THOUSANDS of Filipino Catholics gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles on Friday to initiate the traditional Simbang Gabi, a nine-day series of Masses to honor the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus; and to anticipate Christmas Day.
This year’s Simbang Gabi theme is: “Jesus, Light for our Shepherds, with Mary, Lead Us All to Holiness.”
Devotees, many of them dressed in traditional Filipino costume, held a procession of parols (Filipino style Christmas lanterns) inside the cathedral and displayed banners of the parishes and organizations that they represented.
Around 120 parishes from the archdiocese’s five pastoral regions participated in the kick off of this year’s Simbang Gabi.
In his homily, Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose H. Gomez enjoined the faithfuls to “join Mary in her search for a place” where she could give birth to Jesus — a figurative call for Catholics to find God amidst the hustle and bustle of daily living.
“God is not going to speak to us in a spectacular way, nor an angel is going to come and speak to us” Gomez pointed out, but instead God “reveals Himself in ordinary things in our daily life.”
Gomez enjoined the Filipino faithfuls to tune down the noises from the trappings of the gadget-dominated living and strive to find “silence with God.”
Fr. Albert Avenido, head of the Filipino Ministry of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, expressed elation over the successful Simbang Gabi kick off. He particularly praised parish leaders from the San Pedro Pastoral Region who hosted this year’s Simbang Gabi kick off.
Avenido also mentioned Maestro Robert “Bob” Shroder for bringing together an all-Filipino choir from San Pedro Pastoral Region parishes to perform for the occasion.
Shroder, who is the musical director and conductor of the well-known Filipino American Symphony Orchestra, also brought along several musicians from his organization.
Earlier, Georgina Uy, coordinator of Filipino Ministry in San Pedro Pastoral Region and chairperson of this year’s Simbang Gabi, said the celebration meant “to evangelize through our cultural tradition.”
“Sharing this tradition with the young is wonderful for it helps them understand the true meaning of Philippine Christmas. We want them to experience the spirituality and holiness of this event,” Uy added.
Traditionally, Christmas in the Philippines is ushered by the Novena of Masses which begins on December 16th and culminates on Dec. 24th.
After the Midnight Mass on the 24th, Filipino families go home to gather enjoy the “Noche Buena”, the family Christmas feast.