Ecce Homo means “Here is the man!” or “Behold the man!” (John 19:5). It is the exclamatory statement of Pilate in a mock trial when Jesus was presented to the people “wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe” as derision to the “King of the Jews.” The fearful Pilate found no case at all against Jesus, yet was forced to give in to public clamor to avert unrest to safeguard his political clout.
The Ecce Homo is considered one of the three distinct religious-cultural –historical icons of Cebu, which include the Santo Niño and Magellan’s Cross. However, it is the least known among the three ancient representations mainly owing to its “disappearance” for 46 lengthy years from the view and devotion of Cebuanos, in particular to the younger generations of today.
On August 20, 1572 the wooden bust of Jesus Christ was miraculously discovered in an early settlement of Sugbo. The historic event coincided with the death of Adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in Manila. Historian Fray Gaspar de San Agustin, OSA recounted in his Conquistas de las Islas de Filipinas (Madrid, 1698; Manila, 1198) how it was unearthed in a burial site of a famous and ancient leader named Rjah Carli, believed to be among those baptized during the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan. A certain soldier Juan de Castilla uncovered the casket of the chieftain while digging the ground to lay down the foundation of his house. Surprisingly enough, the Rajah’s body was still in a recognizable condition after many years of entombment. Fray Gaspar de San Agustin’s narration on the finding of the Ecce Homo described the bust’s precise location in evocative detail. It was devoutly placed on rajah’s chjest in excellent form, contrary to some accounts that it was positioned on the side of the cadaver. A small cross was also found held piously in his hands. Such orchestrated precision undoubtedly signified the Raja’s faithful state to the newly-embraced Christian belief while still alive. Or most likely, it was an indication of his family circle’s loyal adherence to the same Christian faith they had already accepted wholeheartedly. Also, it is logically fitting to infer that it was a ceremonial tradition carefully observed by his local court that was religiously followed in the burial rites of a similar personality or even a tribal elder. The foregoing assumptions were common cultural practices in accompany and preparing a departed individual towards the next life. This shared belief has persisted among different cultures, faiths and people down to contemporary times. The wider extension of the incident implicitly revealed further the flourishing evangelization efforts of the Augustinian missionaries that pioneered in the systematic spread of Christianity in the islands which originated in Cebu.
The people and authorities then, out of gratitude and reverence, brought the Ecce Homo “with great devotion to the church of the Holy Child [the olden Santo Niño Church of the Augustinians which is the present-day Basilica del Santo Niño], and placed it on the tabernacle itself.” The same author in the preceding citation acclaimed the discovery as one of the many gifts and privileges God had bestowed to the city [Sugbo or Cebu] “with similar mysterious discoveries,” unmistakably referring to the providential finding of the image of Santo Niño in 1565 (a historical certainty recorded 7 years earlier prior to the unearthing of the Ecce Homo) which was interpreted as a heavenly sign of the early missionaries to stay in the Philippines. The popularity of the Santo Niño devotion overshadowed the Ecce Homo icon’s status.
In 1965, the San Agustin Museum in Intramuros displayed the sculpted Ecce Homo as one of the priceless exhibition pieces to commemorate the Fourth Centennial of the Christianization of the Philippines. Years passed, transitions occurred, and the icon remained in Manila somehow relatively forgotten or perhaps, active efforts to return it to the Basilica were overtaken by the unfolding of events. In recent memory, during an audience of the House Prior Fr. Candido P. Saladaga, OSA and the Basilica Rector Fr. Rodolfo A. Bugna, OSA with Cardinal ricardo Vidal the retrieval of the icon resurfaced. He inquired on its whereabouts expressing a long-time wish for the Ecce Homo to be brough back in Cebu being a significant artifact of its rich heritage. Almost a couple of years later, Fr. MedardoDurmiendo, OSA re-echoed a similar sentiment to request the return of the image to the Basilica. The Augustinian community of the Basilica del Santo Niño in time initiated the repossession of the precious religious object. Cordial negotiations, both on personal and institutional level, progressed steadily that concluded to a constructive agreement. Hence, the Ecce Homo came home to the Basilica del Santo Niño on a historic Saturday, on the 20th day of August 2011, finally sealing off almost five decades of prayerful longing and waiting. The arrival dates was intentionally marked as it was to concur with the icon’s discovery day exactly 439 years ago.
