‘Who is waiting for you?’ | Filipino Catholics celebrate Simbang Gabi
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Two figures dressed as Mary and Joseph made their way down the center aisle of Vancouver's Holy Rosary Cathedral. At various points, they stopped and asked a parishioner playing the part of an innkeeper for a place to stay. Invariably the reply was negative. Finally, the two figures reached the foot of the altar and asked the congregation if they had any room for Christ. The congregation said they did have room for Christ, and only then did the entrance procession for the first Simbang Gabi Mass of the year begin.
Simbang Gabi refers to nine Masses in honor of Mary, traditionally celebrated in the nine days before Christmas by Filipino Catholics around the world. The Filipino community of Vancouver began the novena with a Mass celebrated Archbishop Michael Miller at the cathedral.
The scene of Mary and Joseph asking for a place to stay was a standard feature on the first night of Simbang Gabi. It would help the faithful focus on making room for Christ in their hearts.
Archbishop Miller told the congregation that Mary and Joseph repeatedly heard there was no room to spare because the people they met did not want to be bothered. The world was in darkness and needed the light of Christ, he said.
Archbishop Miller asked the congregation to pause and silently ask themselves: "To whom should I bring this light this Christmas? Who is waiting for you? ... We've all received so much from Him, let's not hoard that light," he said.
The remaining eight Simbang Gabi Masses were celebrated in a different Vancouver parish each night. Host parishes assembled a special choir for their evening of Simbang Gabi. Celebrating the Masses in the evening was a slight deviation from tradition. Normally, Simbang Gabi Masses are celebrated at dawn.
Michael Goco, a member of the Filipino Catholic organization Sambayanang Pilipino Society of British Columbia, which organized the novena, said, "In a practical way, traveling from parish to parish gives more communities throughout the archdiocese an opportunity to experience this gift and tradition of the Filipino community." He added that it "puts us, the 'pilgrims' who attend this Mass as well, in the place of Mary and Joseph, who invite these parish communities to open their hearts for Christmas."
The tradition of Simbang Gabi Masses is traced back to the arrival of Spanish missionaries in the Americas and the Philippines. At the time they had a tradition of celebrating pre-Christmas novena Masses in honor of the Annunciation. Those Masses were known as "Misa de Gallo" or "rooster Mass," because they were celebrated at dawn.
Dominicans prepare for Christmas with Advent stations
WASHINGTON — While some were frantically running through the malls to prepare for Christmas, a group of Dominicans prepared for the season with candles, hymns, moments of silence and reflection. For the third consecutive year, the Dominican brothers in the Washington area have organized what they call Advent Stations, a night of liturgical music, Scripture readings and preaching in a softly lighted St. Dominic Church near some of the most notable buildings in the nation's capital. The stillness and quiet the evening provides helps people in a frantic world reflect and prepare to meet Christ, said Dominican Friar Edmund McCullough, who coordinated the event. About 200 attended the Dec. 17 event, which keeps growing thanks to news about it on social media, said Brother McCullough.
Iowa pastor creates room-size Bethlehem village
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Traditional Nativity scenes focus on the Holy Family in a stable where they found shelter. Father Dan Rupp, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish, has taken that concept one step further. The priest created the town of Bethlehem on two 15-foot-by-5-foot boards. It consumes a space about the size of a double-car garage in the church's meeting room. Father Rupp began assembling the project Dec. 16. Father Rupp measured and re-measured to ensure visitors would fully appreciate the village.
Residents of remote island happy to have Christmas Mass
DUBLIN— Residents of a remote Irish island have had their prayers answered when it was confirmed they would have a priest to celebrate Christmas Mass. Father Kieran Creagh had spent more than four years living on Tory Island, nine miles off the coast of County Donegal, but was reassigned in September. Since then, the island's 150-strong community has been without a full-time clergyman, even though temporary arrangements have since been in place for a substitute Catholic priest to be ferried over to the isle on weekends. Although the Diocese of Raphoe still has not assigned a permanent replacement priest for the island, residents expressed relief on learning that arrangements had been made for a priest to travel from the mainland to celebrate Christmas Mass.
Nuremberg 'Christkind' visits markets, spreads charity
NUREMBERG, Germany — At a time when many people are celebrating Christmas with material gain, the people of Nuremberg continue a 68-year-old tradition of sharing Christmas spirit through community service. Every year since 1948, the "Christkind," or Christ child angel, appears standing on a parapet of the Frauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady, in the old medieval citadel of Nuremberg. Dressed in a shimmering cloak and flowing white gown, she is instantly recognizable due to her long blond curls and tall golden crown. She is Nuremberg's embodiment of a female angel, said to bring Christmas gifts to people in German-speaking countries. "My duty as the Christkind is to bring Christmas and Christmas joy to people," said 19-year-old Barbara Otto, the current Christkind, elected in 2015. Every two years the city of Nuremberg elects a young woman to play the role. She must be sociable enough to preside over one of the oldest Christmas markets in Germany, wise enough to explain the intricate details of Germany's former imperial city, and tall enough to stand on the towering ledge of a church designed in 1355 to house the Holy Roman emperor's scepter and crown jewels.
Boxes filled with Christmas meals link Chilean families
SANTIAGO, Chile — In a wealthy area of Santiago, Maria Jose Griffin and her husband, Juan Carlos Cornejo, were in their spacious sitting room, preparing Christmas dinner for three families they have never met. Griffin and Cornejo had three boxes, each covered with a Nativity scene and labeled with the family's name, so they could feel a connection with them. This year, the boxes will be going to three families in Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Cerro Navia, one of the most densely populated and poorest communities in Santiago. Griffin and Cornejo were among thousands participating in the "Christmas With Brothers" campaign run by the Archdiocese of Santiago, which means that more than 13,000 families in need with receive a Christmas box with all the ingredients needed for Christmas dinner. The boxes often contain personalized messages to the families that are receiving them and a prayer. The initiative, which has been running for the last 20 years, has become a Santiago tradition.
— Catholic News Service
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