Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Ilocano Pasyon: Sudario and Lectio

            I just came from Abra and even if up there the scorching summer sun is nearer to mother earth, you can still be refreshed by the rich traditions during the Semana Santa (Holy Week). The singing of the Sudario—the Lament (Dung-aw) of the Blessed Mother on the death her son can still be heard played over the radio stations both AM and FM.

           The  Sudario (literally “handkerchief” in Latin; cf. Santa Veronica’s sudario), inculturation of the dung-aw, the pre-colonial Ilocano dirge, consists of five lines of eight syllables per stanza. Every part has ten stanzas with the tenth as a two-line verse that summons a personified Jerusalem. It is sung soulfully—there is a “drawl,” a prolongation of a vowel sound such as “ah” to make thee lament even more emphatic and mournful.  Unlike  the Tagalog Pasyon whose musical setting has adjusted to contemporary music, the original melody of the Sudario has endured and continues to be heard throughout the Lenten season especially during Good Friday before the Santo Entierro (the image of the dead Christ in supine position). The sample stanzas below is taken from part IV of the Sudario published in The Ilocos Review 2 (1970), pp. 119-120:
            Ay O Sudario ni Veronica
            A nacaipintaan ti tallo a sinan rupa
            Iyasidegmo man ta agcac ida
            Daguita ladaoan a naipinta
            Daydi anacco a binunga.

            [Oh Sudario of Veronica,
            On which three pictures are impressed,
            Come nearer, come, that I may kiss
            The three images which are taken—
            Pictures of Christ, my begotten son.]

            Ay ay-ayatec a bul-lalayaw
            Sadino aya ti papanam
            Ay anacco matmatannac man
            Iti ladingitco a diac maturdan
            Iti ipupusaymo isisinam.

            [Ah, beautiful rainbow, my beloved!
            Whither have you one now?
            Look down and see well, my son
            My great sorrow, unbearable,
            Because from me you’re departing].

The recording here is part of the collection of radio station DZPA, Bangued, Abra.

       The Ilocano Pasyon is said to be a translation of the Tagalog Pasyon Genesis or Pasyong Mahal a poetic retelling of the key events of the scripture from Creation to Resurrection. The Ilocano Pasyon is rarely chanted nowadays unlike the Sudario and the Lectio.  The Lectio (Latin for “Reading”) is the chanting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah in Latin (Vulgate) in typical Ilocano melody. The Sasainnec (Lamentations) in the Hebrew text is an alphabetical acrostic poem. Each poem has twenty-two verses; each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The Latin translation spells out these Hebrew letters before each poem. Thus the Ilocano Lectio begins with a long but impassioned singing of Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

         The Lectio is a local adaptation or inculturation of the Tenebrae (Latin for “darkness”), the night prayer services during the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday)  which include the reading of the Lamentations of Jeremiah. Likewise, the Improperia (“Reproaches) whose texts are from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, are chanted during the veneration of the Cross on Good Friday.

         The Lectio that you hear in this recording is from Lamentions 3:1-9  sung on Good Friday.  The singers are the members of the Men’s Choir from Tayum, Abra. Special thanks to the Ballena family for allowing me to use the recording.

The text reads:
ALEPH ego vir videns paupertatem meam in virga indignationis eius 2 ALEPH me minavit et adduxit in tenebris et non in lucem 3 ALEPH tantum in me vertit et convertit manum suam tota die 4 BETH vetustam fecit pellem meam et carnem meam contrivit ossa mea 5 BETH aedificavit in gyro meo et circumdedit me felle et labore 6 BETH in tenebrosis conlocavit me quasi mortuos sempiternos 7 GIMEL circumaedificavit adversum me ut non egrediar adgravavit conpedem meam 8 GIMEL sed et cum clamavero et rogavero exclusit orationem meam 9 GIMEL conclusit vias meas lapidibus quadris semitas meas subvertit.

[Translation from NRSV: 1  I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God's wrath; 2 he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; 3 against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long. 4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; 5 he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; 6 he has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago. 7 He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me; 8 though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; 9 he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked].

As in the other poems, it ends with call for Jerusalem to return to the Lord in the concluding refrain Ierusalem, Ierusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum ("Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return unto the Lord your God").

         Blessed Easter to all!
Fr. Randy Flores, SVD
Divine Word Seminary
4120 Tagaytay City

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Proclaiming God's Greatness (the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-56) - Simbang Gabi December 22

For December 22, 2011 (Luke 1:46-56)
By Fr. Randy Flores, SVD
[thanks to K. L. Gamban for editing]

Her name is Leah.

She is Mary’s thirty-sixth great grandmother. “All women,” Leah says at the birth of Israel’s child, “will call me blessed” (Genesis 30:13). “All generations,” says Mary on the eve of the birth of Israel’s greatest child, “will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).

Leah’s life, though not well known, is interesting; and not without connection to the Christmas story.

The eldest of the two of Laban’s daughters, Leah is the less beautiful, the less known and the less loved. While her sister Rachel is described in excessive words—“beautiful in form and beautiful in appearance” (in Hebrew yepat toar wipat mareh), Leah has “eyes without luster”—only one word in Hebrew (rakkot). Leah has poor eyesight, the Rabbis would explain, because of too much weeping.

In the story of the two sisters in Genesis 29-30, we are explicitly told that “Jacob loved Rachel.” (29:17). He does not mind serving Laban’s household for Rachel for a total of fourteen years (29:30). He has to be deceived by Laban to marry Leah to fulfill the local custom of marrying the older daughter first. In contrast, Leah learns to love her husband even if he does not love her and keeps ignoring her.

The text says that “when the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he “opened her womb” (29:31). The Lord blesses her with children. Two of her children would become the key figures of salvation history—Levi, the ancestor that begins the priestly tradition of Israel; and Judah, the thirty-sixth great grandfather of Jesus.

Underneath the Song of Mary (the Gospel reading) are beautiful stories of our salvation that finds its climax in Jesus’ birth. It is a “mosaic of Old Testament quotations and allusions interpreting the coming of Jesus” as one commentary puts it. The song is found within the Visitation story (Luke 1:39-56) – when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant. When we examine the narrative carefully however, we realize it is not the action of Mary’s visitation that is being emphasized.We do not even know the reason why Mary visited Elizabeth. The evangelist Luke does not give us more information, except that she traveled “in haste.” Mary stayed at the home of Elizabeth for three months, but we do not have more information about what she did there, except the fact that Mary sang this hymn — what we now call the Magnificat.

This should give us a hint at how important the Song of Mary is, and how the evangelist invites the readers to slow down and take time to reflect on it (especially as we prepare for Christmas). Let us take our cue from the women of the Magnificat—Leah, Hannah (first reading) Elizabeth and of course, Mary—how they “magnified” God in their lives and experienced the joy of God’s love.

To help us a little more for this reflection, let us cite some lines from the homily of Venerable Bede on the Magnificat:
When we devote all our thoughts to the praise and service of the Lord, we proclaim God’s greatness. Our observance of God’s commands, moreover, shows that we have God’s power and greatness always at heart. Our spirit rejoices in God our savior and delights in the mere recollection of our creator who gives us hope for eternal salvation.
What is note-worthy in the homily of this great monk (commonly known to us as San Beda) is his emphasis on both praise and service as in themselves a proclamation of God’s greatness. But it is not enough to have one without the other. Unfortunately, there are many people who get stuck in the service part. They serve in their parishes or communities and become so busy with all their church work, that they sometimes forget the praise part. In all their busyness and efficiency, they sometimes fail to recognize God’s hand in everything that they do and accomplish.

As we render service to others in our day-to-day lives – whether through our work in church, in service to our families, or even in our offices – we must always remember that it is God who is to be magnified and not our own egos. Let us not allow ourselves to fall into the trap of self-glorification. The sure-fire way of avoiding this is by always recognizing that God is greater than who are and by magnifying Him in our lives, like what the Magnificat women did.

With Christmas Day just around the corner, there is no better time to begin this habit of giving praise and glory to God for His greatness and faithfulness! "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16, NIV) – this fulfillment of God’s promise is a truly a season to rejoice!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why in haste? - December 21 Simbang Gabi

Why in haste? Mary's visit to Elizabeth
(Song of Songs 2:8-14 and Luke 1:39-45)
December 21 Simbang Gabi
by Fr. Randy Flores, SVD

Travelling today from Manila to the province of Abra in the north of Luzon will take only eight hours by bus including heavy traffic.

One hundred years ago—in 1909, it took eight days for the first SVD missionaries, Fr. Luis Beckert and Fr. John Scheiermann to reach the very first mission station Philippine SVD in Abra. It was a long, non-stop journey, in haste.

Fr. Luis was coming from China, where he had been a missionary for six years. Fr. Juan from Europe, where he had just been ordained a priest. Their meeting place was Hongkong and from there they travelled together by a steamer to the Philippines, arriving in Manila, on August 15, 1909.

Spending just four days of rest from almost a year of sailing, they began their travel to Abra, probably on horseback to Pangasinan, then by boat to Vigan; from there the two foreigners took two to on two bamboo rafts from there to Abra going up against the current of probably swollen Abra River since it was the rainy season. They arrived in the capital, Bangued and then proceeded to San Isidro (called “Cagutongan” at that time) on horseback arriving there at noontime. This was August 23, 2009. 
- (see the homily of Fr. Antonio Pernia, SVD at the SVD Centennial Mass, Shrine of the Divine Word, Christ the King Seminary, Quezon City, 14 August 2009; also Frederick Scharpf, SVD, “Traveling from Manila to Ilocos,” The Ilocos Review
20 (1988), pp. 127-131).

Mary, in the Gospel reading today from Luke (1:39-45), is a picture of a traveler in haste in the most delicate of situations—pregnancy. After the Annunciation Story, Luke narrates that “Mary arose and went in haste into the hill country to a Judean city” (v. 39)—to the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth. If Ein Kerem, a village southwest of Jerusalem, was the home of the couple (as tradition says), Mary could have traveled for ten days at the least, either on foot or on donkeyback, from hills of Galilee across the plain of Esdraelon, through the mountains of Samaria, into the Judean hills---along a land with many hills, valleys, deadly rocks and robbers.
It was a very long, tiring, and dangerous journey—yet she went in haste.

Why in haste? One scholar has advanced the idea that Mary left in haste to prevent neighbors at Nazareth from discovering her pregnancy. That is not the character of Mary, however, who often presented as a
contemplating woman—see Luke 2:19, 51 (B. Hospodar, CBQ 18 [1956]). The better insight is to think that Mary travels in haste in “obedience to the plan revealed to her by the angel, a plan which included the pregnancy of Elizabeth (1:36-37)” (Raymond Brown, Birth of the Messiah, p.331).

Such reaction of going “in haste” to obey God’s will has other examples in the Bible. At the Exodus, the Israelites must eat the Passover meal “in haste” (Exod 12:11); the shepherds, once hearing the good news from the angels that a “Christ the Lord” is born, they went from the field to the manger “in haste” (Luke 2:16).

Some years ago, before the coming of e-mail, the most convenient way to send letters greeting cards is through the post office. Many of us would still remember the cars of the postal service plying the streets with their slogan, “Don’t Delay.” They were, of course, delayed most of the time.

“Don’t delay!” That seems to be the slogan of Mary in fulfilling God’s will. Mary ponders at her
heart, but in obeying God’s will, she does in haste.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Simbang Gabi 2011: Homilies

This year's Simbang Gabi homilies (2011) are coming from SVD Philippine Northern Province. Thanks to the SVD-PHN missionaries who contributed and to Fr. Robert Ibay, SVD who collected them.

Please click on the links to download (pdf format):

December 16
December 17
December 18 - 3rd Sunday of Advent
December 19
December 20
December 21
December 22 - (Randy Flores' article for the Sambuhay misallette )
December 22
December 23
December 24
December 24/25 - Midnight Mass (Fr. Carlito Reyes' homily, Xmas 2007)
December 25 - (Fr. Carlito Reyes' homily, Xmas 2007)
December 25 (by the late Fr. Anthony Ceresko, OSFS)

Simbang Gabi 2010
Simbang Gabi 2009

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Jesus Walks on Water - 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - B

Curiously enough, only one great picture of this scene has ever been painted (by Conrad Witz in 1444 [image above]). You might have thought it would made an ideal subject: Jesus as a shimmering figure on the water, frightened disciples huddling in the boat, and Peter, caught between glory and terror, walking on the water towards Jesus and then...starting to sink. Perhaps devout artists avoided it because it seemed to show up the great apostle in a bad light" - N. T. Wright

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Priests and SUV

Man: Father, can you do a novena for me to win an SUV raffle?
Capuchin Priest: Sure, but what's an SUV?
Man explains what an SUV is.
Capuchin: Oh no, that's not what novenas are for. I can't help you.
Man goes to a Dominican priest and makes the same request.
Dominican: Sure, but what's an SUV?
Man explains and gets the same answer.
Man goes to a Jesuit and makes the same request.
Jesuit: Sure, but what's a novena?