The official turn-over activity started at 7:00 in the morning with a Eucharistic celebration at the San Agustin Church in Manila presided by the Very Rev. Eusebio B. Berdon, OSA, the Prior Provincial of the Augustinian Province of Sto. Niño de Cebu-Philippines. The ceremonial signing of document followed toward the conclusion of the send-off Mass and after the reading of the history of the Ecce Homo discovery. At 1:30 in the afternoon the Manila delegation accompanying the image departed Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) for Cebu and arrived at Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) at around 3:00 p.m. hours prior to the slightly delayed setting foot on Cebu, abundant downpour blessed the homecoming as if the Cebu skies rejoiced in unison with awaiting crowd. The Cebu entourage received the Ecce Homo in great jubilation waving the official colors. Immediately a motorcade proceeded to the designated convergence point, the refurbished Plaza Independencia. A foot procession finally accompanied the icon to the Basilica del Santo Niño for the enthronement. To refresh the glorious day of 1572, upon arrival a re-enactment of the unearthing of the Ecce Homo was presented by the San Diego Dancers and Basilica mandated organizations. Re-reading of the historic invention of the Ecce Homo before the Mass set the tone as a fitting introduction. Rev. Fr. Jose William D. Araña, OSA, the Vicar Provincial of the Augustinian Vicariate of the Orient led the con-celebration. The grateful veneration of the relic followed the welcome liturgy.
The devotion to the Ecce Homo has started to thrive as evidenced by the expanding queue of believers, including the curious visitors, paying homage to the image of the suffering Christ. Each passing day the throng devotees are on the rise. Plans are now underway to accommodate and provide a solemn atmosphere to the faithful and a sacred space for the religious icon at the right wing of the sanctuary. Part of the long-term preparation consists of the annual commemoration of the finding as an occasion to thank the Lord for the many blessings He as generously bestowed to the people of Cebu. (Rev. Fr. Arnel A. S. Dizon, OSA)
Day of the Feast
Novena Prayer in Honor of the Ecce Homo
ECCE HOMO NOVENA – ENGLISH
May the glorious passion of our Lord Jesus Christ
+ bring us to the joys of paradise. Amen.
Daily Novena Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, our first parents Adam and Eve disobeyed the will of the Father and so sin and death entered the world. By your obedience to the will of the Father, you willingly underwent your Passion and Death for the salvation of Mankind and through your glorious Resurrection has accomplished our redemption. As we make this Novena, we remember the many sufferings you have endured for us. We particularly recall the humiliations you endured when Pilate abandoned you to the crowd by saying: “Ecce Homo: Behold the Man you are demanding to be crucified, I wash my hands of this man’s blood.” Pilate handed you over to the crowd even though he knew that you were innocent and washed his hands to absolve himself of your blood. Grant O Lord, that amidst the many uncertainties of our life on earth, we may be courageous enough to stand for what is true and just in our society. Through your Most Holy Passion, we beseech you to grant us the graces we need this day: (mention your petition). Through your Most Holy Wounds, heal us of all our infirmities and give us health of mind, body and soul and through your Most Glorious Passion, bring us all to the joys of Paradise. Amen.
First Day – Faith
God our Father, the Augustinian friars planted the first seeds of the Christian Faith in our shores centuries ago. Through their apostolic and missionary zeal, the Faith steadily spread from Cebu to other parts of the Philippines. Grant that we may live our FAITH fully, may it penetrate our thoughts and our way of doing things and through the merits of your Son’s Most Holy Passion, grant our petitions and bring us to the glory of His Resurrection. Amen.
Second Day – Hope
God our Father, with Saint Augustine we say that you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Give us the virtue of HOPE so that we may always yearn for that day when our restless hearts may finally find its peace on you. We beg you to always give us hope for a better world, a better life and a better future and through the merits of your Son’s Most Holy Passion, grant our petitions and bring us to the glory of His Resurrection. Amen.
Third Day - Integrity
God our Father, on this third day of our Novena, give us integrity of mind and heart, between our Christian Faith and our daily lives. May we become Christians not in name only but also by our words, thoughts and actions, in our morals and especially with our dealings with our brothers and sisters and through the merits of your Son’s Most Holy Passion, grant our petitions and bring us to the glory of His Resurrection. Amen.
Fourth Day – Obedience
God our Father, your only Son our Lord Jesus Christ, was obedient to your will. He was obedient even unto death, death on the Cross. Give us the grace to listen to your Word and act on it in our lives. Make us obedient to your will because in it is our true freedom and happiness and through the merits of your Son’s Most Holy Passion, grant our petitions and bring us to the glory of His Resurrection. Amen.
Fifth Day – Mercy and Forgiveness
God our Father, Jesus Christ, your Son taught us to forgive seventy times seven times. You also forgive us like that – seventy times seven times. Your forgiveness is limitless and your mercy is as vast as the ocean. Make us realize the depth of your everlasting mercy and our absolute dependence on it on every moment of our lives and through the merits of your Son’s Most Holy Passion, grant our petitions and bring us to the glory of His Resurrection. Amen.
