"Bayanihan", by Joselito Barcelona
For the past few days, I’ve been reflecting on the Tagalog noun Bayanihan. (Pronounced buy-ya-nee-han.) It is a beautiful word, used in Filipino Anthropology to express a cooperative undertaking or a concerted effort in a communal setting. More commonly, it refers to an old rural tradition, illustrated above in the painting by Joselito Barcelona, in which neighbours worked together to help a family move their new home to a set location.
The root words are bayani, meaning ‘hero’, and bayan, which is a word that can mean ‘people’, ‘community’, or ‘nation’. The –an suffix denotes a communal action, so therefore Bayanihan means ‘a community or people coming together as one to pool their efforts for the common good, and to achieve a feat that is impossible by one single person’. I suppose that this is also a valid explanation of how the Trinity works, just as Saint John of Damascus developed the doctrine of Perichoresis a little more than a millennium and a half ago.
How are the Persons of the Holy and Undivided Trinity a Bayanihan? I believe the three Persons of the Trinity work together in unity to accomplish what is impossible for us to achieve on our own: The redemption of humankind. God the Father prepared the way for redemption through the seers, sages, and prophets; God the Son completed the work of redemption through his life, death, and resurrection; and God the Holy Spirit applies the continuation of Christ’s redeeming work in the world through the Church’s ministry of reconciliation and in the administration of the sacraments. All three Persons cooperate as one God to accomplish human redemption: For it is this Three-Personed God who builds us up, shows us the way, and gathers us into a loving embrace.
The underlying message of the Trinitarian Bayanihan is this: That we are not alone, but this one God surrounds us with his singular love in a Trinity of Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity stands in solidarity with us and will see us through the difficulties. It is they who will carry us home.
Indeed, it is the same for us. One individual cannot do it alone; but if we unite together as one Body in Christ by power of the Holy Spirit as an active, living offering to the Father, marvelous works and mighty acts can happen to the glory of God. We share in the Divine Bayanihan when we come together as one consecrated people, seeking make God incarnate in our lives through the divinization of our efforts, even the smallest of our actions. In sharing our human nature, our Saviour Jesus Christ draws humankind into the personal life and union of the Holy Trinity; by Holy Baptism, we receive this Trinitarian life and fellowship, which is not only ours but shared with all people of all times- the Communion of Saints.
We affirm this, our true life and identity, in our Baptismal Covenant. Therefore we are to stand in solidarity with each other as God stands in solidarity with us, and work and pray for justice and peace on earth, creatively applying the fruits of redemption in all times and seasons, and in all circumstances, even if it is difficult. We may find ourselves in the most trying of situations to show God’s grace, mercy, compassion, and love, but united as one, and contributing our talents and best efforts, persist we must. We are to cooperate as one People, professing one faith and one baptism.
In the Communion of the Persons of the Holy Trinity, the Communion of Saints finds its strength, source, and inspiration. May we, the cherished People of God, ever live in this Communion and share the Bayanihan of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity. Saranam.
*Despite my Filipino heritage, I am regrettably not a native Tagalog speaker. As I was born and raised in the United States, my mother tongue is the English language. However, I did manage to acquire sufficient conversational skills in the Tagalog language through interacting with family here and in the Philippines, and by a massive dosage of Filipino programming as a child.
Thank you to the Rev’d Fr. Matthew Cadwell (“The Hammer of Heretics” à la Saint Anthony of Padua) for theologically screening this post and making sure I wasn't falling into heresy!