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Servants of the Risen Christ Monastic Community

SRCHe encouraged them to stay together as they discern their personal calling. They stayed in his parish house to live and experience a monastic life until everybody is ready to join a monastic community. Other young men joined them in the convent, then they realized at that moment that they were already a community. Although they are growing number, he still had to seek the approval of the Bishop of Tarlac. He said if the Bishop approved the existence of their community, he will consider it a sign that the approval be the voice of God.

On September 14, 1998, on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, Bishop Cinense of the Diocese of Tarlac, officially announced the existence of this new congregation, Servants of the Risen Christ Monastic Community with Rev. Prior Ronald Thomas Cortez as the founder. This apostolic – contemplative community consecrated themselves to a monastic life of prayer and work (Ora Et Labora). The chrism of the new congregation is to give hope to the hopeless; an Easter message of hope and joy. The town of Ramos, Tarlac became the cradle of Servants of the Risen Chris monastic community.

According to Fr. Archie: “Founding a local congregation was difficult. We started from nothing. We have to contend with issues and intrigues, which is part of the process. But when it is God’s will and plan, nothing is impossible. God is simply arranging things according to His plan”.

The biggest challenge was the pessimism among his fellow priests especially with widespread skepticism. They were told that their community would not last. But Fr. Archie was determined that he would not let his detractors affect them. It is by those “clouds” that the spirit of God is teaching them to walk by faith. In the end, the Servants of the Risen Christ (SRC) community proved their skeptics wrong. In less than a decade their membership grew and now has a home of their own. In the end their skeptics eventually became their supporters.

Suffering and trials can be put to higher purposes. God can bring great good out of it. The SRC’s journey of a Thousand miles begun with one step – faith in God.

Monasterio de Tarlac

Monasterio then

Nestled on the quiet mountaintop on one of the cluster of mountains in Lubigan, San Jose Tarlac, is the Monasterio de Tarlac on the Mount of Resurrection, which is the home of the Relic of the true Cross of the Christ here in the Philippines.

From Tarlac City, one takes a narrower well-maintained road. Enjoy a continually changing awesome scenery of sprawling rice fields, rolling hills, mountains, vast plains and ridges. The smooth winding road meandered upward gradually. The white statue of the Risen Christ, likened to the Christ the redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, whose open arms seems to welcome the pilgrims can be seen while driving up the mountain.

The place is so serene and perfect place to meditate to those who seek solitude for spiritual reflection. The view from this place is amazing and breathe taking. You can have a magnificent bird’s eye view of the mountains, plains and surrounding area. Its deafening silence makes you feel closer to God.

The Monasterio has well-manicured gardens strewn with the life sizes statues of the saints.

Upon entering the main complex area, in the middle of the secluded compound, is a baroque chapel with an imposing façade. In this magnificent structure, the sacred Relic of the true Cross is encased in a silver arqueta engraved with Christian symbols that remind us of the crucifixion, is set in the middle of the altar. The altar itself is heavily embellished with Baroque style trimming. Above it are the words “AVE CRUZ, SPES UNICA”, Hail the Holy Cross our only hope.

Looking back, the necessity of a conducive quite place far from the noise of the city, where the new SRC community can truly dedicate itself to a life prayer and work “Ora Et Labora”, was a dream of Fr. Archie. Trusting in Divine Providence, in December 1999 Gov. Hose “Aping” Yap attended the “simbang gabi”

at St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish in Ramos, Tarlac. During the homily, Fr. Archie shared with the faithful the life of his new community.

This caught the attention of Gov. Yap. After the mass. Over a cup of coffee, Fr. Archie expressed to the Governor the need of community for a place where they can truly live as monks. Believing in the vision and mission of the congregation, Gov. Yap offered Fr. Archie to visit his ongoing project at the Eco-Tourism park in Barangay Lubigan, San Jose, Tarlac. After seeing the place, Fr. Archie knew that this was the answer to his prayer. Soon it became the birthplace of the Monasterio de Tarlac. The Provincial government donated 20 hectares and the rest is acquired though purchase over the years. The historical ground breaking of the monastic building and the blessing the the 30 feet statue of the Risen Christ was in December 2002.

It was the first mass held presided by Most Rev. Gabriel Reyes, D.D. Of the Diocese of Antipolo and Most Rev. Florentino F. Cinense, D.D. of the Diocese of Tarlac. Also present was Gov. Jose Aping Yap.

The enshrinement of the Relic of the true Cross of Jesus took place on January 30, 2017 presided the Most Rev. Fernando Filoni, D. D., then the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines.

Monasterio de Tarlac received from Ambassador Zvi Vapni of the Embassy of Israel a precious gift, a stone from the Holy Land. It was used as cornerstone for the groundbreaking of the future basilica on July 31, 2008. . . Monasterio de Tarlac is the only religious pilgrimage side visited by the three diplomats of the Embassy of Israel in a period of one year. The visitors were former Ambassador Zvi Vapni, former Deputy Chief of Mission Yaniv Revach and former Consul Yifat Shirki. Fomer Abassador Menashe Bar- On also visited Monasterio in 2012.

Start of the divine office of the monks is at 3:45 am. Private prayer begins at 4 am followed by the community prayer up to 6:30 am, a procession that ends with silent meditation. Their community prays seven times a day from divine office followed by morning prayer, mid morning, mid day, mid afternoon, evening and night prayer. They follow the monastic tradition to the first creatures to praise God before the bird rising.