Sixth Day – Prayer
God our Father, Jesus Christ taught us how to pray. He taught us to call you Our Father. And so daily in the Holy Mass, we your children dare to call you Our Father and ask for all the things we need. Father, give us our daily bread and that is enough for us and through the merits of your Son’s Most Holy Passion, grant our petitions and bring us to the glory of His Resurrection. Amen.
Seventh Day – Interior Renewal
God our Father, Jesus Christ taught us to keep our religious acts secret and to guard ourselves against doing things for others to see. Teach us to always renew ourselves interiorly and to show it outwardly by our love and concern for our brothers and sisters and through the merits of your Son’s Most Holy Passion, grant our petitions and bring us to the glory of His Resurrection. Amen.
Eight Day – Patience
God our Father, when your Son was scourged in the pillar, crowned with thorns and crucified, he showed remarkable patience. All throughout his Passion and Death, your Son suffered in silence, surrendering his very life to your Fatherly love. Be patient with us Lord when we complain about life’s misfortunes. Be patient with us Lord when we grumble about the many evils that befall us and through the merits of your Son’s Most Holy Passion, grant our petitions and bring us to the glory of His Resurrection. Amen.
Ninth Day – Charity/Love
God our Father, no one can surpass your love for us your children. You created us and all the wonderful things around us. When we turned our back on your love, you sent your only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to reveal to us once again your everlasting love which he proved by dying for us on the Cross while we were yet sinners. Give us that flaming charity so that we may mirror our love for you through our service and love for our brothers and sisters regardless of their beliefs, color or nationality and through the merits of your Son’s Most Holy Passion, grant our petitions and bring us to the glory of His Resurrection. Amen.
The Litany of the Passion
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father in heaven, have mercy on us. God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us. God, the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Jesus, brought before Annas and Caiphas, have mercy on us. Jesus, accused by false witnesses, have mercy on us. Jesus, declared guilty of death, have mercy on us. Jesus, thrice denied by Peter, have mercy on us. Jesus, delivered up to Pilate, have mercy on us. Jesus, despised and mocked by Herod, have mercy on us. Jesus, clothed in a white garment, have mercy on us. Jesus, rejected for Barabbas, have mercy on us. Jesus, torn with scourges, have mercy on us. Jesus, bruised for our sin, have mercy on us. Jesus, crowned with thorns, have mercy on us. Jesus, demanded for crucifixion by the Jews, have mercy on us. Jesus, loaded with the heavy weight of the Cross, have mercy on us. Jesus, led like a sheep to the slaughter, have mercy on us. Jesus, stripped of Thy garments, have mercy on us. Jesus, fastened with nails to the cross, have mercy on us. Jesus, promising Paradise to the penitent thief, have mercy on us. Jesus, commending the beloved disciple to Thy Mother as her son, have mercy on us. Jesus, obedient even to the death of the Cross, have mercy on us. Jesus, pierced with a lance, have mercy on us. Jesus, taken down from the Cross, have mercy on us. Jesus, laid in the sepulcher, have mercy on us. Jesus, rising gloriously from the dead, have mercy on us. Jesus, ascending into Heaven, have mercy on us. Jesus, our advocate with the Father, have mercy on us. Jesus, who will come to judge the living and the dead, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, O Lord.
Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
V. We adore you, O Christ, and praise you: R. Because by the Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.
Let us pray.
Almighty and eternal God, who has appointed your only-begotten Son to be the Savior of the world through his Passion, Death and Resurrection, grant that we may so venerate this price of our salvation, and by its might be so defended upon on earth from the evils of this present life, that in Heaven we may rejoice in its everlasting fruit. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Sinless Innocent One, yet you willingly took upon yourself all the sins of humanity: past, present and future. For our sake, you willingly accepted death, death on the Cross. You are our Merciful Savior, who unlike Pilate, will not wash your hands of us nor will you condemn us. Look upon us poor sinners who humbly beg for your forgiveness for our many sins and iniquities. Grant that we may be merciful and compassionate to our fellowmen as you are merciful and compassionate to us. Look upon us redeemed by your Most Precious Blood and saved by your loving obedience to the will of the Father: grant that we too, following your example, may be obedient and open to the will of the Father in heaven. Grant the prayers and petitions that we, your brothers and sisters, present to you this day. At the end of our journey here on earth, may we be numbered among the saints and blessed in heaven where you live and reign together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Activities on the Feast of Ecce Homo