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Honoring the Ark of the Covenant in the Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Imus

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

December 3, 2022 marked the 10th Anniversary of the Canonical Coronation of the beloved patroness of the Diocese of Imus, Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Imus.

Photo by Louis Custodio | Servants and Handmaids of Our Lady of the Pillar (SHOLP-SOCCOM)

In 2012, the canonical coronation took place at the Diocesan Shrine and Parish of Our Lady of the Pillar in Imus, officiated by then Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Manila and former Bishop of the Diocese of Imus, Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle during the Golden Jubilee of the Diocese. This year, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Charles John Brown reenacted the canonical coronation with the current bishop of the diocese, Bishop Reynaldo G. Evangelista.

Archbishop Brown was welcomed by church leaders in the diocese as well as the leaders of the city for the civic reception.

The Pontifical Liturgical Celebration was held at 9:00 in the morning.

In his homily, the Nuncio emphasized, among other things, that we must continue being a pueblo amante de maria or a people in love with Mary.


10th Canonical Coronation Anniversary

Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Imus | 3 December 2022

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, for me as the Apostolic Nuncio here in the Philippines, it gives me so much joy and happiness to be with you this morning here in the Diocesan Shrine and Parish of Our Lady of the Pillar, the Imus Cathedral, to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the canonical coronation of Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Imus, this beautiful, splendid image of Our Lady which we have here in the Church this morning, the patroness of the Diocese of Imus.

And as I said at the beginning of mass, I was so super grateful to His Excellency, the Most Reverend Reynaldo Evangelista, your beloved Bishop, for having invited me to be with you this morning. I agreed in a very special way of course, Bishop Emeritus Pedro Arigo from Puerto Princesa, priests who are gathered here this morning, consecrated religious women and men, and of course, all of you lay faithful here, pueblo amante de Maria, "people who love Mary." That's why we're here this morning because we love Mary, and we are loved by Mary, your beloved Nana Pilar, whom we celebrate, the patroness of your diocese.

All of you know that the canonical coronation was carried out here on this very day in 2012 by Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, your beloved Bishop; at that point he was Archbishop of Manila. And you know he had just returned from Rome. He had been made a cardinal on the 24th of November 2012. And we can say he, like Mary in the Gospel, he came in haste, back to the Philippines from having been made a cardinal in Rome by Pope Benedict in order to perform the canonical coronation here on the third of December 2012, here to canonically coronate or crown Our Lady to show that the Diocese of Imus is truly a pueblo amante de Maria.

The Gospel that was chosen this morning is so significant. It's the Gospel of The Visitation when Mary goes in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth. In fact, how does the Gospel begin? The first words that we heard in the Gospel this morning, "Mary set out and went in haste to the hill country, to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth." And what happened at that moment? The little baby, John the Baptist, in the womb of Elizabeth jumps for joy. He jumps for joy when he hears Mary's words, Mary's greeting to Elizabeth.

So the first point in our celebration this morning is that Mary traveled. Mary went in haste on her way immediately after receiving the gift of Jesus in Nazareth, The Annunciation, when of course, Gabriel the Archangel comes to her and tells her of God's plan. And this humble girl, this village girl, says yes to God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us dwelt in her womb. But the first thing Mary does after that is she goes in haste. She travels; she sets out on the path, the way.

Why is this important? Because brothers and sisters, Pope Francis has asked the Church in these years to embark, to go out on a synodal pathway, a synodal pathway. A way.

What is this idea of Synod? Synodos. The original meaning of synodos comes from the Word for "a group of travelers." A group of people on the way traveling, a group of them.

We have a word in English that corresponds very well to what the original meaning of synodos, or Synod, is. It's caravan, a caravan. People traveling together on the way. And we can think that when Mary, this young, beautiful girl betrothed to Joseph, when she set forth from Nazareth, her town, going down towards Jerusalem where her cousin Elizabeth was waiting for her, she probably and almost certainly didn't travel alone. It would have been unheard of for a young girl to be traveling by herself on the roads of Israel, of Palestine, of Judea at that time. She went certainly in a caravan with others.

So we see at the very beginning of the Gospel, the story of Mary's life, that she's on the road on this synodos. And you know, later on, Jesus will say about himself, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

You know, brothers and sisters, when he says in the gospels, in the Greek language, which is the language in which the Gospels are written, "I am the Way," he says, "I am the hodos", which is the second part of the Word sunodos. "I am the hodos." Sun means "with." Hodos means "the way, the path, the road." And we see here in our Gospel this morning how Mary is on this sunodos. She's on the path with Jesus. She's carrying Jesus in her virginal womb. She's carrying Jesus to someone who needs to be consoled, who needs to be assisted, her cousin Elizabeth.

So we see Mary as a model of the Church on the synodal path, on the hodos with the sunodos, with Jesus on this caravan. That's what the Church is like, brothers and sisters. The Church, all of us, are the people of God moving towards the kingdom of heaven together. Some of us are walking; some are being carried. And when we notice that maybe someone is not in our sunodos, not in our caravan any more, so where is he or she gone? We need to find them, bring them back into our caravan. Bring them towards heaven. We shouldn't leave people behind.

