The Icon of the Sto. Nino de Cebu in the Philippines: For Faith or Luck?

Yesterday, the third Sunday of January, is an Ordinary Sunday for the rest of the Roman Catholic world.  But for us in the Philippines, it is the  Feast of Sto. Nino de Cebu—a dispensation of the Holy See (A short history of the feast is here).  Thus, in the last Sunday’s liturgy we hear the following passage from the Isaiah:

At the first time the land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephtali was lightly touched: and at the last the way of the sea beyond the Jordan of the Galilee of the Gentiles was heavily loaded. The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and hast not increased the joy. They shall rejoice before thee, as they that rejoice in the harvest, as conquerors rejoice after taking a prey, when they divide the spoils. For the yoke of their burden, and the rod of their shoulder, and the sceptre of their oppressor thou best overcome, as in the day of Median.  For every violent taking of spoils, with tumult, and garment mingled with blood, shall be burnt, and be fuel for the fire.

For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace. His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: he shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:1-7)

This passage from Isaiah is the basis for the icon of the Sto. Nino de Cebu (housed in the Basilica run by the Augustinians).  The usual icon is the Infant Child holding a globe on his left and and a sceptre on his right as he blesses the people.  On the Infant’s head is a bulging crown with a cross (similar to the chess notation for a queen).  The Infant’s cape is spread out and dotted with flowers.  The color of the cape is sometimes gold, but a more proper would be the traditional red (embroidered with gold), for it reflects best the verse “garment mingled with blood, shall be burnt, and be fuel for the fire.

In other icons, the Sto. Nino is dressed according to the trade of the owner.  If the owner is a farmer or fisherman, the Sto. Nino is dressed with camisa de chino (cotton long sleeves) with matching straw hat (usually termed as Sto. Nino de Palaboy or the Wandering Child).  If a the owner is a student, the Sto. Nino wears a crisp white polo shirt, brown shorts, socks, and shoes.  A possible biblical basis for this practice may be the word “Immanuel,” meaning “God is with us” even in our daily life (but I prefer the kingly icon).

The Sto. Nino is usually placed in business establishments to bring good luck.  But “luck” is a Chinese superstition.  Catholics should not believe in luck.   We Catholics should not fear the predictions of Chinese astrology based on the twelve animals and the five elements.  For as Paul said,

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Rom 8:38).

We should not put the icon of the Sto. Nino in our homes and offices as a talisman for good luck; rather we should put Sto. Nino as a sign of our faith in a good God.

Biblical Iconography of Our Lady of Guadalupe

I. My New Age Background
II. My Encounter with Our Lady: “Somewhere I have never travelled” by e. e. cummings
III. Book Review: A Handbook on Guadalupe

Since that time Mama taught me how to read.  She taught me how to read the bible and its imagery.  And I learned that she is the Lady of Revelation:

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1).

The Seat of Wisdom:

For she is an aura of the might of God and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nought that is sullied enters into her.  For she is the refulgence of eternal light, the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of his goodness. (Wis 7:25-26)

The Ark of the Covenant:

You shall make an ark of acacia wood…. Plate it inside and outside with pure gold…. Make two cherubim of beaten gold for the two ends of the propitiatory…. This propitiatory you shall then place on top of the ark. In the ark itself you are to put the commandments which I will give you. (Ex 25:10-21)

When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down the screening curtain, and cover the ark of the covenant with it; then they shall put on it a covering of fine leather, and spread over that a cloth all of blue…. (Num 4:5-7) (NRSV translation.  In NAB blue is violet)

And a whole lot more.

The icon of our Lady is a true abstract art, for it is based on strict rules for interpretation as provided by the Scriptures.  Each detail of the icon adds a new layer of the interpretation.  Since a multitude of layers of symbols are superimposed, the task of the icon reader is to try to identify each layer and translate it into a page of text.  For example, “morning (sun rays) star, evening (crescent moon) star”.  This means Venus.  But evening connotes a sense of “falling,” since the sun sinks into the West.  And the black crescent also suggests a “pit.”  Thus, we may translate this series of pictures into the text of Isaiah, which is traditionally interpreted as the Fall of Lucifer, the Light-Bearer:

How have you fallen from the heavens, O morning star, son of the dawn! How are you cut down to the ground, you who mowed down the nations! You said in your heart: “I will scale the heavens; Above the stars of God I will set up my throne; I will take my seat on the Mount of Assembly, in the recesses of the North. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will be like the Most High!” Yet down to the nether world you go to the recesses of the pit! (Is 14:12-15)

Who can fathom the riches of Guadalupe?  Whenever I look at her, I always see something new.  Like Wordsworth watching daffodils, “I gazed—and gazed—but little thought what wealth the show to me had brought.”

