Two years ago, a friend from Tarlac told me that their province has a piece of the Holy Cross. Curious, I googled it, her story checks out.
The relic can be found in the Church of Monasterio de Tarlac. It was donated by a German monastic in 2007. I wanted to see it until I found out that it was in a sealed reliquary.
I wanted to see an actual piece, a shard, no matter how small.
Two weeks ago, on my birthday, I dropped by the Cathedral (Cathedral of the Good Shepherd). I was in for a surprise. The Holy Cross relic is on display at the ecclesiastical museum.
Because the Cathedral’s museum has limited space, they regularly rotate exhibited items. Popular among visitors are the church’s cornerstone (primera piedra) and St. John Paul II’s mementos—the first Pope to have visited the island state.
The Cathedral, the oldest in the island, underwent full restoration for three years. It reopened in 2016. It was an impressive undertaking.
I can’t help but feel a bit envious. Why? Some of our Churches back home are older by even centuries and yet many languish in neglect.
I often encounter Holy Cross relics in literature but never got to see one until my recent visit to the Cathedral. While many doubts the authenticity of such relics, they remain popular object of devotion. It is after all, if genuine, a piece of the Church’s greatest symbol and that of man’s salvation.
The Holy Cross relic in the Cathedral is placed in the middle of a dark timber cross, adorned with mother of pearl floral and vine design. The relic is minute and hardly visible.
There’s another Holy Cross relic here in Singapore located in the Church of the Holy Cross.
St. Helen (Santa Elena) who was 82 when she went to the Holy Land to retrieve the Holy Cross, is believed to be the source of all Holy Cross relics.
A Netflix documentary suggests that the Queen made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land to save his son’s (Constantine) soul from hell. It is believed that the Emperor had his son and his wife murdered after uncovering their affair. Now, that’s kinda messed up but that’s ancient Rome!
Constantine was not only a Christian emperor but he’s known to Catholic’s as Saint Constantine the Great.
While he did not lived a saintly life, scholars believe that what he did for the Church expunged his sinful past.
Or maybe St. Helen unearthing the Holy Cross, the very symbol of salvation, did?
Santa Elena’s quest for the Holy Cross has inspired one our beloved summer tradition, the Santa Cruzan (Santacruzan). Everyone at some point in their lives has experienced one in their home provinces.
Must be our times, but these days this religious event has become a full blown beauty pageant—in some places even gays have their own version.
This tradition is considered by many as a pioneering feminist event. It’s female led and dominated. The Spanish missionaries, understanding the women’s role in our ancient societies, used it to draw the natives closer to the Church.
How feministic is it?
The Santa Cruzan is lead by a lady called Hermana Mayor, the women are called Sagalas. The characters at the beginning were all biblical, like Santa Maria Magdalena and Queen Sheeba. Even historical figures like Cleopatra and Judith were later added. Then in the early 19th century it had been Filipinized with addition of characters like Banderada, a woman dressed in the colors of the Philippine flag.
Santacruzan is a religious tradition that the pioneers of the Church created for the natives. We took it and ran with it. It exist in no other country but ours.