Simbang Gabi – Day Nine and Merry Christmas

24 Dec

Only one day remains until Christmas. It was amazing to have participated in the nine Masses of Simbang-Gabi in solidarity with our Filipino brothers and sisters in faith. After each Mass, we had the chance to sample some traditional Filipino food. I noticed how close-knit the Filipino Catholics are in Edmonton. Their celebration of the Mass reflects that. The culture is vibrant in its worship, within and outside the Mass. I am thankful to God for having had this experience of immersion into an important part of this Filipino-Canadian culture. Ultimately, we are united in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” throughout the world. Simbang-Gabi was a testament to that. I experienced nine days of charismatic, joyous preparation for the coming of Our Lord. It is a great way to prepare for Christmas, one I certainly hope to participate in again next Advent.

Last night’s ninth and final Mass of the novena was one of the last Masses to be celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Collins in Edmonton. His Grace is now Archbishop Designate of Toronto and is set to replace one of Canada’s voting Cardinals, His Eminence Aloysius Ambrozic, who is retiring, at the head of the Archdiocese of Toronto. At the conclusion of Mass, Archbishop Collins was duly recognized for his fine work in Edmonton over seven years of service. He allowed for the organization of perpetual Adoration in a chapel at St. Andrew’s Church, where last night’s Mass was celebrated. Now, people are able to adore the Blessed Sacrament 24 hours a day. This is quite an achievement. Also, Archbishop Collins has been responsible for an increased awareness of the need for vocations, particularly to priesthood, to the diaconate, and to other forms of religious life. After Mass, the full Church filed out, with people shaking hands perhaps one last time with one of the Lord’s most distinguished servants. As I shook hands with His Grace, I was able to say only “Thank you”. He will be missed as God, through Pope Benedict XVI, has called Archbishop Collins to serve in another part of His vineyard.

Archbishop Collins’ homily centered again upon Mary, the ideal Christian and a perpetual guide in the life of the Archbishop. Mary believed in God’s plan, even though carrying it out would bring about much sorrow for her. After she was told that she had conceived, Our Lady set off on a dangerous journey to care for Elizabeth. Her aged cousin greeted Mary with great joy, though she felt somewhat overwhelmed. Mary came to visit another humble servant, Elizabeth, who was just another instrument of God’s will.

Elizabeth said to Mary: “How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43) We may ask similar questions whenever someone acts favourably toward us. How is it that we merit being served by someone else out of that person’s act of selflessness and goodness? At Christmas, we ask the same question of God- How do we merit His promise to send us a Redeemer? God sent us Jesus, not because of what humankind has done well, but out of His mercy and supreme selflessness and goodness. God didn’t need to create us, either, but He did so out of love. He also comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ, only because He loves us so much. God’s love is at the root of the great mystery of our faith:

Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.

God’s love that gives us Emmanuel, God with us, and promises us the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, was made possible in part by the Blessed Virgin Mary. The visitation is but one example of Mary’s obedience and loving service to all people.

May the example of Our Lady of the Visitation be alive in our hearts this Christmas. May we make Mary’s humble “yes” to your divine plan a model for our lives everyday, so that the spirit of Christmas lives forever. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

If this is to be my last post until after Christmas Day (I’m not sure if it will be), then Merry Christmas to all and thanks for all the visitors to this blog and to those who have left many helpful and inspiring comments. God Bless,


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