A Resting Place for the True Cross
It takes about forty minutes from Plaza Luisita in downtown Tarlac City to reach the Relic of the True Cross monastery (also known as the Monasterio de Tarlac) which sits on the mountain top called The Resurrection by the Servants of the Risen Christ monks. Up a concreted road where haystacks are piled on both sides, amid the rolling hills of bucolic San Jose, the hilltop residence of the Relic is the ideal escape to which we can journey to the heart of spiritual universe.
PINOY GLOBAL ACCESS
June – July 2007 issue
A Resting Place for the True Cross
by Diana B. Noche
The town of San Jose in the province of Tarlac nestles comfortably at the foot of a cluster of mountains. Most houses are of wooden materials and are weather-beaten. The place looks like most rural towns in the Philippines: tall branches of gumamelas in full bloom fanning themselves in the tropical breeze; pigs and chicken darting across the path of a motor vehicle; front yards planted to flaming red bougainvilleas; dogs scratching their backside against a towering pile of sun-dried tree branches hacked and split for the kitchen fire; children and grown-ups stretched out and snoozing under mango trees during siesta time.
As it looks, San Jose’s only regular visitors are the thousands of migratory birds fleeting in and out of the small rice terraces carved out of the small rice terraces carved out along the hillsides. But as fate would have it, the town’s semi-visibility might fade out soon.
In 2005, a Filipino Diocesan priest from Ramos, Tarlac, Father Ronald Thomas “Archie” Cortez, went to the World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany upon the invitation of Mr. Lutz Ruhloff, the President of the Philippine German Association in Oberhausen. There he met Msgr. Volker Bauer from the Diocese in Essen in whose custody the Relic of the Holy Cross was entrusted. According to Church historians, St. Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, found the Christ’s Sepulcher in the rubble of a church in Constantinople. Three crosses were also found, the third one which had miraculously brought back to health a very sick woman became knows as the cross where Christ was believed to have been nailed to. Over the years, pieces of the Cross were distributed to European churches and monasteries. In modern times as monastic population in Europe is becoming a medieval past, Msgr. Bauer thought it was wise to pass on the Relic which his Diocese had kept for over a thousand years to worthy hands.
Father Cortez opines: “I didn’t really think about the implication involved in accepting the relic. I didn’t know what might be demanded of us. We didn’t even have the money to build a suitable chapel for it. What I did know was that I wanted to bring it to the Philippines and I wanted Filipinos to be able to venerate the Relic of the Holy Cross in their own country.”
It takes about forty minutes from Plaza Luisita in downtown Tarlac City to reach the Relic of the True Cross monastery (also known as the Monasterio de Tarlac) which sits on the mountain top called The Resurrection by the Servants of the Risen Christ monks. Up a concreted road where haystacks are piled on both sides, amid the rolling hills of bucolic San Jose, the hilltop residence of the Relic is the ideal escape to which we can journey to the heart of spiritual universe. It’s a long, sinuous drive to get to the top – similar to climbing Baguio City minus the cool temperature. But once you’re there, the view is dramatic, the little hills below green with vegetation. As you enter the chapel, imagine monks chanting at 3:45 each morning to sing praises to God and preparing to worship before the altar where the Relic (a candy-size piece of old wood) lies encased in a silver and gold arqueta with engravings of the Crucifixion symbols: a pair of dice, the garment Christ wore, a hammer and nails, and a ladder.
The chapel is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays with a 10:00 am mass. The reliquary, however, is open for public viewing only once a year, on September 14, the Feast Day of the Triumph of the Holy Cross and coincidentally the foundation day of the Order begun by Father Cortez in Ramos, Tarlac.
As the sun sets, golden rays spark across the mountain tops providing momentary attraction before it gets dark.
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