Mary didn't leave Jesus behind when she went down to see Elizabeth. She carried Jesus in her womb. It's interesting that 12 years later, Mary did leave Jesus behind. Remember? When she goes to Jerusalem later on in her life with Joseph to pray in the temple, then Jesus was left in the temple, and they didn't know, Mary and Joseph, where Jesus was. In fact, the Gospel says that Mary and Joseph looked for Jesus. And the Greek Word is in the sunodia, and they couldn't find him after three days in the sunodia, in the caravan. Where is he? They went back and found Jesus in the temple, then brought him with them back to Nazareth.

So this idea of being on the way, accompanying Jesus, being accompanied by Jesus, and bringing him to those who need him. That's the first message of the Gospel today.

And the second message of the Gospel today is joy: dancing! Let's think about dancing with your beautiful image of Our Lady of Pilar. I know you have here in Imus, the famous karakol when you dance with this image. And Bishop Rey was telling me sometimes people are dancing all day long with this image. Dancing is a sign of joy, a sign of joy.

You're near where Elizabeth lived, near Jerusalem. Many centuries before that, someone else danced. He was King David, danced in almost the same place. He danced for joy, King David when he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. David, the King, the warrior, the conqueror, the great man, danced for joy in front of the Ark of the Covenant, as it was brought to Jerusalem.

What was this Ark of the Covenant? It was a container, beautifully constructed, and with beautiful ornamentation and decoration, in which were the pieces of the Ten commandments. It was the Jewish most holy things. These pieces of stone in a beautiful container. And David danced, the king, the warrior, in front of the Ark of the Covenant many centuries before.

And you know, brothers and sisters, today, little John the Baptist dances for joy in the womb of his mom Elizabeth when Elizabeth hears the greeting of Mary.

So in the Old Testament, we see the king, the warrior, the chief, the leader dancing. In fact, he was even criticized for dancing, the king. Into the Gospel today, we see a little baby dancing for joy invisibly in the womb of his mother, St. Elizabeth.

And we call Mary the new Ark of the Covenant. In fact, when we pray the litany of Loreto, one of the terms we use for Mary is "Ark of the Covenant". In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was a physical container with some pieces of stone, the Ten Commandments in it. In the New Covenant, the new dispensation, the new ark of the covenant, is not a physical container made of wood and ornamental stones. It is this beautiful woman, this beautiful virgin mother, Our Lady, carrying the true presence of God in her womb. She's the new Ark of the Covenant.

In the Old Testament, King David danced. In the New Testament, little St. John the Baptist dances in the womb of his mother. And you, in Imus, dance with Our Lady. Beautiful correspondence of this theme of joy: dancing in front of the Ark of the Covenant.

Finally, after the theme of Synod, the theme of dancing, we also have the theme, of course, of crowning, of coronation, of glory. And we celebrate today the 10th Anniversary of the coronation of your beautiful image of Our Lady. The crowning of Mary, here in your cathedral ten years ago.

It's beautiful how Mary is crowned. What is crowning? It's a sign of arriving. It's a sign of glory. In fact, in the first letter of St. Peter in the New Testament, St. Peter writes, "When the chief shepherd appears, you (that means all of you) will receive the unfading crown of glory." Mary has already arrived at the end of the hodos. She's gone with Jesus, and now she's with Jesus in Paradise, and she's crowned; she's received the crown of glory before any of us, and we are on the same path going towards Our Lady. Our Lady is crowned with glory.

And we, as we prayed in the opening prayer of mass today for this beautiful commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the coronation of Our Lady, we prayed in the opening prayer, "May we attain in the heavenly kingdom, the glory promised to your children."

So what Mary has, we hope to achieve: the crown of glory. And here on this earth, we rejoice to be her children, to be a pueblo amante de Maria, a people who love Mary, who sees Mary as our model, as our mother, as our queen. Sees Mary as someone who has amazing compassion for all of us, who listens to our prayers, and presents them to Jesus, Our Lady, our beautiful queen.

So you can see, brothers and sisters, that for me as your Apostolic Nuncio, it gives me so much joy and happiness to be with you this morning to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of her glorious pontifical canonical coronation here in your beautiful Cathedral of Our Lady. I see the words and Latin of the Ave Maria, the Hail Mary, written, in the internal walls of your cathedral.

Let that be our prayer always: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus".

I ask you, brothers and sisters, to remember to pray for Pope Francis as his representative here in the Philippines, as his diplomatic representative. It's my responsibility to ask you to beseech you in His name; please pray for him. He asks for your prayers. He appreciates your prayers. And let's continue to be here in the Diocese of Imus, truly a pueblo amante de Maria.

Viva la Virgen.

Intro by Russell Fleur F. Gallego

Transcription by Gel Katalbas

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