Misa de Gallo… Simbang Gabi… Aguinaldo Masses… Christmas Novena Mass… I am now back in the UAE. This is the country where I grew up. A country 6,000 kilometers away from my beloved Philippines. Today was the first time I attended the Simbang Gabi in my Parish here. It is quite ironic since I live right across the church compound, and was not able to make the nine days for 2011. Attending the Simbang Gabi was something that made me proud to be a Filipino. It is one of the Filipino People’s contributions to the Roman Catholic Church. It gives us a sense on zeal, a sense of faith to those who turn to God in preparing for the great feast of Christmas. In my eleven years of stay in the Philippines, I was able to witness the richness of these nine days of preparation. This gave me several reflections and realizations.
First, the Simbang Gabi is an expression of one’s Faith. Many believe in myths that this practice is something that can make WISHES come true. “Pag nakumpleto mo and Simbang Gabi magkakatotoo ang wish mo.” Yan ang paniniwala nang marami kaya sila bumubuo ng Simbang Gabi. Wishes are based on the paradigm of chance. If you make wishes, you lack faith. Therefore I believe that Simbang Gabi is more than a practice of WISHING. It is an act of FAITH. Faith will allow us to move mountains. Faith will allow us to work with the will and power of God. Those who received answered prayers on these nine days did not just make a wish, they had FAITH.
Second, it is an act of self-discipline and sacrifice. Whether one attends the dawn masses or the anticipated masses, I am overwhelmed by the determination of those who complete these nine days. I commend you. It shows how much you are willing to sacrifice rest or long hours of sleep just to be with the Lord on these nine days. I guess if we are able to sacrifice nine days for the Simbang Gabi, then we can make further sacrifices for our Faith in the future.
Third, it is a communal act. It gives us Filipinos a sense of identity and belongingness. Whether I am at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Mandaluyong or St. Michael’s Church here Sharjah, the atmosphere of festivity and faith combined is simply something that is automatically realized. You will immediately feel that you are with your own. That need to belong is answered by this communal act.
Fourth, it is an act of giving. I say this from the perspective of a server. In the mass, I observed the servers here in Sharjah. I could relate to these servers. They are different from the servers in the Philippines. They are different and special because the servers here, many of them, are far from their loved ones. They are far from their loved ones, yet they are still capable of giving something to the people. In their brokenness they still have the willingness and courage to share. They are something that I look up to. For all the lay faithful serving at the altar, they do not just part take in the celebration like the usual mass-goer; but, they are privileged to be facilitators in uniting the rest of the faithful. They help the priest and the congregation unite in one voice to actively participate in this sacred mystery of faith. It is a gift of the server to the Catholic faithful this Christmas.
The Simbang Gabi is almost over. For those who have completed and have served in these nine days, I feel happy that you are doing something Filipino, something Filipino for your faith. May your Christmas be meaningful as these nine days of preparation.