Philippine Coat of Arms: a Catholic Interpretation

Icons of the Philippine Coat of Arms

Icons of the Philippine Coat of Arms

Wikipedia has an excellent entry on the Philippine coat of arms that describes its evolution from that of a colony of Spain, to that of the US, and finally to its independence as a sovereign nation. The historical interpretations of the the heraldric devices such as the sun, stars, eagle, and lion are well-known. What I shall propose here is a possible reinterpretation of the devices in the light of the Scriptures and the Catholic Faith.

The top icon is Crown of Spain who gave the gift of Christianity to the Philippines; it may also be interpreted as the billowing sails of Magellan’s Spanish galleon whose front hull is shaped like the bottom of the shield. The yellow and white are the colors of Vatican City, the seat of the Catholic Church. The three stars and the sun represent the doctrine of the Trinity–three Divine Persons in one God; they also represent the the wounds of Christ on his hands, head, and heart. The sun represents the radiating Sacred Heart of Jesus pierced by thorns or the Immaculate Heart of Mary pierced by swords. The blue and red represents the water and blood that flowed from the pierced Heart of Christ, as seen in the Icon of Divine Mercy.  This is reenacted during mass when the water (blue) is mixed with (wine), which becomes the Blood of Christ after consecration.  The sun on a white ellipse may also represent the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ hidden under the appearance of bread in the Sacred Host.

The Eagle icon is the Eagle of the United States of America. The Eagle also traditionally represents St. John the Evangelist because of his lofty description of the pre-existent divinity of Christ as the Logos or the Word of God (Jn 1:1). In the Book of Revelation, the wings of a great eagle was given to the woman pursued by the Red Dragon so that she can escape to the desert (Rev 12:14). The eagle is at the foot of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with the man with the the eagle’s wings (angel) representing Juan Diego whose native name was Cuauhtlatoatzin or “The Talking Eagle.” Our Lady of Guadalupe is the second patroness of the Philippine Islands as defined by Pope Pius XI; the primary patroness of the Philippines is still Our Lady under the title of The Immaculate Conception whose colors are blue and white.

Lastly, the Lion icon is the Lion of Spain. The lion represents the Judah, the Lion’s whelp, from whose loins the Messiah, the Son of David, Jesus Christ, shall come:

“You, Judah, shall your brothers praise –your hand on the neck of your enemies; the sons of your father shall bow down to you.9Judah, like a lion’s whelp, you have grown up on prey, my son. He crouches like a lion recumbent, the king of beasts–who would dare rouse him10 The scepter shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs, While tribute is brought to him, and he receives the people’s homage.11 (Gen 49:8-11)

The present-day Jews are named after the Tribe of Judah, who survived the destruction of Israel by the Assyrians but was later sent to Babylonian exile.  The Lion of Judah is the municipal emblem of Jerusalem.  The lion also traditionally represents St. Mark the Evangelist because he begins his Gospel with St. John shouting in the desert where the wild beasts like lions live. St. Mark also described Jesus as living in the desert for 40 days to be tempted by the Satan, living with wild beasts, and ministered by angels (Mk 1: 1-13).  St. Peter describes the devil as the roaring lion:

Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.9 Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. (1 Pet 5:8-9)

Thus, if the sun represents the human person, he would always have his guardian angel (eagle) and a demon (lion) by his side to influence his will whether to obey God or to go against His Holy will.

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Enemies of exorcists are not just demons: skeptics, modernists, liberals, positivists, and objective realists

According to AHFI spiritual director Fr. Edgardo Arellano, the practice of exorcism is as old as Christianity itself and even predates it, and the Church teaches that the Devil is real and evil spirits exist.

Arellano, however, laments the fact that the Catholic Church is largely mum about it these days.

He cites the influence of “modern theologians” and those with a liberal mind-set who have played down Satan’s influence as they have accepted psychological and psychiatric explanations of a person’s abnormal behavior.

“If you speak about the Devil, you lose your credibility and you scare people. Even some members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) say this is just fanaticism, a hoax,” Arellano says.

“The greatest influence of the Devil is to convince even bishops and priests that he no longer exists,” he says.

Arellano says the stand of “Positivists,” who are fixated only on the love of God, as well as the claim of “Objective Realists,” who focus only on the modern era and consider evil and exorcism as irrelevant pose a great challenge.

“How can you talk only about God’s love in the midst of corruption and violence? The Bible has numerous passages about Christ expelling demons and being tempted by the Devil. The battle against the Devil is central to His mission. In fact, the Devil’s influence was already seen in Adam and Eve,” he says.

Source: Cyran Cabuenas, Leyte-Samar Priests Learn about Exorcism (PDI 11/06/2009)

Beowulf: Grendel is a Descendant of Cain

    Then the mighty spirit who dwelt in darkness angrily endured
    the torment of hearing each day high revel in the hall.
    There was the sound of the harp, the clear song of the minstrel. [1]
    He who could tell of men’s beginning from olden times
    spoke of how the Almighty wrought the world
    the earth bright in its beauty which the water encompasses;
    the Victorious One established the brightness of sun
    and moon for a light to dwellers in the land,
    and adorned the face of earth with branches and leaves;
    He also created life of all kinds which move and live.[2]
    Thus the noble warriors lived in pleasure and plenty
    until a fiend in hell began to contrive malice.
    The grim spirit was called Grendel, a famous march-stepper,
    who held the moors, the fen and the fastness.
    The hapless creature sojourned for a space in the sea-monster’s home
    after the Creator had condemned him. [3]
    The eternal Lord avenged the murder on the race of Cain,
    because he slew Abel. He did not rejoice in that feud.
    He, the Lord, drove him far from mankind for that crime. [4]
    Thence sprang all evil spawn, ogres and elves and sea-monsters,
    giants too who struggled long time against God. [5]
    He paid them requital for that.

