Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal, Chp. 31 “The Sermon”

This entire chapter is hilarious. Except for the end. I’ll point out some details :

Chuckle Moments. Haha Moments. Or if you really get into it, LOL Moments. It’s mostly dramatic irony. And it’s mostly because of Father Damaso’s ridiculous rhetoric.

  • p. 201

    “He threw back his head and gestured toward the main door, slicing the air with his hand with such force that the sextons interpreted the gesture as a mandate and closed the doors.”

  • p. 202 The commoners interpreting the words and gestures of Father Damaso.

    “The uncultivated indios, as our correspondent says, fished out no more from this paragraph than the words Civil Guard, bandit, San Diego, and St. Francis. They noted the ensign’s long face and the preacher’s bellicose gestures and deduced that the latter was upset with the former because he would not pursue those bandits.”

  • This is not the kind of puss mentioned in the novel. However, I could not resist sharing this picture. And to think: the voice for this cat is Antonio Banderas. From
  • p. 205 Father Damaso uses licking puss (from a beggar) as an example of what a good Christian would do.

    “Which one of you, sinners, who hear me now, would like the sores of a poor, ragged beggar? Which? Answer, raise your hand! No one! As if I didn’t know. Only a saint like Diego de Alcala would do such a ting. He licked out all the pus, saying to an astonished brother: ‘This is how you cure the sick!’ O, Christian charity! O, piety without equal! O, virtue of virtues! O, peerless model! O, unstained talisman!”

  • p. 205 Scaring people with his arm flapping.

    He [Father Damaso] went on with a long list of exclamations, crossing his arms, raising them, lowering them as if he wanted to fly, or frighten away birds.

  • p. 208 Father Damaso saying that if an “indio” is on horseback and sees a priest, the “indio” must get off the horse. Two commoners whisper to one another

    “And what if you are riding a water buffalo?”
    “Then…keep going!”

  • p. 208 People falling asleep to the sermon. Father Damaso is offended and keeps talking. Someone [Father Salvi] even has the bells ring twice. This makes Father Damaso even more angry. So the sermon went on…

This chapter is not just mere entertainment. One can also use this section of the work to study the social dynamics. Father Damaso wants to go back to the days when the “indios” were more formal and would greet priests by going on their knees and kissing the priest’s hand. He complains that instead, the younger generation think it’s ok to just say “Good day, among” (among = Tagalog for “priest” and used as a sign of respect). I think it’s interesting that people used to treat priests like royalty (kneeling and kissing the hand). It must be because royalty were given power by divine right. Kings and queens have this in common with priests, who are also thought to be privileged because of their closeness to God. I wonder why priests were given less veneration sooner than royalty? Is it because priests had to study scriptures to be close to God? So their power and authority is not as divine? Or do people still kneel and kiss the hands of priests?

Another interesting thing that is brought up in this chapter is the issue of linguistics. Father Damaso delivered his speech in Spanish and Tagalog. It was mentioned that Father Damaso was more nervous about his speech in Spanish than Tagalog because the Castilian (Spanish) language had stricter “rules of oratory.” Also, there were Spaniards watching the sermon and he thought it was possible for someone to have studied at a university (lecture halls were mentioned). He didn’t worry about the Tagalog and even improvised this part because he “took it for granted that provincial Filipinos were ignorant of rhetoric, and he didn’t fear making egretious errors in front of them.” It brings me back to my Linguistics class last school year. We talked about how people give certain languages more prestige. It falls under the study of “sociolinguistics.” In this novel, we see that Spanish is given overt prestige. It is the dominant language–of the upper class and the educated. However, we see another language that is given prestige: Latin. Latin is given prestige because it is thought to be the language of God. Father Damaso says
p. 205

“Before he died he [Diego de Alcala] spoke in Latin…without knowing Latin! Stand in awe, you sinners! Though you study and you receive honors for it, you will never speak Latin, you will die without speaking it! To speak Latin is one of God’s graces, the Church speaks Latin! I myself speak Latin! What? God was going to deny this consolation to his beloved Diego? He could die, he could let him die without speaking Latin? Impossible! God would not be just, God would not be God! He spoke Latin, then, and the authors of the time all testified to it.”

That excerpt made me think of two things. The decline of Latin as a language. The so called “dead” language. What it means for a language to be “dead.” Also, it makes me think of the gray area between fiction and non-fiction. How historical documents are generally seen as non-fiction because they are supposed to be true. However, history is written down by people with biases. So how non-fiction is it? How much of the stuff is fiction? Is it ALL fiction? I think this was mentioned in one of my English classes last semester. Memoirs are considered non-fiction because they are supposed to be true to the events. SUPPOSED TO BE. However, the details can be molded to fit how the story is unfolded. How true to events is The Bible? Also, when we look at any old text, how have the words changed meanings? And to make things even more complicated, how do we know that we are reading metaphors rather than literal passages?


2 thoughts on “Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal, Chp. 31 “The Sermon”

  1. In reference to your final comment on Diego’s Latin miracle!: I agree with you that this is a rather unique passage. To me it almost seems as if it mockingly and sarcasticly references God and the Bible. The thoughts you pose in regards to this passage are eye opening and intriguing… I will have to start reading this work. Keep up the great work

    • Thanks, Stew! It is a rather sarcastic piece of work. So sarcastic, you want to laugh but you can’t because what he’s talking about is so serious. Brilliant.

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