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Simbang Gabi (Misa del Gallo)
From December 16 until the 24th, Advent masses in the Philippines take on a different twist. We will be celebrating the Christmas novena masses which will begin at 4 AM. This year, December 21 will fall on a Sunday, so for this date, the liturgy for the fourth Sunday of Advent will be celebrated. Below are the readings for the Misa del Gallo with some commentaries.
The Righteous King
Part of the oracle about the Messiah (Jeremiah 23:1-8). Jeremiah looks to the time after the exile when God will bring back his people from the lands of the north. It will be a new time of relationship with Yahweh who will be invoked as the Living God who brought His people out of exile. The king to be chosen will be called "the Lord is Our Salvation". The name echoes that of Jesus, Yeshua, Salvation.
The Anunciation to Joseph
The narrative explains Matthew 1:16, the note that it was from Mary, the husband of Joseph, that Jesus was born. The narrative highlights the following:
(a) Joseph’s love for Mary whom he did not want exposed
(b) his faith in the angel’s message and obedience to God
(c) the fulfillment of the Isaianic passage about a virgin who will give birth to a son (Isaiah 7:14)
The Birth of Samson
The story is about Samson’s birth. Samson was from the womb of her mother a nazirite, a man dedicated to God. He is one of the judges of Israel, that is one of its superheroes, through whom God will save his people. This is not the case similar to the virgin birth of Mary, since, the story teller tells us that the wife was barren. The case is similar to that of the mother of John the Baptist. In fact, the reading from Luke with which this selection of the Judges is coordinated for the Simbang Gabi, is about the conception of the Baptist.
The Annunciation to Zechariah
The beginning of Luke’s infancy narratives is the annunciation to Zechariah, and is an integral element in his comparison between John the Baptist and Jesus. The concern is to show that from birth, it was John’s role to point to the coming Messiah, Jesus. As in the case of Manoah’s wife, the Baptist’s mother was barren. There is an added difficulty in Luke: she was, like Zechariah, already advanced in age. The skepticism of Zechariah made him mute. He will not be able to speak until the birth of the Baptist.
The Sign of the Immanuel
A threat upon the kingdom of Judah is the backdrop of the prophecy of Isaiah about the virgin that shall give birth to a son who will be known as Immanu-el, God is with us. The Hebrew original speaks of a almah, a young girl; the LXX translated it into parthenos (the equivalent of which in Hebrew is bethulah) — perhaps envisioning a dedicated virgin. The birth of the Immanuel which will the occassion of the lifting of the threat to Judah, will prove to King Ahab that God is with His people.
The Annunciation to Mary
If Matthew presented the annunciation of Jesus’ birth from a male perspective, here we find Luke putting Mary at the center stage. It is through Mary’s "fiat" that the Incarnation is realized. With her and Elizabeth, Luke underscores the role of women at the beginning of salvation history. He will highlight this when the two women meet later on.
||[See Sunday Mass Readings for the 4th Sunday of Advent]
||1 Samuel 1:24-28
1 Sam. 2
A Song of Thanksgiving for Samuel
Samuel is the last judge of Israel and the one who anoints the first king of Israel, Saul, and the messiah, David. This is the story of his birth. He was born of a woman who had difficulty giving birth; it was because of this woman’s prayer with the blessing of Eli the priest of Shiloh that Samuel was born. The selection from 1 Samuel is the song his mother sings, a song that points to Mary’s song of praise.
In Mary’s song of praise, the theme of the reversal of fortunes that Luke will develop throughout his gospel is highlighted. The song is actually about the fidelity of God to his promise. John Paul II explains this fidelity as the masculine love of God: loyal, faithful, trustworthy. The privilege given to the humble maid from Nazareth is proof that the promises to Abraham will be realized.
The Messenger I Send Before You
For the Simbang Gabi cycle of readings, the selection from Malachi 3 points to the figure of John the Baptist (see Mark 1:1-8). In itself, the oracle speaks of a messenger that will purify the Temple before the awaited One arrives, the Lord Himself. The messenger is identified as Elijah the prophet (mal. 3:23-24) who will "turn the hearts of the children to their fathers."
The Birth of John the Baptist
Zechariah regains his voice at the christening of his son. And with his healing, he also pronounces the place of John the Baptist in the history of salvation (see following card). John is Yohanan, "Yahweh has manifested his compassion." With the appearance of John, a new period of salvation has begun. This is captured in the liturgy with the selection of readings from the Book of Consolation associated with the ministry of the Baptist.
||2 Samuel 7:1-5.8-12.14,16
The Covenant with David
The episode from this selection from 2 Samuel is about the oath to David whose descendants will have the monarchy in Israel. The desire of David to build the House for Yahweh is answered: it is through David’s son that the Lord will have His House. The Davidic covenant is realized in the New Covenant that will be forged in the blood of His Son, the Messiah.
The Prophecy about John the Baptist
The selection continues the narration of the christening of the Baptist. On the eighth day of his birth, the baby is circumcised and given a name. The name given is "yohanan", the Lord has shown his mercy. Zechariah pronounces a prophecy, explaining the name.
The prophecy contains the following ideas:
(a) the God is sending His Messiah
(b) who will be the light for Israel
(c) and the Baptist is going to be the one who prepares his way
Zechariah actually is saying that all those prophetic figures foretold in the past who will come before the Day of the Lord (see Mal. 3:23-24) will be realized in his son.
The Light That Shines In The Darkness
The prophecy is couched in the language of an announcement of a king’s heir. The birth of the son is hope for a new tomorrow. The titles and attributes enumerated is that of a future king. Isaiah 9:1-5 is associated by Matthew with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. This in turn is — in the evangelist’s point of view — is a foretaste of the mission of the Church among the Gentiles.
The Revelation of God’s Grace
In the context of Paul’s exhortation to Titus, the apostle to the Gentiles gives the theological basis for Christian conduct: God’s grace has appeared and therefore those who have received it should it turn manifest it in their lives. The word "grace" can mean the condescension of a master for his slave. It can also mean the fidelity of people to their word (as in Ruth’s hesed, see v. 12)
The Birth of Jesus
Luke’s narration of the birth of the Messiah is literally constructed so as to highlight
(a) the census that occassions the trip of Joseph and his wife to Bethlehem, the birthplace of David
(b) the circumstances that led to the birth of the Son of David in poverty
(c) the message of his birth received by shepherds who were out on the fields at night
The sign that the angels give the shepherds is that of a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. The child born in a manger — in a feeding trough — in a place called "House of Bread" points to the identity of this child who would later on present himself as "the Bread come down from heaven"
Translation note: The Good News mistakenly translates the word for "firstborn" as "first son". The Jewish idea of "first-born" is not the same as "first son". First-born is a legal term which identifies Jesus as the one who inherits everything. One may be a "first-born" without being followed by a sibling; "first son" has that connotation.
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