LOS ANGELES, CA. – The Filipino Ministry of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles invites everyone: families and organizations to join in the Archdiocesan Simbang Gabi liturgy, 6:30 p.m. on December 15, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Fr. Albert Avenido, moderator of the Filipino Ministry, the Leadership Council, and parish leaders from San Pedro Pastoral Region, headed by Georgina Uy, from St. Bernard Parish in Bellflower, will lead this year’s celebration. The main celebrant is the Most Reverend Jose H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, with dozens of Filipino priests as concelebrants. Music will be provided by an inter-parish choir to be conducted by Robert Shroder.
This year’s theme, ‘Jesus, Light for our Shepherds, with Mary, Lead Us All to Holiness’ (Hesus, Tanglaw Para sa Aming Mga Pastol, Kasama ni Maria, Akayin Mo Kaming Lahat Sa Kabanalan), reflects renewal of our relationship with Christ, making an effort for all of us to be the light of the world.
“As shepherds of Christ,” explained Ray Factoran, a parishioner from St. Linus Parish, “we ask our Blessed Mother to help us become closer to God. Our committee met and brainstormed this year’s Simbang Gabi theme. Everyone was thoughtful and all reflected how best to express worship on the first evening of the nine-day novena dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
“This year’s celebration,” Georgina expressed,” will be meaningful to all since its intent is to evangelize through our cultural tradition. Sharing this tradition with the young is wonderful for it helps them understand the true meaning of Christmas in the Philippines. We want them to experience the spirituality and holiness of this event especially at this Advent Season,” she added.
In many parts of the world, Simbang Gabi has been a practice that propagates Filipino spirituality during Advent, a unique preparation for the coming of Jesus. Christmas in the Philippines is the world’s longest Christmas season, with carols heard as early as September and lasting until Epiphany. Traditionally, Pasko in the homeland is ushered by the Novena of Masses which begins on December 16 and culminates on Dec. 24, with the much anticipated Misa de Gallo or Midnight Mass which is immediately followed by the Noche Buena, the family Christmas feast.
Throwback 2016: parade of FilAm organizations, dozens of FilAm priests concelebrating and backdrop of colorful parols.
“Simbang Gabi traces its roots in Mexico,” narrates Jo Solomonson. “As the early Spanish settlers and missionaries traveled to the New World across the Pacific, they brought with them the religious practice of ‘Aguinaldo Masses.’ The faithful made every effort for nine days to attend Mass in the early morning as preparation to receive from God the greatest gift or ‘aguinaldo’ of Christmas: ‘Jesus, the Savior of the World.’ The ritual is also an expression of the deep devotion of the Filipinos to Mary, Mother of God. The people join and accompany her as she awaits the birth of her Son. In her honor, votive Masses are solemnized on those nine days.”
Parols of different parishes exalting Simbang Gabi will be processed at the pre-liturgy and will be blessed by Archbishop Gomez before they are returned to the parishes to officially begin Simbang Gabi in the entire Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The procession will also include parols of religious FilAm organizations, civic and professional organizations, and government offices, usually led by the Philippine Consulate General.