Reference

Shane Weller, ed., Beowulf (New York, Dover, 1992), pp. 2-3.

Notes

[1]  One of the sufferings of the demons and damned souls in hell is to know that on the other side (heaven), the angels and saints rejoice in the presence of God.  And this is forever and ever.  The laughter of demons are cold with malice, that even the fires of hell fail to bring warmth.

[2]  This is a summary of the first chapter of Genesis.  First day is separation of light and darkness.  Second day is separation of heavens and seas.  Third day is separation of seas and lands, and the sprouting of plants and trees over the lands.  Fourth day is creation of sun, moon, and stars.  Fifth day is creation of fishes and birds.  Sixth day is the creation land animals and humans.

[3]  The sea- or water-dwelling monsters described in the book of Job are Behemoth and Leviathan.  Behemoth looks like a giant hippopotamus, while Leviathan looks like a giant fire-breathing crocodile. (See Job 40:15-24; 41:1-34)

[4] Cain’s offering was fruits, while that of Abel was fat portions of the firstlings of his flock.  God accepted the offering of Abel and not that of Cain.  So Cain became envious and killed his brother Abel.  Because of this, God punished Cain:

What have you done?  Listen; your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground!  And now you are cursed from the ground, which have opened up its mouth to receive your brother’s blood.  When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth. (Gen 4:10-12)

[5]  It may be difficult to see how Cain could have fathered these monsters.  But recent advances (?) in human-animal hybrids may make this possible soon.

Book Review: “Exorcism: Encounters with the Paranormal and the Occult”

The Ateneo Catechetical Instruction League (ACIL) asked me to give a talk this afternoon on the paranormal and the occult. I have given the same talk last year when I was still a facilitator of ACIL-Escopa, about a week after Fr. Jose Francisco C. Syquia, Director of the Archdiocese of Manila Office of Exorcism, gave his talk at the Jesuit Loyola House of Studies, the only talk that made me trek down the hilly jungle to that secluded school of priests, nuns, and brothers from all over the Philippines. The Loyola House stands on the precipice of a fault overlooking the city of Marikina: all the kingdoms of the world laid bare before you, tempting you with wealth, power, and glory, as you try to focus on the Kingdom of Heaven beyond the clouds, beyond the stars, at the end of time.

I do not personally know Fr. Syquia, but I bought his book at Power Books at Megamall, on the Feast of All Hallows Eve 2006.  I have grown suspicious of any book on paranormal.  I have read Lobsang Rampa, Carlos Castaneda, and Jaime Licauco in my youth.  I have read them and found them wanting: they promise that anyone “can be like gods, knowing good and evil,” as the Serpent tempted Eve.   But I see only emptiness in the faces of the New Age practitioners.  No joy, no peace. By their fruits you shall know them.

But Fr. Syquia’s book is different. It is an account by an exorcist priest himself. No theological speculations, no make-believe stories, no fear. Only plain stories from his everyday encounters with demon-possessed persons and spirit-infested houses, against the backdrop of authentic Catholic Church Teaching and sayings of the saints.

The book’s structure is similar to a diptych. Most chapters consist of two parts: (1) Experience narrative and (2) church teaching. This is what journalists call as the broken-line method: narrative, explain, narrative, explain. I would have preferred a more systematic demonology: classification of demons, their powers, manifestations, and weaknesses. Maybe this is just my hangover from my close study of the Monster Manual in Dungeons and Dragons in my youth.  But Fr. Syquia’s narrative grounds you to the reality: the hairy kapre in a mango tree, the arrogant blasphemies of the possessed, the crisp cards of a fortune teller, the consecrated hands of the priests. This is the war of angels and demons fought in our very earth, in our very house, in our very soul. And Fr. Syquia tells us about this war in its gory details: the vomits, the salts, the ropes, the shrieks. This is the war whose ending we know: Satan bound by Christ our Lord; the Serpent’s head crushed by Our Lady’s heel. Satan knows his defeat and he wants to drag as many souls with him to Hell.

Here are the contents of Fr. Syquia’s book:

Foreword
Introduction

  1. The Church and the Devil
  2. The Parapsychological Dimension
  3. Catholicism and Philippine Folk Religiosity
  4. The Secrets of the New Age Movement: Notebook 1
  5. The Secrets of the New Age Movement: Notebook 2
  6. Foundations
  7. Ministering to Those under Extraordinary Demonic Assault
  8. Confrontation between God and the Devil
  9. The Catholic in the Midst of Love and War
  10. The Scars of Battle
  11. Defensive Armor and Offensive Weapons
  12. The Exorcist
  13. Haunted Houses: Notebook 1
  14. Haunted Houses: Notebook 2

Notes on Some of the Sources Used
Appendix A: More on Philippine Folk Religiosity
Appendix B: Personal Spiritual Warfare
Appendix C: A Concise Handbook on Exorcism and Deliverance
Appendix D: A Pastoral Approach to Infested Homes
Appendix E: Manual of Prayers
Endnotes
About the Author