Jaro Fiesta 2021 is here. After the Dinagyang 2021 Festival, religious celebrations in the Queen City of the South does not eventually conclude. Devotees not only from the City of Love but also coming from the different corners of the world, flock to Jaro every second day of February in order to visit the miraculous Blessed Virgin atop her shrine, attend masses, and light candles in her honor. They would endure the long snakelike lines, the exhausting heat, and the amassing sea of people in order to see her adorned with all the copes and jewelries fit for a royalty, yet she never treated such as reasons for entitlement.
Mystery, history, and revelry fill the stories of the Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria. In fact, many tales and legends surround her. From the discovery of the image in the banks of Iloilo River until where she is today. In fact, it is the only Marian image in the Philippines that is personally crowned by a Pope-then Saint himself. Moreover, the image is attributed to the many miracles and experiences of faith overpowering in the most trying times that can be duly witnessed by several devotees.
This year, however, the celebrations would be sui generis, that is, it is a whole lot of a different story.
Jaro Fiesta 2021 in the Current Wrath of Pandemic
In the current wrath of the COVID-19 Pandemic, we have experienced heavy lockdowns. We loss of lives and livelihood. All those tragic phenomena that have ultimately questioned our will to live. Safety protocols are in place to ensure that we will never re-experience the worse problems as that of before.
Indeed, the celebration of Jaro Fiesta this year is of no exception. Expect a lot of inconveniences along the way: strict social distancing, minimum carrying capacities within the vicinities, and the like. Just like in the previous Traslacion in Quiapo, Manila, expect that many people would fill the entire plaza just to hear the Mass straight from the Cathedral. Adjustments are already visible in the place. When you recently passed by the Cathedral, you would already see a plethora of painted polka dots upon the church grounds.
If you are scared of flocking to the Cathedral or you are impatient in dealing with people who cannot follow simple instructions, it’s alright. Nevertheless, you can still celebrate this solemnity wherever you may be with a heart full of peace. Remember that.
Here are three simple steps to celebrate Jaro Fiesta 2021 despite this pandemic:
Light a Candle in Your Life
If you want to rush and flock to the Cathedral, then go ahead. Believe that nothing would surely harm you and those people around; knowing that what you are doing is for the furtherance of God’s glory. As usual, try to climb the shrine and say a prayer or two. This time, avoid touching (the image); allow her to touch you. Buy and light a perdon at the Chapel of Lights on the right side of the Cathedral. If you think otherwise, you can either attend mass online, as it has now become the trend nowadays, or to any church near you. Attending the Eucharistic celebration, being the summit of our Christian life, is always the best way to start the day.
Nevertheless, you can also visit the Cathedral ahead or after the feast day itself. The Lady herself would never leave her children and has been duly waiting for them 24/7. Remember that the real candle she brings is not the taper itself, but her Divine Son, Who humbled Himself share in our humanity.
Never be swayed by those people claiming that this act of giving homage to the Candelaria is idolatry. I may sound like a broken mixed tape, but veneration is not equal to adoration, the latter due to God alone. Convince yourself that your prayers passes on and transcends to what the very image represents, a Mother that is both a historical and mystical reality, full of grace, blessed among women, and the Lord is with her.
Light a Candle in Your Heart
Nemo quod dat non habet
Yes, we cannot give what we never have. As such, you can never offer yourself as a light for others if you have never had an experience or even a glimpse of such Light in your heart. As such, you would only be a hypocrite who speaks about God’s mercy while not living out such mercy that God has given you.
On the feast day, think of all those excess baggage that you have deliberately retained in your heart which you think will eventually hamper your spiritual growth. In your journey of faith, exert extra effort to cast away those that hurt you the most. All of us have been there, but we just have to know when to hold on and when is the right time to let go. As life is filled with lessons of love and letting go (Sumogat, 2021). Ask for the grace to dedicate all your pains to God, knowing that He will heal you from all your sufferings and replenish your strength in order to finish all the odds strong.
Choose to love.
Keep on loving. As God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love. This is why there is no excuse to do otherwise. There may be pains in love, but to love itself is already a blessing. Never think that your love would remain unrequited or even not given a bit of appreciation. To be loved in return is merely just a bonus (Gomez, 2020).
Saying amen is just like saying yes (Tan, 2020).
No matter what, dispose yourself to accept the daily crosses that life has given you. Life may be hard, but never forget that it is also beautiful (Tangan, 2020). God would never place you under those difficult circumstances if He thinks that you cannot bear its weight in the first place.
Once you would be able to ignite your heart with the flame of love and as well as enjoy its warmth, you would be able to stand firm amidst the uncertainties of the times.
Light Yourself to Be a Candle for Others
A lantern failed to serve its very purpose unless its glow is witnessed by everyone who passes by. Its brilliance is not meant to be self-serving, but to be a beacon that others would follow.
The celebration of Our Lady of Candles reminds us that we are need to be alight. This is so that we will continue to shine bright even in these trying moments of our lives. We bearers of hope and encouragement. Especially to those who have been tripped in the dark and extinguished their light of faith thereon. We are candles in our passing world. We ready to give our very selves so that the Light would increase its glow and warmth. As such, we must be willing to render a heartfelt sacrifice whenever circumstances require along the way.
In a Nutshell
This Jaro Fiesta 2021, we celebrate the 500 years of the coming of Christianity upon our shores. We have our mission. Like the Our Lady of Candles, God chooses ordinary people like you and me to do things extraordinarily well. Never ever shrink back thinking that we have nothing to offer (Panganiban, 2021). Nonetheless, God would even utilize our shortcomings in order for us to do and be better.
This gift of faith that we have received only proves that nothing, even this prevent pandemic can prevent us from celebrating our manifestations of undying belief. We march onwards just like the Light in the hands of our Lady. Remember that this certain God is already in control, even of the uncertain future. With Mary, our Mother, you would soon realize that there is nothing to be deeply worried about. Once you did, treasure all those God’s graces and manifestations within the depths of your heart.
Viva La Virgen! Viva Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria!