It is an annual tradition for me and family to visit the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, tucked away in the city of San Jose del Montre, Bulacan. It is a two and a half-hour drive from Makati, but during good days when the roads are clear, it usually takes about an hour and a half. We pay our visit to the grotto every Maundy Thursday and we do Stations there.
The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is known to be an exact replica of the Lourdes Grotto in France. It takes the form of a mock hill Calvary where there are life-size statues that portray the passion and death of Jesus Christ. The mountain on which it was built is also known to be a close-to-perfect imitation of the actual road Christ traveled on while He carried the cross. This is a popular destination where thousands of people flock to during the Lenten season.
I’ve been visiting this grotto since I was four years old. And though it has somewhat been a yearly “routine” for me to tread the dusty and steep roads during Lent, I hardly reflected on Christ’s sacrifice to us. Especially when I was a kid, I remember rolling my eyes and praying whenever we’d reach one of the stations—praying that we would soon end so I can get an ice pop.
Forgive me for my negligence, but that was really how I’d view the grotto. Easing in to my teenage years, my mindset slightly changed. It wasn’t more of a routine anymore, but more of a workout—an opportunity to go “hiking”. (I know right, I am such an embarrassment). But throughout these years, I have never felt such an affinity to the grotto than I do now.
And truth be told, this is the most meaningful Holy Week I have ever had.
I was never one who would write about God. In fact, it was one of the topics I’d really stray away from because well, it was just plain weird. But this year has been filled with discovery, and I know God has been at work. It’s been surprising and so refreshing to live a life with a renewed wonder and zest. I still feel a bit awkward sometimes writing about God, even in my previous entries, because I am still easing in, and there is still so, so much to learn. But I guess it’s a start. : )
I also watched The Passion last night for the second time. First time I watched it was in 1st year high school, a pirated DVD copy with all the bloodbath scenes dressed conservatively in black-and-white grading. Now, I got the unedited copy and watching it full-fledged and raw was a very moving experience. I want to make it a yearly Lenten tradition from now on.
Watching The Passion and physically being in a replication of Calvary is a very humbling experience. I have never really paid much attention to what Christ experienced, save for the bumpy grounds, the humid weather, and the steep road. Imagine having to go through all that with scourges/being scourged. Blood dripping heavily from each and every lash. Desperately thirsting for literally any form of liquid, but with a mouth too sore to consume it. A crown of thorns inconceivably sharp that every move caused an incredible surge of pain. And to top it all off, a cross so heavy that one man cannot simply carry it alone…
Imagine all of that happening and all I worried about was getting darker, another fifteen minutes of doing the Stations, the allergies I might get from the dust, the ice cubes in my thermos melting, and to top it all off, a less-than-a-pound backpack.
And all this scourging, thirst, pain, and heaviness…not to mention, the betrayals, the spitting, the shame, the forsaken feeling He endured, all without complaint but with love.
All because of love. Just for you, for me, for us. It’s quite incomprehensible, but trust me, it’s fact.