THE traditional ‘Simbang Gabi’ or ‘Dawn Masses’ or ‘Misas de Aguinaldo’ began early today to signal the days leading to Christmas Day.
As expected, Churches were full to the brim with the Catholic faithful and such is the expected scenario for the next eight days to come, leading to Christmas Day itself.
I came across an article quoting a historical researcher named Jesson Gonzaga Allerite, who said that the Spanish word ‘aguinaldo’, which is Mozarabic in origin, means ‘gift’ and even a ‘carol.’
It was said that ‘the Misas de Aguinaldo came from the original novena Masses in preparation for Christmas in honor of the Annunciation (or Expectation) of the Blessed Virgin Mary wherein Churches in Spain provided food after the Mass to the needy, hence the word ‘aguinaldo’.
Allerite’s manuscript, in explaining the history of the Misa de Aguinaldo ‘from Spain to the Philippine Islands,’ said that ‘the iconic novena Masses have existed for hundreds of years in Spain’ although others say they developed from the dawn Masses offered nine days before Christmas. These Masses were called “Rorate Masses” coming from the Introit or opening Psalm accompanying it “Rorate caeli desuper, et nuber pluant justum” (“Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just”).’
‘Historical accounts show that since Masses then were forbidden to be said during night time, these Masses were offered in the darkness of dawn amid the blaze of many lighted candles, especially for farmers and workmen who had to labor afterwards. The candlelight, not only provided the necessary lighting, but also added meaning to the Rorate Masses by reminding the faithful of “the Light that is to come.” Hence, these Masses are also called the Missa Aurea or the Golden Mass. Allerite believes this was most probably the precursor of the Misas de Aguinaldo in Spain and later, in the New World,’ the article stated.
It added: ‘In the New World, which included the Americas and the Philippines, the original permission for the Misas de Aguinaldo was granted to churches under the Augustinian Order where they could be accessed by the faithful through the indulgences granted by Pope Sixtus V’.
On the last day of the ‘Simbang Gabi’, which is Christmas Eve, the service is called a different name, ‘Misa de Gallo.’
To many, the tradition is observed as a way of thanksgiving for the birth of Jesus Christ. To some, it is believed that completing the nine-day series of dawn masses, celebrated within the context of the novena from December 16 to 24, will make your wishes and prayers come true.
Sadly, there are also some, mostly the youngsters, who think that the ‘Simbang Gabi’ is a venue for sporting their new outfits, dating or even ‘barkadahan’ or an excuse for their parents to allow them to be with peers during the wee hours of the morning.
When churches overflow with the attendance of Catholic devotees, sometimes there is no choice but to hear and watch the mass from outside via the huge TV screens put there for the purpose.
I’m sure many, just like myself, have experienced having much difficulty focusing on the mass and hearing what is going on, due to the noise being created by those who are there but are merely chatting their time away.
Some are so inconsiderate that they would even talk at the top of their voices and burst into loud laughter or exchange cusses, unmindful of the fact that people around them are trying to hear mass and would appreciate the much-needed silence.
In some churches, there are lay people going around to make sure that the solemnity of the mass is preserved but come to think of it, is this really needed?
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