“More than being an inherited custom and a cherished tradition, the ‘Simbang Gabi’ is both an act of sacrifice and sharing which we do for the love of God and our neighbor,” a Catholic Church leader said as the faithful begins the observance of the traditional nine-day “Misa de Aguinaldo” Christmas masses today.
“It is an act of sacrifice as mass goers forgo extra sleep and rest. We offer nine holy masses at the break of dawn. We pray more and fervently often in the company of our family and friends. Simbang Gabi leads us to spend extra time for God with our family and sacrifice personal comforts for God. Attending the masses is a clear manifestation of the Filipinos’ strong faith in God,” said Balanga Bishop Ruperto C. Santos.
The bishop shared that overseas Filipino workers view Simbang Gabi as “a time for sharing.”
“Simbang Gabi among our migrant workers is their solidarity with us here, their communion in spirit and prayers with their loved ones. When our OFWs attend the dawn masses, they know that they are one and united in prayers with their families back home for each other’s safety, peace, and general well-being. Simbang Gabi is our OFWs’ reaching out to help one another as offertory gifts are intended for the victims of natural calamities or shared with those in need,” Santos said.
As in the past years, thousands of devout Catholics are expected to attend the first of the nine-day Simbang Gabi dawn masses, which will be held at dawn in all Catholic churches across the country and in many parts of the world.
Considered as one of the oldest but well observed Christmas traditions in the Philippines, church bells will peal before the break of dawn for the duration of the Simbang Gabi which are held at 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. with the final mass, the “Misa de Gallo” (rooster’s mass) on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, traditionally held shortly before midnight.
In recent years, to accommodate the needs of the faithful on different work schedules, anticipated Simbang Gabi masses are held starting last night at around 7 p.m. in many parishes as well as in chapels in shopping centers.
Also known as Misa de Aguinaldo (gift mass), churchgoers offer the gift of sacrifice in waking up before the break of dawn for nine consecutive days to attend the dawn masses for different intentions: In thanksgiving, as a form of worship, or for a petition. Others, in traditional Filipino belief, attend to obtain special graces upon completing the nine-day masses.
The Simbang Gabi is an old tradition with deep roots in the country’s religious culture, dating back to 1565 when Spanish “conquistador” Miguel Lopez de Legazpi celebrated the first Feast of the Nativity. (Christina Hermoso)