OUR Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo (the Spanish phrase is used to refer to midnight masses, more literally translated as “Rooster’s Mass”) in this season of Advent symbolizes our preparations for Christmas. Waking up early in the morning for nine straight days (which starts this Dec. 16) denotes our keenness in the birth of Christ manifested through this act of vigilance and prayer. Advent has two distinct parts: In both divisions we are made aware that we wait for the coming of Jesus, our redeemer. During the first half we look forward to the second coming of Christ at the end of time, while in the last part we remember Christ’s first coming, His Incarnation. We celebrate Advent in a spirit of expectation and joy. We continue to sing the Alleluia, “As we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Savior, Jesus Christ.”
During a Simbang Gabi Mass (2019) at the Vatican presided by Pope Francis, the Holy Father explicates, “In the Philippines, for centuries, there has been a novena in preparation for a blessed Christmas called, Simbang-Gabi. During nine days, the Filipino faithful gather in their parishes for a special Eucharistic celebration … We are all called to practice charity together with those who live in the existential peripheries, using our different gifts to renew the signs of the presence of the Kingdom. Together, we are all called to proclaim the Gospel, the Good News of salvation, in all languages, so as to reach as many people as possible”.
Luke’s narrative (Lk 21:25-28; 34-36) that illustrates the second coming of Christ, where he would appear in a cloud with power and great glory; is an invitation for us to pray and be vigilant lest we be taken by surprise. It calls us to constantly be “on our guard” and to reawaken ourselves to the true spirit of Jesus’ coming that sometimes lies trapped in the voracity of this materialistic world. And, it is in being alert towards the second coming of Christ where we could be ready to face all false prophets (whether they be prophets of doom or advocates of materialism) that would bring about a complacency which would cover all our good intentions with the mold of self-righteousness and self-centeredness.
In parallel reflection thereof we too must understand the full reality of the whole political realm in terms of social participation and vigilance as the basic foundation itself of what democracy really means. Exercising political guardianship is a prerequisite in the balance of power inherent in a democracy ideology. Moreover, its existence in society becomes a deterrent factor for abuse and corruption.
Sometimes, we Filipinos have a wrong notion of equating political empowerment just in terms of voting for a particular candidate for public office, the zenith of our entire social discourse becomes and solely an encounter only in terms of the day of the election itself. And, eventually it becomes dormant for another couple of years waiting for the next cycle electoral exercises. Moreover, our response towards ideological and social issues becomes more reactive rather than being more preventive and pro-active (not just being TALKATIVE – but being TALK-ACTIVE). The passive, detached and indifferent attitude of the majority of Filipinos greatly risks the occurrence of dictatorship and corruption in the conduct of government. This attitude also subsequently forms a “political vacuum” towards social reforms because of the non-challenged disposition of the status quo. We must always bear in mind that basic authority should be formed at the bottom by those who exercise authority.
We must actualize the ideological implications of EDSA if we are to merit the true cause of political vigilance in our contemporary Filipino society. These past few years the realization has grown that change in social structures is not enough without change too in the ideological mindset of Filipinos. We have learned from EDSA that if we begin to empower the powerless to act by themselves for the good of all, nothing is socially improbable. As the social encyclical PACEM IN TERRIS puts it: The dignity of the human person involves the right to take an active part in public affairs and to contribute one’s part to the common good of the citizen. For, as our predecessors of happy memory, Pius XII, pointed out: “The human individual, far from being an object and, as it were, a merely passive element in the social order, is in fact, must be and must continue to be, its subject, its foundation and its end.”
Individuals are not passive members of a community. They are active participants with the rights as well as the obligation to have their influence felt in the laws and policies of the land. The more active and efficacious the citizen’s participation is in the activities and goals of society, the more prosperous and the more just society becomes. Human beings are social by nature, and therefore obliged to collaborate with one another, for the common good.The relationship, therefore, of the government and the governed is of the utmost importance, and should be manifested in the state’s role to lead and in the people’s duty to participate.
In Advent we prepare ourselves for Christmas. It is not just to remember Jesus’ birth more than 2,000 years ago. It is first of all a vigilance to welcome him in our daily lives and in our political exercises as well!
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