For the first time, I was able to complete the Simbang Gabi, the dawn novena masses held nine days before Christmas, which is a uniquely Filipino tradition.
Not being a morning person, I was always one or a few days short every year, as the novena fell in the middle of Christmas party, shopping and caroling season. Either my different priorities or my lack of dawn willpower prevented me from succeeding. I had several law school friends who were able to do the novena before the bar results came out; other friends just found it easy to wake up to the misa de gallo. As for me, not even the promise of my favorite bibingka and puto bumbong could entice me to give up my precious sleep.
This year was different. I had the same killer schedule - caroling and caroling practices; a Christmas concert; Christmas parties; token Christmas shopping; and a mountain of work to finish or turnover in Lingkod. I had every excuse to turn off the alarm at 3:30 a.m. But something woke me up as strongly as freshly brewed coffee and a persistent celebrity trainer.
I was a woman with a petition. This year had been a struggle in direction and a test of faith. I almost lost my bearings due to the despair brought about by the circumstances I found myself in. Sometime last November, Fr. Geoffrey suggested I attend the Simbang Gabi and offer “my next step” (the proverbial question) as my intention. Thinking it was going to be every 5 a.m., I thought I could manage that.
In early December, I found out that the dawn mass was going to be held at 4:00 a.m. I tried to ask that the schedule be moved later, but found out I had no bargaining power. It was simply more beautiful, I was told, to have it early in the morning. The cool breeze and the interrupted sleep was part of the sacrifice, I was further advised.
I sometimes had friends who attended with me, once my father accompanied me, but mostly I was alone. Morning after morning I attended mass, sleep-deprived yet soul-enriched. There was something very personal in what I was doing – everything was a prayer, from the waking up, to the travel time, to the entire mass, to the relating after. I did not hear God speaking directly or loudly, but I felt I had a purpose for doing it, and that is to bring my petition to the Lord repeatedly.
This morning, I was given a “spiritual certificate of completion of Simbang Gabi” by the MGLs. I had a sense of accomplishment, something that had become a rarity. I felt peace, hope, joy, and love in my heart. It was unexplainable.
I served in the 10 a.m. mass as lector. At 10 p.m. later, my parents and I will attend the “midnight mass”, anticipated Christmas mass in the parish. In twenty-four hours, I would have attended three masses. It’s another record first.
I’m setting personal records here, insignificant to none except me and my God, who knows how much it took, and who knows where He is taking me.
His love truly awakes the dawn, as the Song of St. Patrick goes. Tomorrow is Christmas. I cannot help being happy, for our Savior is born. And there is something more joyful in receiving Someone you have waited for. Having journeyed with Mary and Joseph the past nine days, I am more open to receive Jesus Christ tonight in my life. It is His love that I can give away anew.