Monday, July 25, 2011

The Spiritual Warfare and Santiago Matamoros

I joined our Diocesan Clergy Renewal in Dapitan. When we were there, we visited the Parish Church which was under the patronage of St. James the Greater (Santiago Major). I was amused by the tour guide who spoke about the town fiesta which is called the "Kinabayuhan Festival" in honor of the town patron. When asked why the name "kinabayuhan", he said that it is because Santiago rode a horse ("kabayo") in order to bring peace between the Christians and Muslims in Spain. Of course, those who are familiar with the story would immediately laugh as the story of the apparition of St. James in Spain was not to bring peace between the two groups. Rather, St. James led the Christian forces to victoriously defeat the Muslims who then subjected Spain to their rule. Thus, he is called "Santiago Matamoros" or St. James, the Moor slayer.

I read a prayer to St. James in that Church. This prayer tried to make sense of the image of St. James as a warrior leading men to victory. I could not remember the exact text but, as far as I could remember, it invoked St. James to lead us in our struggles against our spiritual enemies. This calls to mind what St. Paul said about the Christian life being a struggle, a warfare, not only against human beings but against powers and principalities in high places. The image of Santiago Matamoros reminds us of the militant character of our Christian faith.

But how are we to engage in this spiritual warfare? The iconography of Santiago Matamoros shows us the answer. Usually, saints (especially Martyrs) are shown as people who are tortured or executed. Seldom do we see a saint in the act of "killing" somebody or something else. Aside from Santiago Matamoros, the only one I could think of at present would be St. George slaying the dragon. Santiago is depicted as one wielding his sword over the sarecenes. Santiago shows us that in order to engage in this spiritual warfare, we have to "kill" somebody - and that "somebody" would be our own self.

St. Paul said: "We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh."

The paradigm of the world associated victory with might. Gladiators, Greek and Roman soldiers are depicted as brawny men. We do not even have to look so far. The popular wrestling icons are bulky mascular men. But this is not the paradigm of the spirit. Ironically, victory in spiritual warfare is achieve not by the strength of the body but by its weakness. The spirit and the body pine against each other. When the body is comfortably pampered, the spirit is weak. But when the body is mortified, then the spirit is strong. Thus saints engaged in the mortification of their flesh in order to win the struggle against the spiritual enemy. The spiritual battle is won through self-denial. "For it is when you are weak, it is then that I am strong...My grace is sufficient for you," so said our Lord to St. Paul.

The Lord told Sts. James and John that they will have to drink his chalice. What is the Lord's chalice? In the garden of Getsemane, the Lord Jesus asked the Father to "let this chalice pass me by. But it is not my will, but your will be done." The chalice marked the death of our Lord's own will so that he could submit it to his Father's will. Is it not ironic that it was when he died on the Cross that our Lord conquered sin and death?

Our Christian life is a spiritual warfare. It is a struggle against very powerful enemies: principalities and powers in high places. The only way to defeat these spiritual enemies is by dying to our own selves - by drinking the chalice which the Lord drinks!

Viva Santiago Matamoros! Viva!

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