In Cool Catholics, We Believe

By EJ Aguila and Aiza Buensalido
YFL Mission Workers

Bells ringing. Nine breezy mornings. Families and friends together. Puto bumbong and bibingka waiting just outside the gate. Young ones in cool get-ups gather together in one corner of the church. Familiar scenes?

Rooster’s Mass or Simbang Gabi is one of the many festivities within the Advent season that excites us Filipinos. For the youth, it is usually spent being with either the whole family or with a group of friends to attend Mass so early in the morning. The dawn is capped with a traditional trip to the puto bumbong, bibingka and hot chocolate stalls mushroomed around the church during this festive season. It is widely believed that if we get to complete the nine novena masses, our prayer requests will be granted. But apart from the food, barkada meet-ups, what does this tradition really mean?

The nine-day novena Mass or Simbang Gabi was traditionally rooted in Mexico in 1587 when the Pope granted Fray Diego de Soria the permission to celebrate Christmas Masses outdoors because the churches could not accommodate the large amount of people that flocked to the celebrations. It is actually a nine-day novena to the Blessed Mother wherein in some churches, the Panunuluyan or the finding of an inn for Christ’s birth is performed.

But to look at the tradition intrinsically, it is not about how we dress, or what we eat. Likewise it is not even about completing the novena for the sake of having a wish to be granted. It is not the number of Masses we attend in the nine days that will count but the disposition of our hearts. Simbang Gabi is actually about strengthening our faith in preparation of the birth of our Savior. It is also not a barkada event but an event that traditionally brings the family together before each member does his/her own activity for the day.

So when you hear the bells ring, and smell the waft of puto bumbong and bibingka, remember that Simbang Gabi was meant to be celebrated to not only strengthen the family but to get ready for Christ’s coming through a devotion to Mama Mary.

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