"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

"Pascua" or "Pasko"—Creating Spaces

"Rest On The Flight Into Egypt," c. 1879 by Luc Olivier Merson, Museum of Fine Arts Boston. GUIDED MEDITATION—1—Does it mirror or evoke any feeling of the darkness surrounding you these days? Focus on your breathing and feel your own heartbeat; listen.—2—Move your attention towards the source of light, that is, the newborn child Jesus. Feel in your eyes the warmth.—3—Notice too the straight flame burning unperturbed beside Joseph and the donkey. Imagine the heart of God beating and aflame with divine love for you.—4—Join in! The light source leads the way as you enter the scene. The light is veiled and unveiled. Move close to where the light is unveiled in the baby's glowing face. Likewise, notice that you are moving away from the cast shadows. Look at that baby's face aglow with peace and serenity and snuggled up in its mother's bosom. Thank Jesus briefly.—5—Now, tell Jesus quietly your heart's desires. Imagine he is gazing at you. Jesus says "BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD" (Ps 46:10). Use this image as a screen saver.

he first space worth noticing is the one of Titus Flavius Josephus (37-100 CE). He was a first-century Romano-Jewish historian who chronicled Jewish history with special emphasis on the first century CE. He personally commanded the Jewish forces when they were under siege at Yodfat. He was subsequently captured by the Romans after he reneged on the group’s suicide pact. His captors spared his life and would later grant him freedom and Roman citizenship. He repeatedly called for surrender to the Romans. After the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, he lived in the emperor’s palace as a dignitary and a scholar. To his fellow Jews, he was labeled a traitor.

Most modern scholars consider the reference (e.g., in Book 18, Chapter 5 of Flavius Josephus’s work The Antiquities of the Jews [c. 94]) to the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist to be authentic. There are two other references to Jesus of Nazareth that are there. With regard to the single reference to John, a number of differences exist between the account by Josephus and that of the New Testament. Nonetheless, modern scholars agree that such differences bolster Josephus’s passages as being free from interpolations (i.e., the insertion of something of a different nature into something else, since a Christian interpolator would likely have edited them to correspond to the synoptic gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke). Josephus's works are positioned next to the Bible as sources of ancient Palestine’s history. He created a space in his own unique way as an unbeliever. Within that space, John the Baptist is not only hailed as the forerunner to Jesus, but as an important reference point for the man Jesus in human history. A number of religious scholars agree that the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan by John, described in the synoptic gospels and by a number of other canonical and non-canonical sources, is almost certainly a historical event.

Second space is the one of John the Baptist. Important persons in human history are considered pivotal not because of what they have done, but, I would like to think, because of the space that they have created. John was very popular even before he was born because of the miraculous circumstances that surrounded his birth. Because he was descended from a priestly lineage he had almost everything in life—prestige, success and educational training. This is also one reason why his cousin, our Lord Jesus, knew a lot of Rabbinical teaching, thanks to John. We have to use our imagination, of course in reading between the lines. Jesus and John grew up like any normal kids. There is a story that when Jesus got lost for three days, John was with him because most probably they both ran away.

John is without doubt a pivotal spacemaker. He is like, as precursor or if you may, the mouse cursor, the Oriens or the east in the cartographer’s map. The four cardinal directions—north, south, east and west—are none other than spaces. To point to a direction means to tell somebody that there is space. John the Baptist was praised so highly by Jesus who said, “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he” (Lk 7:28). No wonder the date of his birth is a high-ranking feast-day in the whole Christian Church. We are all thankful to John for what he has done. What is that? He created the space for the Messiah to come into our lives. Almost all the readings in Advent are connected to John if you have noticed because without John there is no Christmas. There is another person, a woman, whose role is also pivotal. She is the Blessed Virgin Mary. Both John and Mary serve as reliable guides in pointing us to the Savior. I would like to bring up the Filipino word for Christmas “Pasko.” Archbishop Fernando Capalla, DD share a beautiful reflection. I quote,
“Why do we say, Maligayong Pasko to mean‎, Merry Christmas? And why do we also say, Malipayong Pasko sa Pagkabanhaw to mean, Happy Easter? I don’t really know why. There must be an explanation. One explanation is, the Spanish translation of Paschal Mystery 'Misterio Pascual'. Here Paschal or Pascual originally means Pasch, the Hebrew word for Passage or Transfer or Transition. But its diverse use of liturgical language, especially in Spanish has given it new meaning. So the word Pascual or Paschal began to mean Pascua or Feast in English and Pasko in Cebuano and Filipino. What should always be remembered is, Christian life, because of the Passage of Jesus from death to life is to be understood in terms of the Transition from death to life, from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom or from weakness to strength. This is the real reason for 'pascua' or feast.
I come to my third and last space. There is one space common to all of us which needs preparation and emptying so that the passing over or transition could take space. We can find the answer in the gospel of Luke during the birth of John the Baptist. I quote, "All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, 'What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him'" (Lk 1:66). This is the space of the human heart. We are also grateful to the parents and relatives of John, who pondered these things in their hearts. Zechariah doubted at first but he needed that space. We all go through a certain doubt too at some point in our journey. In fact, there is a healthy doubt that our Church encourages—a doubt that gives the space for one to grow in faith. John the Baptist was allowed some needed space to go into the desert—to create the space in his heart and to decrease so that the Savoir would increase. We also thank Mary and Joseph, whose discerning hearts are wide spaces for God to do His divine plan. Let us thank Herod too who has shown us what NOT to do. He did not create the space and in so doing, he killed the space in his heart. When a person withholds space, it is dangerous. This coming Pascua or Pasko, let us beg for the grace of creating spaces. Amen. Fr JM Manzano SJ


  1. Merry Christmas po, Fr. JM...
    May the birth of our Lord grant you peace and joy...
    And may He always accompany you in all your undertakings and in the mission He entrusted to you..

    God bless always po! Take care! :')

    1. Merry Christmas and thanks for your prayers too! GBU!

  2. Fascinating picture of serenity and security of the Holy Family resting after a flight from death of infant babies who created a space for Baby Jesus to live and be one with us in our humanity. Resting is creating space to ponder things of value in one's heart... a transition moment... Being still in the presence of our loving God... Allowing Him to work wonders silently within or even in the darkness. His light will shine through....GBU!

  3. Wonderful sharing for creating spaces for our dearest God in our hearts! GBU!


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