What the Image of Santo Niño Teaches us about Love

This picture was taken during the Hubo Ritual where the fiesta clothes of the replica of the Santo Niño de Cebu were changed with simpler clothes to mark the end of the feast of the Santo Niño.

What is love?

Through the ages, many people have attempted to define love. And yet, no one has fully fathomed its meaning. As the popular song goes, “Love is a many splendored thing.” This richness of meaning only speaks of how deep this mystery of love is to us. One of the ways we can have an understanding of this mystery is to meditate on the image of the Santo Niño. This image speaks a thousand words about what love is because it is no other than the image of the incarnation of Love who is no other than God. Scriptures say, “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” (1 John 4:16) Jesus as depicted in this image of the Holy Child is a Love that is unconditional in the flesh and blood.

The image of the Santo Niño is an image of God’s unconditional love to each one of us. This is the very reason why God became like us in the form of a child. The evangelist John proclaims, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The Incarnation of God in the Holy Child is not because we have done something commendable that could merit salvation. We are saved because God loves us first and continues to be faithful in spite of our unfaithfulness. Jesus teaches us, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.” (John 15:16) God’s image of love is not just the red heart that we often see during Valentine ’s Day. Rather, love is showed to us in the image of God’s begotten Son who became a child for us. It has feet that will walk for miles to heal the sick and preach the Kingdom of God.  It has hands that hold the world so that it would always be under His dominion of love. It has eyes that see the needy and the poor. This love has also ears to hear the cries and prayers of His people. It has mouth that proclaims God’s message of love to His people and a mouth that rebukes the hypocrisy and stubbornness of people. Love in our Christian faith has a body that was previously wrapped in swaddling clothes and later offered to us in the throne of the cross so that we can have eternal life. Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

God’s unconditional love as shown in the Holy Child Jesus is an important reminder for all of us today. It is because love is not just always about joy and laughter. No matter how much we make our relationship with others as best as possible, time will come that it will be difficult. It is always preferable to be with somebody filled with excitement and enthusiasm. It is good to be in a place where everybody is in high spirits and everybody looks good and beautiful. However, love is not always a bed of roses. Love can also be thorns in the roses. It can be dull, boring and exhausting. Time will come that you will not spend time just as you spend quality time with each other now. There will come a time that you will not admire each other as the most beautiful man and woman in the universe just as you see each other now. There will come a time that you will not understand each other just as you understand each other now. And when that time comes, it does not necessarily mean that you already fall out of love. It may only mean that you are just starting to understand what love really is all about. We start to see that love is not only about the way we feel with each other. It is not just about being head over heels with somebody. Love is more than sweet kisses, roses and chocolates. Love is grounded first of all in the commitment to be with the beloved even if the heavens fall. This commitment to be with the beloved would even require us to be tough to rebuke the beloved just like what Jesus did to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the insensitivity of the vendors in the temple. St. Augustine’s reminders to his brothers can enlighten us about our practice of love. He said,

If any of you should wish to act out of love, brothers, do not imagine it to be a self-abasing, passive and timid thing. And do not think that love can be preserved by a sort of gentleness – or rather tame listlessness. This is not how it is preserved. Do not imagine that you love your servant when you refrain from beating him, or that you love your son when you do not discipline him, or that you love your neighbor when you do not rebuke him. This is not love, it is feebleness.”

Sermon on 1 John 4:4-12

Thus, even if it hurts us to rebuke and correct our beloved, we continue to do it because of love.

On this day when people talk a lot about love, there is a danger that we can be easily swayed by descriptions of love based only on feelings and personal interests. It can be helpful that as we celebrate this day with our beloved, we also ground ourselves in our Christian understanding of the meaning of love as revealed to us in the image of the Santo Niño. In this image, Love is a person who offered his life for us in spite of everything in the person of Jesus Christ. This is a very challenging understanding and practice of love. With the grace of God, this love is possible and even necessary in our life today.

Let us pray for all the lovers today that they can be images like the Santo Niño of Christ’s unconditional love for us.

For all the lovers, Pit Señor!

For all the single men and women, Pit Señor!

 For those who are challenged by the love of Christ, Pit Señor!

Viva Pit Señor!

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