V. Rediscovery of My Catholic Faith

How to compute your Modernist heresy index via Lamentabili Sane

You pride yourself as a Modernist (or Catholic). But you may not be as Modernist (or Catholic) as you think you are. The only way to know is to answer this simple 65-item questionnaire, which is based on Pope St. Pius X‘s “Lamentabili Sane“.


Read each of the numbered statements below and on the space provided before each number, write Yes if you support the idea and No if you don’t. If you can’t make up your mind, write Abstain.

Yes/No Statement
1. The ecclesiastical law which prescribes that books concerning the Divine Scriptures are subject to previous examination does not apply to critical scholars and students of scientific exegesis of the Old and New Testament.
2. The Church’s interpretation of the Sacred Books is by no means to be rejected; nevertheless, it is subject to the more accurate judgment and correction of the exegetes.
3. From the ecclesiastical judgments and censures passed against free and more scientific exegesis, one can conclude that the Faith the Church proposes contradicts history and that Catholic teaching cannot really be reconciled with the true origins of the Christian religion.
4. Even by dogmatic definitions the Church’s magisterium cannot determine the genuine sense of the Sacred Scriptures.
5. Since the deposit of Faith contains only revealed truths, the Church has no right to pass judgment on the assertions of the human sciences.
6. The “Church learning” and the “Church teaching” collaborate in such a way in defining truths that it only remains for the “Church teaching” to sanction the opinions of the “Church learning.”
7. In proscribing errors, the Church cannot demand any internal assent from the faithful by which the judgments she issues are to be embraced.
8. They are free from all blame who treat lightly the condemnations passed by the Sacred Congregation of the Index or by the Roman Congregations.
9. They display excessive simplicity or ignorance who believe that God is really the author of the Sacred Scriptures.
10. The inspiration of the books of the Old Testament consists in this: The Israelite writers handed down religious doctrines under a peculiar aspect which was either little or not at all known to the Gentiles.
11. Divine inspiration does not extend to all of Sacred Scriptures so that it renders its parts, each and every one, free from every error.
12. If he wishes to apply himself usefully to Biblical studies, the exegete must first put aside all preconceived opinions about the supernatural origin of Sacred Scripture and interpret it the same as any other merely human document.
13. The Evangelists themselves, as well as the Christians of the second and third generation, artificially arranged the evangelical parables. In such a way they explained the scanty fruit of the preaching of Christ among the Jews.
14. In many narrations the Evangelists recorded, not so much things that are true, as things which, even though false, they judged to be more profitable for their readers.
15. Until the time the canon was defined and constituted, the Gospels were increased by additions and corrections. Therefore there remained in them only a faint and uncertain trace of the doctrine of Christ.
16. The narrations of John are not properly history, but a mystical contemplation of the Gospel. The discourses contained in his Gospel are theological meditations, lacking historical truth concerning the mystery of salvation.
17. The fourth Gospel exaggerated miracles not only in order that the extraordinary might stand out but also in order that it might become more suitable for showing forth the work and glory of the Word lncarnate.
18. John claims for himself the quality of witness concerning Christ. In reality, however, he is only a distinguished witness of the Christian life, or of the life of Christ in the Church at the close of the first century.
19. Heterodox exegetes have expressed the true sense of the Scriptures more faithfully than Catholic exegetes.
20. Revelation could be nothing else than the consciousness man acquired of his revelation to God.
21. Revelation, constituting the object of the Catholic faith, was not completed with the Apostles.
22. The dogmas the Church holds out as revealed are not truths which have fallen from heaven. They are an interpretation of religious facts which the human mind has acquired by laborious effort.
23. Opposition may, and actually does, exist between the facts narrated in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s dogmas which rest on them. Thus the critic may reject as false facts the Church holds as most certain.
24. The exegete who constructs premises from which it follows that dogmas are historically false or doubtful is not to be reproved as long as he does not directly deny the dogmas themselves .
25. The assent of faith ultimately rests on a mass of probabilities .
26. The dogmas of the Faith are to be held only according to their practical sense; that is to say, as preceptive norms of conduct and not as norms of believing.
27. The divinity of Jesus Christ is not proved from the Gospels. It is a dogma which the Christian conscience has derived from the notion of the Messias.
28. While He was exercising His ministry, Jesus did not speak with the object of teaching He was the Messias, nor did His miracles tend to prove it.
29. It is permissible to grant that the Christ of history is far inferior to the Christ Who is the object of faith.
30. In all the evangelical texts the name “Son of God” is equivalent only to that of “Messias.” It does not in the least way signify that Christ is the true and natural Son of God.
31. The doctrine concerning Christ taught by Paul, John, and the Councils of Nicea, Ephesus and Chalcedon is not that which Jesus taught but that which the Christian conscience conceived concerning Jesus.
32. It is impossible to reconcile the natural sense of the Gospel texts with the sense taught by our theologians concerning the conscience and the infallible knowledge of Jesus Christ.
33. Everyone who is not led by preconceived opinions can readily see that either Jesus professed an error concerning the immediate Messianic coming or the greater part of His doctrine as contained in the Gospels is destitute of authenticity.
34. The critics can ascribe to Christ a knowledge without limits only on a hypothesis which cannot be historically conceived and which is repugnant to the moral sense. That hypothesis is that Christ as man possessed the knowledge of God and yet was unwilling to communicate the knowledge of a great many things to His disciples and posterity.
35. Christ did not always possess the consciousness of His Messianic dignity.
36. The Resurrection of the Savior is not properly a fact of the historical order. It is a fact of merely the supernatural order (neither demonstrated nor demonstrable) which the Christian conscience gradually derived from other facts.
37. In the beginning, faith in the Resurrection of Christ was not so much in the fact itself of the Resurrection as in the immortal life of Christ with God.
38. The doctrine of the expiatory death of Christ is Pauline and not evangelical.
39. The opinions concerning the origin of the Sacraments which the Fathers of Trent held and which certainly influenced their dogmatic canons are very different from those which now rightly exist among historians who examine Christianity .
40. The Sacraments have their origin in the fact that the Apostles and their successors, swayed and moved by circumstances and events, interpreted some idea and intention of Christ.
41. The Sacraments are intended merely to recall to man’s mind the ever-beneficent presence of the Creator.
42. The Christian community imposed the necessity of Baptism, adopted it as a necessary rite, and added to it the obligation of the Christian profession.
43. The practice of administering Baptism to infants was a disciplinary evolution, which became one of the causes why the Sacrament was divided into two, namely, Baptism and Penance.
44. There is nothing to prove that the rite of the Sacrament of Confirmation was employed by the Apostles. The formal distinction of the two Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation does not pertain to the history of primitive Christianity.
45. Not everything which Paul narrates concerning the institution of the Eucharist (I Cor. 11:23-25) is to be taken historically.
46. In the primitive Church the concept of the Christian sinner reconciled by the authority of the Church did not exist. Only very slowly did the Church accustom herself to this concept. As a matter of fact, even after Penance was recognized as an institution of the Church, it was not called a Sacrament since it would be held as a disgraceful Sacrament.
47. The words of the Lord, “Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” (John 20:22-23), in no way refer to the Sacrament of Penance, in spite of what it pleased the Fathers of Trent to say.
48. In his Epistle (Ch. 5:14-15) James did not intend to promulgate a Sacrament of Christ but only commend a pious custom. If in this custom he happens to distinguish a means of grace, it is not in that rigorous manner in which it was taken by the theologians who laid down the notion and number of the Sacraments.
49. When the Christian supper gradually assumed the nature of a liturgical action those who customarily presided over the supper acquired the sacerdotal character.
50. The elders who fulfilled the office of watching over the gatherings of the faithful were instituted by the Apostles as priests or bishops to provide for the necessary ordering of the increasing communities and not properly for the perpetuation of the Apostolic mission and power.
51. It is impossible that Matrimony could have become a Sacrament of the new law until later in the Church since it was necessary that a full theological explication of the doctrine of grace and the Sacraments should first take place before Matrimony should be held as a Sacrament.
52. It was far from the mind of Christ to found a Church as a society which would continue on earth for a long course of centuries. On the contrary, in the mind of Christ the kingdom of heaven together with the end of the world was about to come immediately.
53. The organic constitution of the Church is not immutable. Like human society, Christian society is subject to a perpetual evolution.
54. Dogmas, Sacraments and hierarchy, both their notion and reality, are only interpretations and evolutions of the Christian intelligence which have increased and perfected by an external series of additions the little germ latent in the Gospel.
55. Simon Peter never even suspected that Christ entrusted the primacy in the Church to him.
56. The Roman Church became the head of all the churches, not through the ordinance of Divine Providence, but merely through political conditions.
57. The Church has shown that she is hostile to the progress of the natural and theological sciences.
58. Truth is no more immutable than man himself, since it evolved with him, in him, and through him.
59. Christ did not teach a determined body of doctrine applicable to all times and all men, but rather inaugurated a religious movement adapted or to be adapted to different times and places.
60. Christian Doctrine was originally Judaic. Through successive evolutions it became first Pauline, then Joannine, finally Hellenic and universal.
61. It may be said without paradox that there is no chapter of Scripture, from the first of Genesis to the last of the Apocalypse, which contains a doctrine absolutely identical with that which the Church teaches on the same matter. For the same reason, therefore, no chapter of Scripture has the same sense for the critic and the theologian.
62. The chief articles of the Apostles’ Creed did not have the same sense for the Christians of the first ages as they have for the Christians of our time.
63. The Church shows that she is incapable of effectively maintaining evangelical ethics since she obstinately clings to immutable doctrines which cannot be reconciled with modern progress.
64. Scientific progress demands that the concepts of Christian doctrine concerning God, creation, revelation, the Person of the Incarnate Word, and Redemption be re-adjusted.
65. Modern Catholicism can be reconciled with true science only if it is transformed into a non-dogmatic Christianity; that is to say, into a broad and liberal Protestantism.


