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Simbang Gabi Day One

16 Dec

Ama Namin (The Lord’s Prayer)

Ama Namin
Sumasalangit Ka
Sambahin ang Ngalan Mo
Mapasaamin ang Kaharian Mo
Dito sa lupa at para nang sa langit
Bigyan mo kami ngayon ng aming kakanin sa araw araw
At patawarin Mo kami sa aming mga sala
Para nang pagpapatawad namin sa nagkakasala sa amin
At huwag Mo kaming ipahintulot sa tukso
At iadya Mo ka sa lahat ng masama.
Sapagkat sa Iyo nagmumula ang kaharian, kapangyarihan at kaluwalhatian,
Ngayon at magpakailanman. Amen.

Last night was the beginning of the Filipino preparation for Christmas, the Simbang-Gabi novena, in the Archdiocese of Edmonton. Simbang-Gabi literally means “Mass at night”. Mass will be held for nine consecutive nights to commemorate the nine months that the Blessed Virgin Mary was pregnant with the child Jesus. This is the first time in the roughly forty-year history of the Filipino community in Edmonton that a Simbang-Gabi celebration has been organized, thanks in large part to the Knights of Columbus. Filipinos in Edmonton are understandably very proud.

It was even more beautiful to see many Catholics of other cultures join in the Simbang-Gabi novena. I recommend to any Catholic wanting to be exposed to another culture to attend Mass in another language. Last night, many of the hymns were in Filipino, as were parts of the introductory rite, the homily, and the Eucharistic prayer. It reminded me of the preparation for World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, in 2005. A few weeks before going on the pilgrimage, youth in Edmonton attended Mass in German at St. Boniface parish. Most of us could only follow the order of the Mass, not knowing it word by word, yet most still participated joyfully and attentively. I felt the same last night, especially when the priest opened the homily with a long discourse in Filipino. There was laughter after a joke that some didn’t understand. The priest then assured us that an English translation of the joke existed. The joke went something like this:

A family had gone out for a beautiful dinner the night before at a restaurant called “The Rose”. The husband had bought his wife a large bouquet of flowers for the occasion. The next morning, he couldn’t remember the name of the restaurant, so he asked his son. The son replied that the name of the restaurant was the same as the kind of flowers that his father had bought his mother the night before. Still confused, the husband found his wife and asked her, “Rose, what was the restaurant that we visited last night called?”

Similarly, we often forget the Lord, especially during the busy preparations for the worldly aspects of Christmas. The Gospel of Matthew, read last night, shows how the disciples had forgotten the Lord and the reason for which He came. They, like the scribes, were pre-occupied with the status-quo and with the letter of the law. Christ is something more than that:

Then the disciples asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist. (Matthew 17:10-13)

John the Baptist was sent to prepare the Lord’s way, but at this point he was about to be put to death by Herod, and many people had still not remembered God. But God will never forget His people. He has carved us on the palm of His hand, says the prophet Isaiah. (cf. Is. 49:15) This Christmas as always, the Father sends His forgetful people the gift of a Messiah, born of the Immaculate Mary, Mother of God. May the Spirit help us to remember God, this Advent and forever, just as our names are indelible in the mind of the Lord.

There’s a bit less than two hours left until the second Mass of the Simbang-Gabi novena starts, so I’m off…I’ll reflect more on Simbang-Gabi later. Pray that we may stand in solidarity with the Filipino community and people of faith all over the world this Christmas season. Also, we pray for the Archbishop of Edmonton, Thomas Collins, who has been assigned to replace the retiring Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic, Archbishop of Toronto. I wish His Grace Thomas Collins all the best and will miss such a fine Archbishop. One may speculate on whether he will receive a red hat at a future Consistory…We pray for Archbishop Collins, one who has ably brought the light of Christ to many so that we may always remember Him as He remembers us and calls us by name. Amen.