Simbang Gabi 2016: A Pilgrimage

This year, a small band of friends decided to do a little pilgrimage for the traditional Simbang Gabi. We visited three (3) churches from the City of Makati, three (3) churches from Paranaque City, and three (3) churches from the City of Muntinlupa. It was an interesting and challenging experience, where for some days we had to wake up as early as 2:30am just to make sure we make it to some churches on time.  I’m not sure of I would like to do this again next year… But it was a blessing to have done it this year, after going through the tribulation that is 2016. The feeling of survival after the nine (9) days very well equals that feeling of having survived 2016.

And I look forward to only a glorious, prosperous, peaceful, and positive 2017! 🙂

Sharing the pictures of the sanctuaries of the churches we visited:

Day-1: Santuario de San Antonio, Forbes Park, Makati City

Day-2: St. Alphonsus de Liguori Parish, Magallanes, Makati City

Day-3: St John Bosco Parish, Arnaiz Ave., Makati City

Day-4: Our Lady of Beautiful Love, Merville Park, Makati City

Day-5: Resurrection of Our Lord Parish, BF Homes, Paranaque City

Day-6: Jesus the Divine Healer Parish, Tahanan Village, Paranaque City

Day-7: St. Benedict Chapel, Alabang Hills, Muntinlupa City

Day-8: Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, Alabang Hills, Muntinlupa City

Day-9: St. James the Great Parish, Ayala Alabang Village, Muntinlupa City

May the good Lord, through intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mother Mary and all the angels and saints, hear and grant our Christmas Novena intentions.

 

 

Psalm of an Exile (The Lost Hound)

Like a hound lost on the wayside

I look for You, my Master and Lord.

Swiftly You ran ahead of me,

Quickly You turned the bend,

then I was lost.

 

Longing for your kind sweet voice,

for that scent sweeter than incense

I track You down,determined but afraid.

 

Night is falling and I am not home.

The familiar crackling of the hearth,

replaced by unknown sirens, by stranger sounds.

Night is falling, and I am afraid.

Like a hound lost on the wayside,

I whimper and sigh,

weary and wary.

 

But You were never gone.

You searched me and found me.

Picked me up and kissed me.

 

Oh, that Voice, that Scent, the signs of Home!

Even if the heaven-ward hearth delays,

I fear nothing and am satisfied.

No roof but the starlit sky,

No bed but the grassy field,

It matters not my Lord.

For in your arms, I am home.

The Candle in the Darkness

If we think the gathering darkness will let up on its onslaught, we are gravely mistaken. The apostates that sit in the Philippine Areopagus are not about to slow down. First there was the RH Bill. Expect the Divorce Bill to be the centerpiece of anti-life and anti-religion propaganda in 2013. Again,and again, I tell you, it will become very difficult for a Christian to live in this country. I am not yet educated as to what shape this Divorce Bill is going to take, but I can imagine the quandary of the Remnant who choose to be faithful. 

 

Think about it. A devout Christian decides to enter in marriage with the intention of carrying it through to the end. He or she naturally believes the spouse is in it for the long haul. But then seven years later, things get itchy for the spouse, and something happens that becomes a ground for divorce. So it gets filed, and faithful Christian finds himself or herself divorced even if they didn’t want it… So, how can they live out their vocation from then on? The burden of living out their faith becomes excruciating: They are called to marriage, but they’re now divorced, and because of that they will forever have to live celibate because their faith forbids them taking on another partner while the first spouse is still alive. Indeed to those who want to be true to their faith, this Divorce Bill will only be a burden, a temptation, a curse.

 

This is just the beginning of how 2013 will look like – it will be another battle between light and darkness, and the light is flickering very faintly.  Judging how the RH Bill was railroaded through bribery, deceit, and apostasy, I have no reason to doubt it will not be the same for the Divorce Bill.

 

All these has led me to ask myself the question: If in all the world, the same anti-life, anti-religion laws are being enacted, what benefit is there for me to continue being a citizen of this Third World country?  I have always believed that despite the material odds, what this country has got going is my freedom to exercise my religion without fear, and with full protection. 

 

Now, that is not the case. I can no longer pay my taxes with a clean conscience, nor raise my children in the manner my conscience dictates because the State demands that my tax payments be used for projects that run against my conscience, and that law requires that I subject my children to an education that I have no way to regulate. I used to think that I can speak of God and Life in the same breath and now I’m not so sure. And that’s the case for any country nowadays. 

 

And so all things being equal, why not move to a country with greener material pastures, when everywhere anyway it’s a spiritual hell?

 

But then again, that’s when the little command of the Christ I worship comes in: Be a light to the world, a candle on a hill, in the middle of this heavy darkness.

 

To the Remnant of the faith, to all those who have shunned apostasy, I invite you to burn. Do not let these times pass without you shedding some form of blood for the conviction that we are Christians who will withstand the onslaught of a pagan, satanic country and world. 

