As I have written just a few days ago, Filipinos observe special church masses during the Christmas season. These include: The Advent Celebration, Simbang Gabi (Night Masses), and Misa de Gallo or Aguinaldo Masses (morning/dawn masses).
The Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before the week of Christmas and goes on for every Sunday mass—a total of four church masses. It is symbolized by four Advent candles (three violets and one pink), which are lit on every Sunday. Basically, the season of Advent signifies human anticipation for the second coming of Jesus. It is on this season where we greet one another, “Maranatha!,” which means “Our Lord, come!”
Simbang Gabi and Misa de Gallo/Aguinaldo Masses are the same and are sometimes used synonymously; the only difference would be on the time when the masses are held. Simbang Gabi is usually started at 7:00PM while Aguinaldo Masses start at 5:00AM. Both cover the same message: The holy family, the Immaculate Conception, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, the Magnificat, the trials of the holy family, and the birth of Christ. Also, both church masses start every 16th of December and ends on the 24th—totalling up to nine days. On the last day, the mass is held at about 10:00PM, just a few hours just before the midnight of Christmas. It is on this last mass where there would be a portrayal of the Nativity. A common belief in Philippine society is that when one completes the nine-day dawn masses, his/her wish would be granted.
Attending the Aguinaldo Masses has been a personal and very special Christmas tradition of mine. I don’t devote myself to it because of the wish-granting belief—it’s much more than that. (It’s just a belief!) Back when I was a kid, my mom would take me to church to celebrate the Aguinaldo. Hence, it’s been cultivated into my system to do this sacrament every December. Now, however, my parents find it difficult to wake up early in the morning—about 3:00AM—to prepare for church. Since I am the only one able to get up at such a time and schedule, I attend the morning masses all on my own.
Another reason why I find the morning masses highly significant is because I have to walk all by myself to church… for three kilometers! Our home is about 2.5-3 kilometers away from the main town, where our Roman Catholic Church is located. We don’t have a car, and I don’t want to drive anyway, so our main means of transportation is Public Utility Jitneys or taxis. But with such an early head start to church (4:00AM), no public transport vehicles are available. So the only option is to walk.
It’s actually difficult and dangerous walking to church here in my community. First, it’s an uphill road going to church so by the time you arrive, you will be panting hard. Next, the road is semi-rocky—it’s cemented but there are miniature stones sticking out of the cement. It’s a strain on your soles. Aside from that, it’s dark, you will need a flashlight, and there are some dogs roaming around—thankfully, they don’t necessarily chase you down the road, unless you enter their territories. Lastly, because of the dark, you never know if there are muggers or robbers hiding in the shadows. You have to be extra careful and alert to protect yourself. Of course, I pray for safety and anyway, I’m big and skillful enough to counter attacks. I actually like the thrill of danger possibly lurking all around, well, as long as I don’t die.
So where is the significance in walking on a tiring and scary path to church? I put this “walk” in the highest regard because it actually, and figuratively, signifies the hurdles that I go and am willing to go through just to be one with GOD. It also symbolizes how far I am willing to go just to reach my dreams. The stony road, the possible dangers lurking in the dark, uncertainty, the rare rides I’m able to hitch on.. everything that happens in this “walk” resembles that of human life. In a way, I feel that it measures my perseverance. It may seem pointless for others who attend dawn masses, but I actually reflect on the meaning of this undertaking on my life. This is actually one of the things that I do to make my Christmas season worthwhile. I would like to look back, one day, on past Christmases and remember all that I have done to exalt the LORD.
P.S.: All of the above photos except for the 2009 Advent 5 Candle Wreath were taken this morning, as I was going to church.
P.S. 2: In as much as I would like to hit the sack…
…I need to go to the gym.