Monday, December 13, 2010

8:00 in the evening --
Schedule of Simbang Gabi Masses at the Chapel of  Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay City.
SVD Location Map
046-4131253 for more info.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Simbang Gabi Homilies 2010

December 16, Thursday - Day 1
1) Faiq Quinto, OSJ
2)  John Mark Veloso, SVD
3) Rommel Gacias, Tahanan ng Mabuting Pastol
4) Ian Christopher Andal, San Pablo Seminary

December 17, Friday - Day 2
1) Anthony Raymund Apostol, San Pablo Seminary
2) Suresh Kumar Gorremucchu, PIME

December 18, Saturday - Day 3
1) Jimmy D. Reyes, San Pablo Seminary
2) Marita Guevarra, CTS Lay Student
3) Kantha Rao Gudipundi, PIME
4) Shermin Aromin, SVD 
5 Fr. Raul Caga, SVD (Divine Word Seminary)

December 19, Sunday - Day 4
1) Maria Cristina Pahilan (CTS Lay Student)

2) Mark Marlonne Lumbera, San Pablo Seminary
3) Joseph M.Bernales, San Pablo Seminary
4) Leexter Saludes, San Pablo Seminary
5) Fr. Ronnie Crisostomo, SVD

December 20, Monday - Day 5
1) Li Qi, SVD
2) Clyd Autentico, CRSP 
3) Vu Xuan Tran, SVD 
4) Marc Louie Caniza, San Pablo Seminary
5) Fr. Jerome Marquez, SVD (Saint Jude Catholic School)

December 21, Tuesday - Day 6
1) John Paul Marquez, SVD  
2) Gail Daven Castillo, OSJ
3) Rosauro Valmores, CRSP
4) *Fr. Pavol Hudak, SVD (Saint Jude Catholic School)

December 22, Wednesday - Day 7
1) Elino Comanda, OSJ
2) Nelson Meshian, PIME 
3)  Albino Vecina, CRSP 
4) *Father Fred Mislang, SVD - UP Los Banos

December 23, Thursday - Day 8 
1) Randy De Jesus, Tahanan ng Mabuting Pastol
2) Reniel Nachimma, SVD
3) Ferdinand Aporillo, MSP

December 24, Friday - Day 9
1) Sedfrey Nebres, SVD
2) Jose Eugenio De los Santos, OSJ
3) Louie Cris Gregorio, SVD
4) *John Paul Marquez, SVD
December 24/25 - Midnight Mass
1) Wilfredo De Mesa, Jr., OSJ
2) Benjie Manalo, SASMA
3) Renante Pabilico, Amigonian 

December 25 - Christmas Day
1) Fr. Anthony Ceresko, OSFS (+)
2) Fr. Carlito Reyes (Wales,  UK)
3)  Rommel De la Cruz, San Pablo Seminary

January 1, 2011 - New Year
1) Ronald Aries Pirante, Tahanan ng Mabuting Pastol
2) Isagani Gabisan, CSRP

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Simbang Gabi Homilies 2009

Updated - Dec 17, 2009 - at 6:38AM
Please click the links to go the files (in pdf format -Adobe Reader).
Other homilies will be uploaded, please visit this site often for updates.

Click here for Homilies from the SVD Northern Province.

Simbang Gabi 2007 - go to the right panel for the past links or click here.

Simbang Gabi 2004 (Divine Word Seminary students)- click here.