Daily mass is at 10:30 am except Thursday. The veneration of the Relic is after mass. Pilgrims are allowed to touch the arqueta containing the Relic and have a moment of prayer. Many miracles, healings, and answered prayers have been attributed to the Holy Relic.

The Monasterio through the assistance of the monks is open for retreats, recollections and spiritual couseling.

The Discovery of the Cross of Jesus

The RelicThere are several stories and variations about the finding of the True Cross of Jesus as recorded by early writers and churchmen. There were also stories on the event around and related to the relics. These stories, though, were generally considered apocryphal by historians. Some events in the stories, however can be ascertain, like the completion of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in 335 A.D. It is also certain that by the year 340 A.D. veneration of what were alleged to be relics of the Holy Cross was proliferating. Most of these stories though attributed to the finding of the true Cross to the Empress Helena, mother of the first Christian emperor of Rome Constantine.

Several early writers wrote that Helena (born c. 255 and died c. 330 A.D.), after Christianity was granted freedom of practice throughout the Roman Empire in 312 A.D., journeyed to the Holy Land, establishing churches and putting up relief agencies for the poor along the way. Eventually, she discovered where the three crosses used at the crucifixion of Jesus and the two thieves were hidden. The Holy Sepulcher, originally site the veneration for the Christian community in Jerusalem, was buried and on the top of it, a temple dedicated to the Roman goddess Venus was built.

According to Eusebius in Life of Constantine around 325 A.D., Emperor Constantine, after being converted to Christianity, ordered the site be uncovered and instructed Saint Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem, to build a church on the site.

Theodoret’s (died c. 457) Ecclesiastical History gives what has become the standard version of the finding of the True Cross. Helena arrived at the place where Jesus suffered and ordered the temple destroyed. When the tomb, which has been buried for a long time, was discovered, three crosses were also unearthed near the sepulcher. Everyone believed one of theme is the cross in which Jesus Chris died, though no one could tell which one. Macarius, the bishop of Jerusalem, resolved the problem by allowing each to be touched by a very ill woman. The cross that healed the woman was considered the True Cross.

The part of the Cross found by Helena was encased in a silver reliquary and houses in the basilica under the care of the bishop there. It was periodically exhibited for the veneration of the faithful. Accounts say that a part this relic was taken trophy by the Sassanid Emperor Khorsan II when he captured Jerusalem in 614 A.D. When the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius defeated Khosrau in 628, he reclaimed the relic and took it to Constantinople. Later, he returned it to Jerusalem.

The restoration of the Cross to the Church of Holy Sepulcher is said to happen on Semptember 14. Thus on the date, the Roman Catholic Church commemorates this victory with the Feast of the Exaltation (or Triumph) of the Cross.

Around 1009, Christians in Jerusalem hid the relic until it is rediscovered during the Fist Crusade by Arnulf Malecorne, the first Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, on August 5, 1099. In 1187, during the Battle of Hattin, Saladin grabbed hold of it. After that, it vanished.

Other pieces of the cross were further broken up and widely distributed, many given as a gift the churches across Europe. Furthermore the capture and sacking of the Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 lead to the partition and dispersal of the relic’s possession. Thus today there are many churches in Europe which possess the relic of the True Cross.

Arquetta of the Relic of the Holy Cross

The story of how the relic of the True Cross made its way to the Philippines has been attributed to Divine Providence and the faith of a young Filipino priest.

In 2005, Fr. Archie Cortez, SRC, Prior of the Servants of the Risen Christ Monastic Community, was invited by Mr. Lutz Rolholff, President of the Philippines-Erman Association in Oberhausen to be the guest at the World Youth day in Cologne, Germany. That leds to Father Archie’s meeting of Msgr. Volker Bauer, a priest from Diocese of Essen where the relic of the Holy Cross had been kept for about 1,000 years. The monastic community was slowly waning in Europe, and Msgr. Bauer was looking for someone who could serve the next custodian of the sacred relic. When he broached the offer to Father Archie, the latter immediately said yes, despite the fact that he had no chapel to house the relic. All he could think of at that time was his desire to have his fellow Filipinos venerate the Holy Cross in their own country. This act of faith now enables Filipinos from all walks of life to venerate the most important symbol of Christ’s sacrifice.

Upon his return to the Philippines from Essen Germany, Father Archie busied himself with the task of renovating the existing chapel which was constructed by the help of Mrs. Teresita N. Wilkerson. The monastery was prepared for the arrival of the relic with the support of generous donors who wish to remain unknown because of their humility of hearts gave an amount that was big enough for the construction of amenities and renovations.

Arquetta

On January 29, 2007, Msgr. Bauer arrived at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, with the relic. The next day, January 30, 2007, it was transferred to the Monasterio de Tarlac where it was formally enshrined. Leading the ceremony was the Most Reverend Fernando Foloni, D.D. then Papal Nuncio to the Philippines in the presence of Most Reverend Florentino F. Cinense, bishop of Tarlac, together with other archbishops, bishops and concelebrating priests from different dioceses and archdioceses in the Philippines. The blessing was witnessed by top government officials of the province of Tarlac headed by the late Tarlac Governor Jose V. Yap who was instrumental of his subsequent offer of the piece of land where the monastery is located.

Father Archie and his community take on another mission: to bring as many people as possible to the relic, to symbol of the unfathomable love of God to us. A piece of the Cross on which Jesus was crucified and died is now housed in the community of the Servants of the Risen Christ that rejoices in the significance of His resurrection. In death, there is the promise of life…