Yes I know I’m past Easter Sunday, but for us Catholics/Christians, Easter ends at Pentecost…so the celebration doesn’t end yet! Of course, when I say “celebration” I don’t mean party until you can’t move; what I mean is I constantly remind myself that my life, my soul and my spirit were saved by God. Without his precious gift of sacrifice, we wouldn’t even have something to celebrate about.
Now as some of you already know, I went to Belgium over Easter Weekend, which I was quite devastated about, but also quite excited for. You see, for me Holy Week and the Easter Weekend should have been devoted to the church. It is only recently that I’ve decided to take up the tradition of going to the Pascal Triduum (that is, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday). However, because of my parents’ spontaneous decision to return to Belgium (which was spurred on by my sister’s constant pleas), we couldn’t go. Of course I was sad and rather at war with myself to not want to go, but because it was Belgium, and because I really enjoyed it the last time, I decided to why not!
That is why, I’m writing a post about it now. In the past, those of you who actually know me, have had to endure the constant hopping off to places, and calling them my favourite. In all honesty, my favourite place is Bruges. Yes Bruges. It’s quaint, mostly safe, and the chocolate stores there are endless (although some are quite expensive). At its heart are a hospital and a Catholic church. The cobblestone streets are sometimes filled with endless tourists, but regardless of the crowd, it is still somewhat cosy.
Now I may sound like an advocate for Bruges, even a travelogue but I assure you I’m not. I’ve been to many places around the world, and I’ve tried to recount all my experiences there, but none of that matters anymore, because I’ve found my heart in Bruges, the supposed “Venice of the North”. Something about those streets, lined with souvenir shops, chocolate shops, bakeries, cafes and knick-knacks, all seem to call me home. The houses with the stepped gables look like something out of a Christmas village, and the countless bridges that cross the winding river are all something that makes me feel warm inside.
Yes it’s cold there (well it was when I went), and yes the language is difficult to understand (they speak both French and Flemish), but nevertheless, it is home.
Believe me, if you decide to go to Belgium, I recommend Bruges. If you’re religious, like me, you’ll love the churches there. There are three main ones you’ll have to look out for, and they’re very easy to spot (although it’s quite hard to remember the names that belong to them).
The first church you should go to is the Basilica of the Holy Blood. It’s out of the way, but easily found. It doesn’t quite look like a church, but I assure you it does. If you look at the image below…you see the dark grey building, embellished with decorated columns, and gold? That’s the church. She doesn’t look like much, not even on the inside, but if you sit there in silence, for at least 5 minutes, you’ll definitely feel the peace and serenity the House of God offers.
Oh I forgot to mention, the Basilica holds a relic claiming to be the blood of Jesus, hence the name The Basilica of the Holy Blood. I don’t quite believe it, but regardless, the idea that something of the Christ is near to me (not just in the Eucharist but – excuse the pun – “in the flesh”) is one that fills my heart with joy.
The next church you should go to is the Church of Our Lady. This one is probably going to be the noisiest one, and I highly doubt you’ll get to enjoy the peace and quiet as the Basilica of the Holy Blood offers. You see there is a statue there, created by Michelangelo, yes the same Michelangelo that painted the Sistine Chapel, called the Madonna. It features Mary sitting as she contemplates, with the child Christ between her knees. The reason why it’s so famous in Bruges is because it is one of the very few pieces of art, created by Michelangelo that is not in Italy. Not to mention there are various other pieces featured in their museum (which also happens to be inside the church).
Now I know what you’re going to say, “That’s a lot of religion in one post!” but that’s the thing! I don’t care. As long as there are those out there who actually understand that my religion is not just a belief, it’s a way of life, a lifestyle. It’s a habit I can’t get rid of, and don’t want to get rid of, because it fills my heart with joy every time I remember why I love being Catholic.
Sometimes the traditions may be boring and simple, repetitive even, but if I relinquish society’s dogma of hedonism, minimalism and individualism (which tend to be negative) then the repetitiveness, the simplicity of these traditions are a blessing. In fact, I find them refreshing. Everything in this world has become complicated, the media, technology, medicine, and yes even law. It is because of this complicatedness that I retreat to the church every now and then, they don’t ask much of me. What they do ask (and they do ask this all the time, although no one seems to hear) is that I simply sit down for a few minutes, in silence. Rid myself of the distractions all around me, and in my own way, talk to God. Sometimes it’s not direct. Sometimes I talk to Mary or Jesus. Sometimes I repeat the basic prayers and let my mind go blank because I know he’s listening to the deepest needs of my heart. Sometimes I simply sit there and look at the altar, my mind blank and devoid of any thought, because it is in this quiet that God can enter my soul and heal me, and I promise you, if you let him, he will heal you too.
So that marks the end of this post (I know it’s long, but hey what can you do?). As always, do with this post what you will, and I’ll see you next time. God Bless. ^^