2009 Reflections/Homilies:
December 16 Lino Nicasio Is 56:1-3. 6-8 Jn 5:33-36

December 17 Vic Rayco Gn 49:2. 8-10 Mt 1:1-17 Click for the reflection on the same readings by Fr. Randy Flores, SVD (2007)

December 18 Bernard Collera Jer 23:5-8 Mt 1:18-24 Click here for the reflection on the same readings by Fr. Carlito Reyes (2007)

December 19 Angel Magada Jgs 13:2-7.24-25 Lk 1:5-25 Click for the reflection on the same readings by Fr. Randy Flores, SVD (2007)

December 20 Jerome Marquez Mi 5:1-4 / Heb 10:5-10 Lk 1:39-45

December 21 Randy Flores Sg 2:8-14 Lk 1:39-45

December 22 Joey Sepe 1 Sm 1:24-28 Lk 1:46-56 Click here for the reflection on the same reading by Fr. Raymun Festin, SVD (2006)

December 23 Joey Guinto Mal 3:1-4.23-24 Lk 1:57-66  Click here for the reflection of Fr. Nilo Gealan, SVD

December 24 Bel San Luis 2 Sm 7:1-5. 8-11. 16 Lk 1:67-79      Click here for the reflection on the same readings by Fr. Joe Aripio, SSP.

Vigil of Christmas Aris Martin Is 62:1-5 Mt 1:1-25 Click here for the reflection on the same readings by Fr. Carlito Reyes (2007)

December 25 Roland Aquino Is 52:7-10 / Heb 1:1-6 Jn 1:1-18 Click here for the reflection on the same readings by Fr. Carlito Reyes (2007)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Trinity Sunday

The Trinity by El Greco (1577)
Reading 1
Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9

Early in the morning Moses went up Mount Sinai
as the LORD had commanded him,
taking along the two stone tablets.

Having come down in a cloud, the LORD stood with Moses there
and proclaimed his name, "LORD."
Thus the LORD passed before him and cried out,
"The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God,
slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity."
Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship.
Then he said, "If I find favor with you, O Lord,
do come along in our company.
This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins,
and receive us as your own."


Jn 3:16-18

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.


Feast Day of God
Today is the feast day of God, in his name as “Holy Trinity”. The term, though limited, itself is the best that we have to express that mystery of one God yet there are three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Fr. Ben Beltran, SVD, former Dogma professor of mine, long time parish priest of Risen Christ church in Smokey, Mountain (Balut, Tondo) telling in class of his survey on who is Santissima Trinidad. A number of his respondents from Smokey Mountain answered she was Aling Trining, the old seamstress on the block. Today, we use a more localized term, “Banal na Santatlo”.

Church Fathers and Trinity
Many preachers would be tempted to do apologetics on the how three divine persons are different yet the same nature of one God. Usually they use the analogy of three candles burning and when brought near to each other they would produce one flame. That is cute but crude and very simplistic explanation of a “mystery” that had preoccupied many great thinkers and writers of the early Church – the so-called Church Fathers. In the late fourth century A.D. the great Cappadocian Father, Gregory Nazanzien (329-389) wrote, “To speak of the Godhead, is I know, like crossing the ocean on a raft, or like flying to the stars with wings of narrow span. Even heavenly beings are unable to speak of God’s decrees or of his government of the world” (E. Bernecut, p. 74, italics mine).

In 1989, we were sailing on a small boat. It was storm signal no. 2 and we were in the sea between the islands of Ambulong and Iling (San Jose, Occidental Mindoro. The sea was extraordinarily rough, the waves gigantic. We wanted to go to a village in Iling island to celebrate mass. I was a seminarian then in regency, accompanying my parish priest, Fr. Ryu Ishikawa, an Japanese SVD missionary. After an hour of sailing, the boat sank. It was a blessing that some men from that village were fixing the roof a school saw us and rushed to bring us to the shore. That is the image that the Gregory Nazanzien wants us to remember when we speak of the Trinity – a dangerous sail on a small boat in a rough sea.