 

Burn like candles in the dark.

 

This Gathering Darkness

There is a gathering darkness over the earth. The world has finally come to that point in history – again – where it will become difficult to live a true Christian. Every nation and society under the sun has successfully set up the legislation and the paradigm that criminalizes acts of Christian conscience and labels true Christianity in the derogatory.  And many dare lay claim on being Christian – Catholic, even – but really, they are nothing more than apostates: they have sold the faith of their fathers and mothers for the opportunity to legitimize what once was condemned as sinful, and for a few barrels of pork. Some proudly say that they question the teachings of the Catholic Church, and yet label themselves still as Catholic.  (Well, go on with your life, but drop the Catholic label). Truth be told, the possibilities that their objections are based on moral issues and not doctrinal ones are pretty high. Most likely, the new horde of pagans and apostates do not wish to reject the Creed, but they very well would like to reject the Code.

 

The only way to manifest their total rejection of the Christian’s Moral Code is to set up a Code of their own. These pagan codes have found their way into civil legislation, in different forms in different nations. These pagan codes have found their way into social norms that give precedence to a distorted notion of tolerance, insisting that refusal to accept traditionally immoral actions of one’s beloved is tantamount to not loving at all. So what’s a person to do? 

 

This is no different from the Garden of Eden. We have decided to take hold of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, to be gods without God. We have opted to set our own laws, our own norms of behavior, based on what we think is right “for us” – on the basis of a collective subjective that is amorphous and cacophonous.

 

And those Catholic Christians who accept the Creed but not the Code? What difference is there between them and the cafeteria? What is the difference between these apostates and the overriding pagan culture of the world? Nothing, not even in their belief in some god the image of which is a mere caricature of the Majesty that demands the total obedience of faith.

 

So the darkness gathers, hovering over all of us, a Damocles’ sword waiting…

 

I call upon the anawim – the remnant of God who have chosen to be faithful to their Catholic vocation. Stand firm, and do not lose heart. When 2012 ended, the liturgy proclaimed, as it does every Christmas – “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

 

Jesus Christ is that light, and the Church – all of us – is His torchbearer. Do not lose hope, nor should you fear this darkness. This pagan world will not hold up long, for all the kingdoms shall one day bow before the name of Jesus. Not the Jesus they falsely paint, but the real Lord who will come gloriously triumphant, who will separate the sheep from the goats, and who will demand an accounting of every human being, of every race, and every nation.

 

Te Deum Laudamus

Te Deum laudamus:
te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem
omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli;
tibi caeli et universae Potestates;
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim
incessabili voce proclamant:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra
maiestatis gloriae tuae.
Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,
Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus,
Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum
sancta confitetur Ecclesia,
Patrem immensae maiestatis:
Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium;
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.
Tu Rex gloriae, Christe.
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem,
non horruisti Virginis uterum.
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo,
aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris.
Iudex crederis esse venturus.
Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni:
quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.

Salvum fac populum tuum,
Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae.
Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum.
Per singulos dies benedicimus te;
Et laudamus Nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi.
Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire.
Miserere nostri Domine, miserere nostri.
Fiat misericordia tua,
Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te.
In te, Domine, speravi:
non confundar in aeternum.

 

We praise thee, O God :
we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee :
the Father everlasting.
To thee all Angels cry aloud :
the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To thee Cherubim and Seraphim :
continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy :
Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty :
of thy glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles : praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets : praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs : praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world :
doth acknowledge thee;
The Father : of an infinite Majesty;
Thine honourable, true : and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost : the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory : O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son : of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man :
thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death :
thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God : in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come : to be our Judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants :
whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy Saints : in glory everlasting.

O Lord, save thy people :
and bless thine heritage.
Govern them : and lift them up for ever.
Day by day : we magnify thee;
And we worship thy Name : ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord : to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us : have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us :
as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted :
let me never be confounded.

My Farewell Letter to 2011

‎2011 –

It is your last hour on this side of the planet. Sadly, no one is living this last hour for you.
All have set their eyes and hopes on your successor.
But do not weep.
Whatever is left of your 12-month life will forever be etched in memory and in history.
Both in the collective memory and history of this increasingly connected world…
And in our own personal memories and histories…

Whatever has been said and done, harbored in the heart with love or rancor,
All cannot be undone. For good or ill, your mark will carry the force of momentum
That may chart the course of our destinies in 2012 and beyond,
Save, should it be changed by our own freedom, or the will of God.

I do not carry with me any regret, nor bear ill-will against you, 2011.
The stroke of midnight brings with it your death,
And at death, with Tosca I say to you – I forgive you.

For whatever it was, my romance and my adventure with you, 2011
I shall cherish it with the sentimentality of a sage, the joy of a jester, and the grimness of a god.

