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Towards an Inculturated & Contextualized Christology
Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR, STD


"Who do you say that I am?" This is the christological question that Christians through the ages have tried to answer. The answer to this question has often been influenced by the socio-cultural context and the sitz-im-leben of the Christian community. The question has been transformed to "Who is Jesus for us?" There is a Jewish answer to this question, a Hellenistic-Jewish answer, a Graeco-Roman answer, a european answer, and a Filipino answer. This explains the plurality of christologies.

In order to find out how Filipinos have tried to answer the Christological question, we need to examine the cultural images and forms in popular religiousity. There are popular images of Jesus (Santo Niño, Hesus Nazareno, Santo Cristo, Santo Intierro, Sagrado Corazon, etc.). We also have to examine the Pasyon which is said to mirror the collective consciousness during the colonial era.

These images have often been regarded in negative terms (the infant who never grows up, the dead Christ who never rises). We need to look at them from a more positive view.

The Santo Niño, may symbolize the incarnation - the God who becomes human, who becomes a child, who becomes accessible. In this image we already see both the human and divine nature of Jesus, his passion (cross), his universal kingship (scepter and crown) , his cosmic lordship (the globe).

The Hesus Nazareno, and the Santo Intierro, symbolize the suffering Christ - the suffering servant. He is the Christ who identifies himself with the suffering humanity, the Christ who offers his life for our redemption.

The Pasyon provides us with a narrative account of Jesus' incarnation, birth, ministry, death and resurrection, and his final coming in the parousia.

The image of the Sacred Heart reminds us of the love and compassion of Jesus for all of us, a love that is expressed in all his miraculous deeds of healing, feeding, exorcism, a love that is expressed ultimately in dying in thecross, a love that liberates. His love for us continues even today.

These images and forms can be a starting point for doing Christology in the Philippines.

The story of Jesus needs to be retold to an audience that are mostly poor and oppressed, who are influenced by traditional popular religiosity.

The incarnation = the God who becomes human, who becomes poor. His identification and solidarity with the poor, his option for the poor.

His ministry = proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God to the poor, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, exorcisms,

His suffering and death= his passion as a consequence of his mission, his being a threat to the status quo

His resurrection = victory over death, the triumph of light over darkness, the triumph of good over evil.

His continuing presence in our life= he continues to offer us to gift of liberation

His coming at the end of time when he will bring about the full realization of the kingdom and salvation.

The soteriological emphasis. Jesus as savior (manluluwas). How was his saving deeds shown = in his healing, exorcisms, his crucifixion, and his resurrection. He saves us from all evil (sickness, evils spirits, death, etc.). His death and resurrection has a liberating and redemptive character. Both the Philippine revolution in 1896 and the EDSA revolution in 1986 have been perceived as the enactment of the themes from the Pasyon.

The theological and anthropological implication of Christology:

Jesus as the visible image of the invisible God. In his person God was present and active. In his person, his deeds and words he reveals to us what God is really like. He is a God who is love, a merciful and compassionate God, whose will is that people may be saved or liberated from everything that enslaves and oppresses them.

Jesus is also the perfect image of what it means to be a human being. To be human means to be loving, to be of service to all, to be open to God and to one's neighbor.

For a long time, Christology has been dominated by the Western approach. It is a Christology that is meaningful to the western mind - rational, abstract, precise, systematic, metaphysical, ahistorical. It is a christology that is expressed in precise definition.

Although the Philippines has been colonized by Spain and the United States of America, our mindset is still oriental. The Filipino mindset tends to be more concrete, symbolic, intuitive, narrative, poetic. "The Filipino way of thinking is similar to that kind of meditative reflection upon symbols, images and songs known by a poet and mystic." While western thought is characterized by abstract intellectualism, the Filipino discourse is narrative and evocative.

The mentality of the Filipino is not so disposed to philosophical abstractions, speculative analysis and systematic definitions. It is inductive and synthetic as it proceeds through concrete symbols and tends to be subjective, concrete and imprecise. The abstract and speculative nature of dogmatic formulations will not interest him at all.

A Filipino Christology will not be expressed in abstract and precise definition. It will have to be expressed in our own language, our own thought forms. It will therefore be expressed in symbols and images, in narrative form, in songs and poetry, in drama and dance. Our cultural tradition has shown us how: the images of Christ in the Sto. Niño, Hesus Nazareno, the Santo Cristo, the Santo Intierro. The Christo of the Pasyon, the sinakulo.

"Christology can be articulated not only in words but in images as well. Instead of putting them into writing, Filipinos might also dance their Christology... They will sing their own understanding of Jesus and his presence among his people in ballads and epics, they will portray his meaning them in poems and religious sculptures, they will recount his wondrous deeds in parables, folk tales and fairy stories."

Theological Reflections