After this rhetorical warning, however, Gregory Nazanzien utters a prayer: “But enlighten my mind and loosen my tongue, Spirit of God, and I will sound aloud the trumpet of truth, so that we who are united to God may rejoice with their whole heart (p. 74).” Then he proceeds confidently to talk about God.
Theologians on God
Who is God? This is the question of the day. This is the preoccupation of theology (in Greek theos-logos = God-talk, hence “discourse about God” or “study of God”). Thanks to theologians who have helped us come to a better, broader, and reasonable understanding of who God is. I think here of St. Agustine and his book On the Trinity, St. Thomas’ five arguments for the existence of God in his Summa Theologica; modern theologians like Karl Rahner and his essay “The Trinity;” contemporary theologians like Hans Kung—Does God Exist?, Walter Kasper -- The God of Jesus Christ, and Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) -- God of Jesus Christ. For those not trained in theology, I recommend these two reader-friendly books on how monotheistic religions articulate the idea of God, Karen L. Amstrong, A History of God: The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and Jack Miles, God: A Biography. I also recommend with a lot of caution to read the recent challenge of a respected scientist to belief in God, Richard Dawkins' God Delusion.

Gospel in a Nutshell: John 3:16
We do not even have to engage with theologians to come out with the best answer on the question of who God is. The liturgical readings for the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity suggest the most common yet the most profound answer to the question. The Gospel reading contains the most quoted verse from the Bible, John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (NAB). This is “the Gospel in a nutshell”, as some commentaries put it. In fact, there is no need to interpret this verse – it is as “simple and gentle as 1+1=2.”

There are also many stories created about the inspiring John 3:16. One in particular relates a hardened criminal in prison and a persistent pastor determined to convert him. One cold evening, the prison’s fireplace ran out of wood. That prisoner told the pastor that he should give up his bible to help warm the place. The pastor agreed with one condition: the prisoner must read the pages first before burning them. The story ends with the hardened criminal’s repentance.

What happened? He testified later: “I read and burned Genesis, I read and burned Exodus, I read and burned Leviticus, etc. but when I came to John 3:16, I read and I was “burned”.

Thirteen Attributes of God: Exodus 34:6-7
There is no other more appropriate commentary on John 3:16 than in the first reading of today’s Liturgy particularly Exodus 34:6-7. For the Jews, these verses consist what they call the “Thirteen Attributes of God”. In these verses, we have too the Old Testament in a nutshell. From these verses we come to know fully who the God of Jesus is:
“The LORD passed before him, and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation’” (NRSV)

Notice that “steadfast love” is mentioned twice. In Hebrew, it is only one word, hesed (sometimes spelled as chesed, pronounced as kesed) and it is at the center of these verses. Hesed is commonly translated in English as “steadfast love”, in most Tagalog translations, “wagas na pag-ibig” but best captured in the Ilocano word, "napudno." The Hebrew language has another word for “love”, “ahaba” which is commonly used to express affection especially love between husband and wife. Hesed is often used to describe the faithfulness of God to his covenant with Israel. We need then two English words to better capture the sense of this word, hence “steadfast love,” or better “faithful love” as the title of an old song goes (“My Faithful Love” sung by Ms. Pilita Corrales).

Why this solemn and touching affirmation of God as “merciful, forgiving, abounding in hesed?” In Exodus 32, we read the saddest and most shameful story of Israel – they make for themselves another god, a Golden Calf. They decide that YHWH is no longer their God; they even proclaim that YHWH is not the God who brought them out Egypt. Moses, in a kind of symbolic action, breaks the two tablets of the covenant. The covenant is broken, so too the relationship between YHWH and Israel. YHWH then decides to wipe them out but Moses intercedes for them. YHWH changes his mind. The question of the readers after Israel’s unfaithfulness would be: “Will God still be with his people? Or Will God still trust Israel as covenant partner? In the next chapter, Exodus 33, YHWH says he is no longer to be with the people in their journey to the Promised Land. God’s presence now is in danger. This is a critical moment of the story as well as critical moment of the life of Israel. Again, Moses makes an intercession for the people.

In this chapter (Exodus 34), YHWH, in kind of intimate conversation with God, tells Moses to cut two of tablets of stone so YHWH will write once again the words that were on the former tablets. And very early in the morning, on Mount Sinai, the LORD passes by Moses and proclaims what the Jews call the “Thirteen Attributes of God”. After this, the covenant is renewed. And from this time on, God will be known as the God of mercy and forgiveness.

When we think of the Holy Triune God, we remember that he is God who is abounding in hesed.

Meditation: Who is God for me? When was the last time I experienced God’s mercy in my life?