After two years Simbang gabi returns to the Philippines.
“Simbang gabi” means “Night mass” in Filipino. These Masses are celebrated each of the nine nights before Christmas.They represent the nine months of gestation of Our Lady before bringing the Child God into the world. Pope Leo XIII granted permission to celebrate the Christmas Novena from the 16th to the 24th with masses in the early hours before dawn. Hence their alternative name of “rooster masses”. It is a way of bringing forward the Christmas Mass and celebrating it for a longer period so that it gradually sinks in to each heart. Like Christmas come early – purple vestments are replaced by white, the Gloria is prayed and readings and prayers are taken from the Christmas season. Popular songs are sung and everywhere is lit up.. At the end of Mass a rice broth is shared amongst the congregation, strengthening the spirit of fraternity.
This custom that began in Latin America soon spread to the Philippines. Here the Christmas season is prepared with great expectation from November 1 with the celebration of All Saints. It is then followed by the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Our lady of Guadalupe, patron saint of the Philippines. In the “pastoral station” where we are working, we rotate round the five chapels. People go to Mass at night just like the shepherds coming to Bethlehem with candles or like the virgins who awaited the arrival of the bridegroom, while the roosters and bells ring announcing the arrival of the Messiah. Our “pastoral station” is between rice fields so Masses can also be attended by farmers. They go to Mass before starting their work at dawn at around 6 in the morning.
Simbang gabi returns. After two years of not being able to celebrate Masses due to the pandemic, it is an opportunity to meet again face to face, in a festive atmosphere. It revitalizes the communities by coming together, sharing together and enjoying these Christmas holidays, once again.