Whether you choose to celebrate today’s Halloween in its truest, Christian sense that is sacred or in the more popular pagan manner that is scary, today’s feast that literally means All Hallowed (Holy) Eve reminds us of things that are not seen, always hidden. Hiddenness is a sacred presence where each one of us is all by one’s self focused on God who is the root of our being and existence no matter how one may call Him. In one of his writings which I could no longer recall despite the help of Google, St. John Paull II explained that God created man first to be alone with Him. And that is how it has always been even if people get married for eventually in the end, we die alone with God.
This gift of hiddenness within each one of us is manifested in our desire to once in a while be still, to go to the mountains or anywhere for a retreat or introspection, for “me” time to rediscover and “find” one’s self anew. Hiddenness is the passageway to the great gifts of silence and stillness that everyone needs to maintain balance in this highly competitive world filled with so much noise where everybody is talking, even cars, ATM’s, and elevators. How funny that we complain of not having enough time for ourselves but we never cease to stop talking and listening. And not only that: we have allowed everything about us not only heard but even seen on cameras. First came the Sony Walkman almost 40 years ago that became the ancestor of every gadget that have invaded our hiddenness; now, we have camera everywhere, shooting and recording everything that nothing is hidden anymore in us and from us. We have stripped ourselves of the innate mystery of being human, of the beauty and gift of personhood that some have tried to reveal using the camera but failed because we are beyond seeing and appreciation.
While it is true that cameras are essential in keeping our surroundings safe and secured that it is referred to as “big brother”, again we find here another case of abusing technology to the detriment of our humanity. As I have told you here last week (Respect In Digital Age), we need to put technology at its right place, particularly the camera that robs us of that essential thing we call respect. But the greatest threat and danger posed on us by the camera is how we have allowed it to invade our hiddenness with almost everybody wanting to be on camera without realizing it often backfires, sometimes painfully.
The camera is a projector, trying to show in a bigger picture deeper realities notably the plain truth. Here lies our quiet storm when we are so eager to project everything and everyone including our very selves on the camera when we do not realize nor examine what we are really showing. The great paradox is that the camera does not lie that always seem to show what is negative than what is positive in us. Keep in mind the TV is called “idiot box”because those inside the television presuppose everybody watching them is an idiot when in fact, they are more idiots. Watching television – news or entertainment – can reveal who are superficial and those with substance. Sometimes TV can be deceiving that we take some people and things appearing on the screen as good and credible without us realizing these are “presentations” that are manipulated to produce a desired effect called the hypodermic theory. This explains the popularity of YouTube as people prefer “raw footages” that show people and events “as it happened.” Even movie directors are adapting to this style to show action “as it is” to give the film a more realistic feel that contribute to the blurring of lines between reality and virtual reality.
We need to regain our hallowed hiddenness if we wish to grow and mature truly as persons – emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. With the camera always around us even in the church, sad to say, everybody and everything has become so ordinary and cheap. Even God has to keep His hiddenness simply because that is how He had created everything. See the beautiful speech of God before Job that can transport you to the sublime beauty of nature and creation. The beloved apostle also tells us of the hiddenness of Jesus Christ who “In the beginning was the word.” (Jn.1:1) All four evangelists likewise have no records of the “hidden years” of Jesus before the age of 30 except for Matthew and Luke who gave us little glimpses of the birth and childhood of the Lord. These are all meant to teach us of the value of hiddenness, of being rooted always in our being and with God. Appearances in life are very fleeting and for more impact, we have to spend more time in hiddenness as revealed to us by Christ, the saints, artists and other great men and women of the world who came to be known and popular only after upon death. So many times we have also experienced in the funeral of our relatives and friends that we discover their hidden goodness and kindness from stories of those condoling with us.
This November 1 and 2 as we remember all those who have left us in this world, let us keep its sacred origins: All Saints Day for those souls already in heaven and All Souls’ Day for those who have departed but still being purified or staying at the purgatory. Both dates invite us to hide also in some prayer, remembering God and our loved ones whom we shall surely follow someday without any camera at all. Like them in hiddenness from us, let us be focused more on God than on self and things that pass. Here is the late Fr. Henri Nouwen on hiddenness:
“In our society we are inclined to avoid hiddenness. We want to be seen and acknowledged. We want to be useful to others and influence the course of events. But as we become visible and popular, we quickly grow dependent on people and their responses and easily lose touch with God, the true source of our being. Hiddenness is the place of purification. In hiddenness we find our true selves.”
*Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, sunset on a flight to Dubai, October 2018. Used with permission. Bible verse from Google.