Dear Sisters and Brothers –
This weekend, our parish will celebrate its first Simbang Gabi Mass. Since 1669, during the early years of Christianity there, Christmas Day in the Philippines has been ushered in by a novena of dawn Masses that start on Dec. 16. One of these Masses was originally known as Misa de Aguinaldo or Misa de Gallo in Spanish; in Tagalog, it is known as Simbang Gabi, or “Dawn Mass.”
Aguinaldo means “gift,” a word particular to Christmas. In waking up early for nine days before Christmas to join in the celebration of the Dawn Mass, the faithful make their Aguinaldo to God in response to God’s great gift of Jesus. The practice is also understood as the preparation of the faithful to receive from God the Aguinaldo of Christmas, Jesus.
Misa de Gallo means “Mass of the Rooster” and received that name because the rooster crows at the break of dawn, which is when these Masses are traditionally celebrated. They took place during the harvest season, and farmers, of course, had to be in the fields before sunrise. At the crowing of the rooster, the entire family would rise and walk to the nearest parish church. Colorful candles and lanterns were placed or hung in every door, window, tree branch, and street corner. Bands played native carols all across town while the faithful made their way to church. After the Mass, people gathered in their homes to celebrate Noche Buena (Christmas Eve, in Spanish) and feast on local delicacies and traditional desserts.
Over the generations, Filipino faith communities have creatively adapted those candles and lanterns, as well as the schedule of Simbang Gabi to fit their local circumstances. The custom is also being extended to other parts of the world, wherever Filipinos are living out their Catholic faith. I am very pleased that now includes St. Ignatius Parish in San Francisco!
All are welcome to join us for Mass at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday and for some of those local delicacies and traditional desserts afterwards in Fromm Hall.
Let us join our Filipino brothers and sisters around the world and prepare our hearts these next nine days to receive the greatest gift of God once more.
I wish those who will be traveling for the holidays a safe journey. And know of my prayers for all of you this holy season.
Oremus pro invicem.