This year marks the 20th year that I've completed the simbang gabi novena. And even if it's something I do every year, it feels different each time.
My earliest memories of simbang gabi were during my grade school days. My dad would wake me up at 4:30 in the morning and we would walk to church. I must admit that I dreaded it, and was relieved that my parents only took me and my brother to the first and last days of the novena. It also didn't help that the mass was long and we had to stand throughout the whole mass.
But my journey took a different turn when we started going to simbang gabi at Mary the Queen Parish, where the Jesuits would give articulate, relevant and concise homilies. I was in second year high school back then. Also, it was during this time that I found out that you get to make a wish if you complete the nine day novena. My first simbang gabi wish was "embarrassingly shallow ". Needless to say, It wasn't granted, haha! But I did the novena again the folliwing year. It was the first day of simbang gabi of the following year that Bry and I became a couple. (yes, folks! 3rd year high school. So young, right? Please don't tell our kids!)
Because of the role that the novena has played in our love story, Bry and I couldn't help but be drawn to it each year. What started out as a challenge to be completed, became a way of giving thanks for all the blessings we had during the year. Our simbang gabi routine also evolved as we became parents - from attending the dawn mass to going to the anticipated mass. (Thank goodness the Greenhills Chapel's schedule was early!)
Whenever we attend the simbang gabi, I couldn't help but look back where I was during the past year, and feel sentimental and grateful. I remember during one of the masses three years ago, Father Johnny Go, SJ chatted with us before the mass, saw Ben, and talked to him about Xavier, and now Ben is a Xavierian. Two years ago, I was in a rush to go home early after mass because I had to feed the twins. This year, the twins went with us during one of the masses.
Whether it's Simbang Gabi, or another year-end ritual, it's such a blessing to be able to take a step back and reflect on the year that was and enter the new year with hope and prayer. I know it might be a long shot but I do hope that our kids would someday see the beauty of Simbang Gabi and continue the tradition:)
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from our family to yours!