At the stroke of midnight, 2011, I will take up new pen, and write a new history.

Good bye, 2011. Rest well in the annals of history, and in the minds of all who breathed during your regime.

2012 approaches…

Emmanuel: Transforming the Ordinary

There is an article on http://blog.acton.org/archives/28228-rev-sirico-contemplating-christmas.html posted by a certain John Couretas. It was written by one Rev. Robert Sirico. The following lines struck me from the article, and I quote, “The challenge of Christmas is not to wait for a God who with shouts, trumpets and great fanfare will attract our attention, but to search for the One who comes discretely and must be carefully discerned in the midst of everyday lives.”

This quote spurred some reflection on the immense impact of the Incarnation of the Son of God.

First of all, the impact of the Incarnation – of God being really in our midst, partaking of the most ordinary part of our lives – must be experienced before we can enter into any form of relationship with God, much more adopting a Christian spirituality. Barring sinful actions we may commit in any given day, try listing down all the ordinary things you do on a daily basis. You wake up, you do your toilet, you take a bath. You eat, you walk, you greet your family, you go to work. You get tired, you get bored, you long for your friends, you have dinner with friends, sometimes with a couple of drinks. On special days you probably attended a wedding, danced with some people, and the like. There are days you go on long trips to unwind. On Sundays you go to church. In the evenings you come home, tired, barely lying on your bed when you start snoring.

Imagine Jesus doing ALL of that too. And for most of His life – a good thirty years of it – he did all that. His life was the daily rhythm of Jewish life, shaped by religious laws, cultural practices, and the Roman shadow hanging above all of them. Surely he must have had to pay taxes too! He went to funerals, to circumcisions, to parties.

This is what Christmas is all about: God – the immense, transcendent, all powerful, all knowing enters into the ordinary. Christmas should bring home the realization that God’s intent is not to be part of your Sunday Masses only. Nor is He part of your rising and your sleeping only. Christmas is the faith-evidence that God wants to be part of our lives – in the most ordinary, mundane routines of our lives, notwithstanding the special moments.

And this is the first challenge: Not that God becomes present to us, because God’s omnipresence and Christmas itself makes Him present to us at all times. The challenge is to make ourselves present to God. Only when we can make ourselves present to Him – conscious of Him on an increasingly continuous basis – can we say that we have begun to enter in a relationship with God.

Secondly, if we want God to truly transform our lives – to save us – then we must make ourselves more and more open to Him.

Mary Most Holy, while truly immaculate, could have lost all that much like Eve (who was created immaculate too).  But our Lady exercised her freedom not to “take the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil” so that she “can become like God.”  Rather, our Lady exercised her freedom to choose God and to make herself completely available to God and His Will. When she said, “Behold the handmaid (slave girl) of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word,” she meant it completely.

And with that she becomes the only one full of grace – saved in a preeminent way – saved upon her conception, and carried over until her Assumption.  Her complete openness allowed her to be filled with the Holy Spirit so completely, to become the Mother of God. And so she fully possessed God. In her the mystery and message of the Incarnation is complete.

But we too can share in that privilege. If we strive everyday to make less space for sin, and more space for God, then we can begin to experience salvation. God becomes more and more “with us.”

from http://sallysjourney.typepad.com/sallys_journey/2008/12/light-into-dark.html

This Christmas, it is my personal prayer that we all begin to draw closer to God who is in the ordinary – as ordinary as a helpless child in swaddling clothes – and experience transformation as we allow more space for Him.  If there is room in the “inn” of our hearts, then for sure, Christ will be “born” in you, and you will begin the journey of true liberation under the loving, watchful eyes of the Father.

And then, certainly, the Light has dawned on  you, and you will then and forever be transformed.

Happy Christmas!

The Gifts of Nine Mornings

For someone who hates being awake at 3 o’clock in the morning, I have found myself rising from slumber around that time to prepare myself for our parish’s 4:30am Dawn Mass. Ever since I could remember, I have always wanted to complete the Christmas Novena. To date, this year was only the third time in my entire life that I was able to complete it. This year was particularly special, because in all the nine masses, I was permitted to serve as a Lector/Commentator. And in all the masses, I was able to assist at Lauds.

This actually explains why I rise at 3am. Not only did I have to do my usual morning toilet. I had to make sure I was in church by 4am to prepare myself for the celebration – mentally, spiritually, and logistically. Upon arriving, I would sign off on the attendance sheet of the Lectors/Commentators ministry. Then I would check the logistical requirements of my assignment. If I was the Commentator, I would review the flow of that morning’s liturgy, the announcements I would have to make, and the like. If I was a Lector, I would prepare and review the Lectionary. I would also double check my Breviary for that day’s Lauds. After that, I would settle down for a few minutes of meditation following some writings of St. Alphonsus di Liguori.

