|Pinatibay ng pagsubok|
Simbang Gabi (Night Mass) begins today. It will end on Christmas Eve. Misa De Gallo (Rooster’s Mass) as it is also called, is a happy nine-day novena period when Filipinos prepare their hearts and minds for the coming of our Savior. We continue to pray for the good and bad people, the happy and sad times, the sick, the poor and the hungry. We pray for our safety, our health, our financial woes, our leaders and for our beloved country.
The Simbang Gabi tradition began during the Spanish period and we have kept it since. The Christmas breeze, the ringing of the church bells, the freshness of the morning dew and the delicious scent of the puto-bumbong and bibingka, the shopping frenzy, are signs that indeed Christmas is just around the corner. This creates a good and positive spirit as we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus and the coming New Year.
By the way, the first Christmas in our country was celebrated 200 years before Magellan discovered the Philippines, probably between 1280 and 1320 A.D. On December 25 in the late 12th century, Fr. Odoric, a Franciscan priest from Perdenone, Italy, celebrated the first yuletide mass (Misa de Gallo) on the shores of ancient Pangasinan. His group passed by the Philippines on their way back to Italy after eight years of stay in the Orient, during which they endeavored to convert Asians to Christianity. Father Odoric showed the people a picture of Joseph, Mary and Jesus in a manger. A Christmas tree was planted beside the black cross. With his men kneeling around, Father Odoric proceeded to say the first Christmas mass in the Philippines. The Italian priest called the first Philippine Christmas, Natale.
Christmas is a time to rekindle our spirits especially during these times when the country has been experiencing a series of downfalls. Natural and man-made disasters caused our people to suffer. Our government seems to be losing a good grip of the situations affecting the citizens in their daily lives. Resignations left and right, lawmakers violating the very same laws they have passed, word war at the Senate, among local government officials and Cabinet members, donations for Yolanda victims allegedly being repacked and sold in Manila, towns and cities still not reached by relief goods, robberies, hold-ups and crimes in general as Christmas draws near – all these and many more, have in some ways dampened the Christmas spirit in each of us.
Some companies have actually cancelled their Christmas parties and decided to donate their Christmas party budget to organizations taking care of the relief and rehabilitation programs for the victims of Yolanda. What a laudable gesture. Others have simplified their Christmas parties.
Despite what we have just been through, I personally feel that we should still celebrate Christmas even in the simplest way. Our people need rejuvenation. We need to bring in some good cheer. We deserve to be happy even if we are not victims of any disaster. As a matter of fact we are all actually victims of our daily grind. This government has made life more difficult for us. Our people need more love, care, protection and affection. We work so hard. But in the end public officials steal the good life that we deserve to have. Instead of making things more convenient, comfortable and systematic for us, they make us suffer in the tedious process of getting government records, permits, licenses, paying high taxes, kotong and corruption.
Let’s take a breather now. Remember Christmas began when God looked in love, spoke in love, and acted in love. He acted by coming in the flesh via His only-begotten Son, Emmanuel, God with us. We call Him Jesus. He is the greatest mystery, this God in the flesh, Son of God, God with us, Savior of the world. But don’t be confused or intimidated by all the theological muscle-flexing in these titles. Just know that when you see Jesus, you see God. Just keep in mind that when you see Jesus, you see love, a love that abides with us, sees us, and never leaves us. The love of God never abandons the suffering and struggling. He sees, He knows, He loves at all times. And this is the very reason Filipinos are very devoted. We need to get our inner strength from God.
Let us not lose the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is more than sharing, giving, making people happy amidst all the troubles and images of discontent and suffering. It is a time to rejoice for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We need to celebrate and be jubilant despite all the hardships. “For God so love the world that He gave his only begotten Son…”
Don’t let the Grinch steal your Christmas!