Daily Devotion for Friday 12 April 2024

Friday 12th April 2024  Emmanuel Garibay, ‘Bathala’

This is the work of Filipino artist Emmanuel Garibay, an artist who has received wide recognition in his native country for his challenging and moving realist images of Filipino society. He is a person of great warmth with a steely eye for injustice and pompous self righteousness. In a country that is mainly Christian, he scrutinises the conventions and comfortable icons of his culture to shake out the new possibilities of hope and renewal.  This is an image of a Jesus who overturns tables, challenges power and disrupts.

Reading  St John 2: 13 – 24

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables.  Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.  He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’  His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’  The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’  Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’  The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’  But he was speaking of the temple of his body.  After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing.  But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people  and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.


Bathala is the ancient Tagalog name for God, creator of the world, ruler of the universe. His old, leathered head with heavy lidded eyes bends over his son whom he encircles protectively with his arms, drawing him upwards.  As he does, the strong, sinewy arms morph into those of Christ whose hands are gashed and torn by the holes of nails. The Son of God stares ahead, unblinkingly. This is no ordinary human vision, but the stare of a seer, a prophet, endowed with supernatural insight.
It is a moment of new creation.  He is raised from the earth, whose guardian spirit, veiled in her beauty, considers us serenely.  Mariang, they call her locally, the mountain goddess, but the 16th century Jesuit missionaries from Spain conflated her with Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Crowned by her mountain mist, the rising Christ is radiant in white clothing. The tears and gashes in the cloth suggest the tearing of his garments on Golgotha, and there are hints too, as he is vested dynamically by the wind, of the torn veil of the temple.  Our eyes are drawn to the buildings in the top background, temple-like, church-like, civic-like, collapsing as if in an earthquake.
The instruments of the Passion are set aside.  His left hand discards conventional symbols of ecclesiastical authority, an icon of the crucifixion, a bursa with its static image of the Holy Spirit and perhaps a crosier.   Our eyes are drawn instead to the hammer, red and vivid, In its claw, a nail from the cross.  A builder’s tool. In this moment of resurrection, Christ signals God’s intention through him, to rebuild the world.
As it draws upon Filipino culture to bolster our understanding of the resurrection, this striking painting brings to life the central truths of John’s gospel. Jesus is the place where God and humanity are joined in one. In him, the creative purposes of God for the world find fulfilment.
Ever living and ever-loving God,
whose miracles of creation,
are revealed in Jesus,
we thank you for the work of artists in different cultures,
whose gifts of imagination enrich our understanding
of you and of your purposes.
Through him we pray.  Amen


Today’s writer

The Rev’d Fleur Houston, member of Macclesfield and Bollington United Reformed Church.


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Copyright © 2024 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you have subscribed to the Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church. You can unsubscribe by clicking on the link below.

Our mailing address is:

United Reformed Church

86 Tavistock Place

London, WC1H 9RT

United Kingdom

Add us to your address book