As the days of the Christmas Novena progressed, I found myself encountering various situations in my ordinary life where my faith-in-action would be challenged. There were many instances when I had to struggle with impatience – my perennial flaw. In many things I am patient. But in committed appointments, in having to repeat instructions, and in slowness of intellectual pick up (borne of my intellectual pride), ah, here I am weakest.

I had to grapple with a few instances where my pride was pricked. While it was through no fault of my own, I had to choose between the magnanimity of letting things pass, and the ordinary right for vindication. I had to wrestle with the lazy stupor that comes with the holidays. Even my fight for temperance and continence almost felt like a losing battle. In short, I had become keenly aware of the dark side of my self – that side that I have reserved to myself, to my own personal sense of right and pleasure; that side I have not laid before the Lord Jesus.

This awareness was precisely my first blessing from the Lord in this Christmas Novena. I have acquired, by the working of the Holy Spirit, a deeper understanding of just how bad a person I could be. Has this awareness led me to compunction? I don’t know. God alone knows just how contrite I am now. One thing is for sure – I felt helpless. I felt like I wanted to be better, if not just good, but I couldn’t find the willpower to sustain it.

And this helplessness brought me to the second grace of this Christmas Novena. In the last nine mornings, I have felt more keenly the presence of Mary Most Holy, my mother and the Mother of the Lord. This feeling reached its peak in one Dawn Mass where the choir sang the Memorare. And as I sang-prayed with them, I knew with greater conviction that as I desire to become more and more like Christ-for-God and Christ-for-others, our Lady would be my sure and constant guide, advocate, and protectress.

And finally, our Lady’s maternal presence brought me the third grace of this Christmas Novena. She probably asked it of the Spirit, for now I have a strong desire to expand my heart – my entire being – to make more and more space for God to dwell and act in and through me. More of God, less of self – this is the desire that the Spirit must have planted in me by the prodding of Mary Most Holy.

For this three-fold grace, I am already grateful. It is truly an affirmation that God continues to work in my life – using both moments of desolation and consolation – for me to encounter Him and enable me to continue this journey of faith.

The Christmas Novena is one made in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who for nine months carried the Incarnate God in her immaculate womb. It is a celebration of waiting, of joyful expectation. It is a time too, to lay before our Lady and her Child our prayers. But now it is not just a moment of waiting, it has become truly an encounter with the Lord. It is no longer just a period of petition, but also that of praise. For the God I sought was waiting to be found, that we may meet. For my petitions were ready to be granted, that His love and mercy may forever be sung.

Come, Lord Jesus, and find a bigger, cleaner, fresher room in my heart this Christmas. After all, it was your Mother and your Spirit who cleaned it up for Your coming.

*** *** ***

Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary,
That never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection
Implored they help or sought thine intercession, was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of Virgins, my Mother;
To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
Despise not my petitions,
But in thy mercy, hear and answer me.
Amen.

*** *** ***

For another interpretation of the Memorare, check this out:

We Will No Longer Wither Nor Fade

‎”The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people is grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever.” (Isaiah 40:7-8)

Thus says the Prophet Isaiah… And it is true. UNTIL the Incarnation. For when the Son – the Word – of God was made flesh, then all flesh is no longer as ephemeral as the grass. Because of the Incarnation, He who shared in our humanity gives us the chance to partake of His Divinity. Because of the Incarnation of the Son of God, when the breath of the LORD blows on the flesh, it is quickened unto eternal life.

The Strange Thing About Christian Love

The gospel today recounts an incident when our Lord was challenged by the Pharisees – the teachers of the Law: Which is the greatest commandment?

Our Lord replies, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

My thoughts rest on the dominant word in our Lord’s response, “Love.” The The original Greek of the text is “agapeseis,” which translates to “you shall be loving.” The root, evidently, is “agape.”

Years before the birth of our Lord, the ancient Greeks referred to “agape” as the feelings that one has for a spouse, one’s children, family, or household – even for that of a good meal.

Perhaps that can be a good point of reflection today: Is my love for the Lord and for others like that of one’s love for spouse, children, or family? Such love means sacrifice for, zealous protection of, a desire to bring constant joy and laughter to, a willingness to suffer with the one you love. That, after all, is my understanding of “family.”

Is my love for the Lord and for others a love that gives me joy and satisfaction – just like a good meal?

Oh well, that’s a lot to think about in itself. That’s the strange thing about Christian Love – it’s like that of a family and a good meal…

And for those of you who are like me struggling with love, perhaps the best starting point would be the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass… After all, it is a gathering of God’s family and a sacred meal, where we feed on Christ Himself, who offered himself up as spouse and food for all of us.

And then by frequent  participation, the grace of our masses would – could – teach our hearts to love as He loves…