu are now back in churches to physically participate in the various activities commemorating the Paschal Mystery in the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Archdiocese of Cebu resumed its in-person activities in the parish churches as the government adopted a relaxed coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) alert due to the drop in the infection rate and a relative good vaccination coverage.

Cebu City churches are now enjoying a certain extent of freedom in holding their activities after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) placed the capital under Alert Level 1, along with Siquijor.

Dr. Jeffrey Ibones, Cebu City Health Department head, however, reminded churchgoers to be mindful of the basic minimum health protocols to prevent a resurgence of cases after the Lenten season.

He cited the warning of the World Health Organization (WHO) on the possible rise in Covid-19 cases in the coming weeks.

“Covid-19 is still there. We should not lower our guard,” Ibones said in a radio interview on Thursday.

However, he also cited the gains in the fight against Covid-19, including the vaccination of more than 70 percent of the target population with the help of both the public and private sectors.

Although Mayor Michael Rama’s “open policy” does not discriminate against unvaccinated individuals, church leaders here encouraged only the fully vaccinated to attend religious gatherings.

Most churches continue to air live their Lenten services through Facebook, not only to encourage the old and the sick to stay at home but also to spread the message of the Paschal Mystery through modern information technology.

In-person events

On Friday, some locals will dramatize the suffering of Jesus en route to the Calvary as well as his death in a play locally known as “Buhing Kalbaryo” (living calvary) at the Archdiocesan Shrine of the San Nicolas de Tolentino, the entire stretch of the V. Rama Avenue at Espina Village in Barangay Guadalupe here.

The faithful’s eagerness to return to normal Lenten celebration became obvious during the Ash Wednesday celebration last March 2, which signaled the start of the season. Many flocked to churches to receive an ashen cross on the forehead that symbolizes both death and repentance.

On Passion Sunday also known as Palm Sunday on April 10, people again crowded the churches to commemorate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, which signaled the start of his suffering in the hands of the Romans.

The morning prayer

On Maundy Thursday, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma led other bishops and the clergy in the morning prayer for the first day of the Paschal Triduum at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.

The Triduum also marked the first day of Tinieblas, a term from the word “Tenebrae” that means “darkness” or “shadows” in Latin.

The same morning prayer will also be recited on Good Friday, and Black Saturday.

While the majority of the ceremonies of the Catholic Church are joyous and celebratory, Tenebrae or Tinieblas stands in contrast. With a dimly-lit church, 15 candles are lighted in rarely-seen holders. Fourteen of the candles signify the psalms of "Matins and Lauds" and are gradually extinguished one after the other.

The final lighted candle would be removed by a server or cleric and hidden behind a curtain or the altar, signifying the burial of Jesus, then a noise would be made, symbolizing the earthquake after the crucifixion.

Seven last words

On Good Friday, Palma will lead the Siete Palabras or "Seven Last Words" at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.

The celebration will be in person but will also be streamed live via the Facebook page of the Archdiocese of Cebu, the social media pages of the cathedral, and partner media entities.

Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Midyphil Billones, along with Msgr. Raul Go, Cebu’s judicial vicar, two other priests, two members of the religious communities, and two members of the laity, will recite the seven last words uttered by Jesus before he breathed his last.

Apart from the Cebu archdiocese’s mother church, other parish churches across the province will also hold their own version of the Siete Palabras to be recited by the clerics and the laity. (PNA)