Let Y, N, and A be the total numbers of your Yes , No, and Abstain answers, respectively.  The modernist heresy index H and the ignorance index G are defined as follows:

    H = Y/65,
    G = A/65.

If your modernist heresy index H = 1, then you are the modernist arch-heretic; if your H = 0, then you are a faithful Catholic.  On the other hand, if your ignorance level G = 1, then you are truly ignorant; if your G = 0, then you understand the all the statements and you choose to agree with them accordingly. Note that the range of your heresy is in the close interval [H, H + G]. This is the Law of Ignorance: your modernist heresy index can only increase (c.f. the Law of Entropy in Thermodynamics).

For example, if your total Yes answers is 30, your total No answers is 20, and your total Abstain answers is 15, then Y = 30, N = 20, and A = 15.  Your modernist heresy index H and your ignorance index G are

    H = 30/65 =0.46,
    G = 15/65 =0.23.

Thus your modernist heresy index lies in the interval [0.46, 0.46 + 0.23] = [0.46, 0.69].  This means that you are approximately half-Modernist and half-Catholic, but if you lessen your ignorance, you would likely be more Modernist than Catholic.

Aquinas: Is the Star of the Magi a Star?

As Chrysostom says (Hom. vi in Matth.), it is clear, for many reasons, that the star which appeared to the Magi did not belong to the heavenly system:[1]

  1. Because no other star approaches from the same quarter as this star, whose course was from north to south, these being the relative positions of Persia, whence the Magi came, and Judea.
  2. From the time [at which it was seen]. For it appeared not only at night, but also at midday[2]: and no star can do this, not even the moon.
  3. Because it was visible at one time and hidden at another[3]. For when they entered Jerusalem it hid itself: then, when they had left Herod, it showed itself again.
  4. Because its movement was not continuous[4], but when the Magi had to continue their journey the star moved on; when they had to stop the star stood still; as happened to the pillar of a cloud in the desert.
  5. Because it indicated the virginal Birth, not by remaining aloft, but by coming down below. For it is written (Mat. 2:9) that “the star which they had seen in the east went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was.” Whence it is evident that the words of the Magi, “We have seen His star in the east,” are to be taken as meaning, not that when they were in the east the star appeared over the country of Judea, but that when they saw the star it was in the east, and that it preceded them into Judea (although this is considered doubtful by some). But it could not have indicated the house distinctly, unless it were near the earth. And, as he [Chrysostom] observes, this does not seem fitting to a star, but “of some power endowed with reason.” Consequently “it seems that this was some invisible force made visible under the form of a star.”

Wherefore some say that, as the Holy Ghost, after our Lord’s Baptism, came down on Him under the form of a dove, so did He appear to the Magi under the form of a star. While others say that the angel who, under a human form, appeared to the shepherds, under the form of a star, appeared to the Magi. But it seems more probable that it was a newly created star, not in the heavens, but in the air near the earth, and that its movement varied according to God’s will. Wherefore Pope Leo says in a sermon on the Epiphany (xxxi): “A star of unusual brightness appeared to the three Magi in the east, which, through being more brilliant and more beautiful than the other stars, drew men’s gaze and attention: so that they understood at once that such an unwonted event could not be devoid of purpose.”


[1]  Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, part III, question 36, Art. 7.   13 Dec 2008 <,magi#highlight>

[2] The supernova SN 1006 was also claimed to be visible during daylight hours. See “SN 1006,” Wikepedia. 13 Dec 2008 <>

[3] Perhaps a type of eclipsing binary star system with a period of a few days and with large drops in steller magnitudes during eclipses. c.f. <>

[4] This is the most difficult to explain, if we assume that the star is in the heavens.