Of Salubongs and gardens

There is a beautiful tradition in the Philippines, usually held at 3 or 4 o’clock on Easter morning, called the “Salubong” – literally, the act of meeting someone who is arriving. I’ve only attended one of these, as far as I can recall, but one is all you really need in order to appreciate this very poignant experience of Easter morn, where deep sorrow turns into indescribable joy.

Traditionally, two processions begin at different points with the men processing with a statue of the Risen Christ and the women with a statue of Mama Mary (as she is affectionately called back home) in mourning, veiled in black. Rosaries may be prayed along the way, or hymns sung – joyful for the men and sorrowful for the women. As the two statues approach each other, a young girl dressed as an angel descends upon Mary, lifting her veil. The procession then erupts in exultant alleluias with church bells pealing, and all continue inside the church where Easter Mass is then celebrated.

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Salubong, courtesy of http://charm04.tripod.com/salubong.html

I couldn’t help but feel the joy of Easter as I related this tradition to our kids. They seemed to feel it as well, and immediately asked to have their own “Salubong” tomorrow at home. (Of course, a pre-dawn event like this would be highly unlikely at any house with young kids – so I thought perhaps 3 in the afternoon would be a good compromise. At the least, it would allow time for a mad scramble for props and such after morning Mass and lunch. We’ll see what Easter brings!)

In the meantime, we came up with our own Salubong – in miniature. We had been looking forward to creating some sort of fairy garden outside this spring, and when we saw this Resurrection garden on Catholicicing.com, we knew it was the perfect way to start.

DSC_0493-2 - CopyPRHoly Thursday proved to be a summery day, so we ended up making a “Good Friday garden” at first. The kids found an abundance of moss in the yard (thanks to the absence of mulch), and also gathered sticks, pine needles, river rocks, a large rock, potting soil, a plastic pot, and a few hens-and-chicks that never seem to die despite our neglecting it. I only had to hotglue the sticks, and we were all set.DSC_0490crop-2 - CopyPR

I thought they did a great job putting it together! Maybe not as good-looking as Lacy’s on Catholic Icing, but then… Good Friday was never meant to be good-looking anyway.

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Our Good Friday garden

Today we transformed our Good Friday garden into a Resurrection garden, in anticipation of Easter. A few pots of alyssum and two toy figures were all we needed, and – voila! – our very own Salubong in miniature.

Our Resurrection Garden and Salubong in miniature
Our Resurrection Garden and Salubong in miniature

(The figures are admittedly a bit small in proportion to the crosses and the tomb – definitely something to improve on next year.)

DSC_0554crop-2 - CopyPRAlthough there is no mention of such a meeting in the Bible, it seems only natural for a Son to want to console his beloved Mother first, she who was closest to Him and who thus suffered the most at His death. It is hard to imagine anyone else more joyful than her at seeing her Risen Son, after witnessing firsthand his cruel death.

But whether the Salubong really happened or not, this – a son’s desire to alleviate his mother’s worry or pain – was forever burned into my heart many years ago. For it, too, saved me from needless worry one morning, when I feared the worst had happened to my future husband. I was in California for a few days, while he was in New York City, having just started a new job the day before. In horror, I watched as the TV in my hotel room showed lDSC_0549crop-3 - CopyPRive footage of a plane crashing into his office building. It was 9/11/01. I didn’t have his new office number and I couldn’t connect to his cellphone. Panic started welling up inside. Then it dawned on me – if he had but one chance to make a call, he wouldn’t have chosen to call me. Sure enough, he had already called his mom to tell her he was fine and was already well away from his office. Had I not thought of his need to reassure his mother first and foremost, I might have agonized for much longer, not knowing if he had made it out alive.

DSC_0542crop2-3 - CopyPRWe have much – much! – to be grateful for everyday, but especially at Easter.  May you, too, experience the joy of Salubong in your hearts this Easter, and may we all come to know the joy of Christ’s Resurrection in our daily lives.

Maligayang Pasko ng Pagkabuhay! Happy Easter!

Emy

[4/16/15: A special thank you to Fr. Bob Connor for directing me to St. John Paul II’s words on the Salubong – Mary was witness to the whole Paschal Mystery.]

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