Credit: Archdiocese of Chicago
SIMBANG GABI: A Catechetical Moment
By Teresita Nuval
Simbang Gabi (“Masses of the Night”) is a novena of Marian Votive Masses that are celebrated on nine days immediately preceding the Liturgy of the Nativity on December 25. The Masses are said in place of Masses for the ferial days and the Sunday within the nine days. The vestments are white, not purple, and the Gloria is sung. This Philippine Christmas tradition has roots similar to the Posadas of Mexico, when both countries were colonies of Spain. This is a multicultural celebration that is shared with the whole archdiocesan community.
Catechesis, as in the days of the Spanish missionaries, continues to be the strong point of the nine days of Simbang Gabi. It is the catechetical moment when people can be together to reflect on issues or the daily themes that are promoted and preached in the parishes. The novena expresses the sentiments of the people towards Mary and is a channel for the celebration of the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, the fruit of Mary’s womb.
The yearly practice of Simbang Gabi carries in its expression the apostolic exhortation of Pope John Paul II, where he states that it is the task of evangelization to “bring the power of the gospel into the very heart of culture and cultures. For this purpose catechesis will seek to know these cultures and their essential components … and will help bring forth from their own living tradition original expressions of Christian life, celebration and thought.”
Simbang Gabi is a special part of Filipino spiritual life. Because of the close liturgical connection of Simbang Gabi to the Divine Office of Advent, the novena reinforces the invitation of the Advent season to live a life that is attached to the liturgical year of the Church. This nine-day Marian preparation for Christmas can be the personal witness that each Christian can offer not only to each other but to the secular community at large that it is the time of Emmanuel, God with us.