MASTER DIVINE CHILD
Sr. Veritas Grau, FSP
He is very much
a child, with curly hair and a dimpled smile, but he stands regally erect,
and, as befits a royal personage, he is usually dressed in the robes of a
king, with a golden crown on his head, a globe in one hand and a scepter in
the other. Only at Christmastime is he found in swaddling clothes and laid
in a manger.
This child can
also assume different costumes: that of a farmer, a policeman, a soldier,
a doctor. Dressed this way, his image enters the homes and offices of people
belonging to specific professions, to bring these people good fortune. It
may be that the popularization of such images is due in some measure to superstition;
the Santo Niño dressed in the uniform of one's profession is a good
luck charm. On the other hand, this phenomenon may also partly reveal the
Filipinos' hunger for a God that is truly close to themselves, a God whose
benevolent protection and desire for connection with human reality is symbolized
by his adoption of different costumes that are identified with our working
lives, our vocations, our very selves. Certainly the Santo Niño devotion
expresses this clearly.
devotion to the Santo Niño reveals certain aspects of Christ's mystery
that appeal to people in our country. Filipinos are in awe of kings, but the
little King that is Santo Niño makes Christ the King, the Lord, the
Master accessible to people's hearts. Who is afraid of a child, even when
that child has all the power of divine kingship? Jesus as Santo Niño
is vulnerable, needing to be cared for, needing to be loved as one loves a
child: tenderly, joyfully, with great understanding. The Santo Niño
devotion also has an aspect of playfulness. The homage given to this Divine
Child is not only one of prayer and good deeds; it also involves dancing and
music such as a child delights in.
What does all
this have to do with Jesus Master? The same dynamic, the same connection is
at work, which we have seen already in other images of Christ preferred by
Filipinos. We are in no doubt about the divinity and power of this Master
who is Divine, but we want to feel at home with the holder of that power.
We need to feel that the power. We need feel that the powerful Master holds
our being and our life close to his heart, where we feel safe and secure.
But we also feel the need to hold that powerful Master close to our heart,
as a child is held and cherished, protected, attended to. We emphasize the
loving Heart of this Master, his Divine Mercy, as well as his love that makes
him approachable as a child is approachable. Again we reveal that Santo Niño
devotion we express our desire for a Master, but a Master whose power is kind,
self-forgetful, seeking only our good.
in born to us," says Scripture, and his names is Emmanuel, God-with-us,
near and accessible, ready to save, ready to dispense graces and even to work
miracles. He has power, but it does not intimidate, it is humble, it is put
at our service. Our problem perhaps is making the vital connection between
such a humble God and such a powerful Master. They are two sides of the same
coin, not two parallel tracks that never meet.