Friday, December 15, 2006

Simbang Gabi

Tomorrow is the official start of the uniquely Filipino liturgical tradition we call Simbang Gabi: a novena of nine consecutive dawn Masses in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrated for the "perseverance of the nation in the faith and the preservation of Christianity in this part of the world". This venerable custom originates from the tradition of celebrating the Rorate Masses in honor of Our Lady during Advent. It is otherwise known as Misas de Gallo or Rooster Masses, an appropriate Advent symbol for our patient waiting for the dawning of Christ and heralding it as it breaks forth in glory. They are also called Aguinaldo Masses, the sacrifice and perseverance of attending all of which, is traditionally offered to the Christ-child as a gift on Christmas Day.

1. Being Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (and not because it is already Christmas; it is not yet, at least liturgically speaking) white vestments are used, even during the Third and Fourth Sundays of Advent.

2. The Gloria is sung in all of these Masses. Some comments on this later.

3. The formularies (prayers and readings) are taken from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary during Advent found in the Roman Missal or from those in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (For those who have no copy yet, the latter has been made locally accessible through a reprint done by Assisi Foundation. Copies are available at most Catholic bookstores and at the Assisi office in Ortigas. Otherwise, imported copies can be very expensive.) Paul VI Institute of Liturgy (PIL) has also included a set of formularies for the Aguinaldo Masses in its Supplement to the Roman Sacramentary for the Dioceses of the Philippines.

4. If it is a Sunday, the readings and prayers of that Sunday is used. However, white vestments are still used and the Gloria is still sung. The Credo is also said on Sundays.

5. In all the rest of the Masses celebrated during the day that fall within the Simbang Gabi period, violet vestments are used, the Gloria is suppressed, and the readings and prayers are taken from the Proper of the Seasons.

6. The church is festively decorated, especially with lights that also characterized the Rorate Masses. It is also customary to prepare the crib already, with the figures of Our Lady and Saint Joseph already in place, but without the Christ-child. Similarly, it is also already appropriate to decorate homes and to set up lighted lanterns (parol) to light the path of those walking (especially in the provinces) on their way to the church.

7. Festive musical instruments may also be used. However, as to the choice of song, Advent hymns are to be preferred over Christmas hymns. (I particularly recommend the Latin chant, Rorate Caeli and Fr. Manoling Francisco's "Emmanuel "; both of which have some Marian reference.)

8. The custom of celebrating "anticipated" Misas de Aguinaldo has been widespread especially in urban centers, of late. This is to accomodate many of the people who have to rush to their places of work early in the morning. AS you may know already, these are the only real "anticipated Masses" that we have since those celebrated in the evening of Saturday are already, according to the liturgical reckoning of time, properly belonging to Sunday.

Now, some comments:

There is something about the Filipino observance of Christmas that makes it somehow inverted from a liturgical point of view. During the days (still well within the Advent season) preceding it, Christmas is already in the air. Carollers already make their rounds, the decorations are all set-up already (even as early as November!) and parties are already held. But once the season of Christmas actually sets in, the celebration somewhat dies down until the festive spirit resurges for the coming of the new year.

In many ways, the way we observe Simbang Gabi reinforces this: the decorations, the festive mood, the kind of songs we sing during Mass. We suppress the Gloria during Advent, only to wear it out during these nine consecutive days. An irrevocable custom or a possibility for reform? Already we do it as if it is already Christmas, that many even think it already is.

The Simbang Gabi, nonetheless is a very beautiful Advent(!) tradition. If only the way we celebrate it can contribute better to the liturgical catechesis of our people so that they may fittingly celebrate the Savior's birth. Not preempt it.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Saint John of the Cross

Today is the memorial of Saint John of the Cross, priest and doctor of the Church. Although he is one of my most cherished saints, I cannot find time to write an article for him this time as I am still struggling with my Philosophy Synthesis paper, as well as three exams over today and tomorrow. Instead, I give to you a few lines from the third stanza of one of his spiritual masterpieces, The Spiritual Canticle, and for your music, Dan Schutte's Holy Darkness based also on his writings, both of which are particularly suited for the season of Advent:

Seeking my Love
I will head for the mountains and for watersides,
I will not gather flowers,
nor fear wild beasts;
I will go beyond strong men and frontiers.

Saint John of the Cross, pray for us!

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rorate Caeli

Below are the lyrics and music of the traditional chant Rorate Caeli, which is particularly appropriate for the Advent season, especially for the Rorate Masses in honor of Our Lady:

(Credits to Roma Aeterna, by far the best online traditional Catholic music site I know. Best of all, their service/ministry is totally free! Deo gratias.)

Roráte caéli désuper, et núbes plúant jústum.
Roráte caéli désuper,et núbes plúant jústum.
Ne irascáris Dómine,
ne ultra memíneris iniquitátis:
ecce cívitas Sáncti fácta est desérta:
Síon desérta fácta est:
Jerúsalem desoláta est:
dómus sanctificatiónis túæ et glóriæ túæ,
ubi laudavérunt te pátres nóstri.
Peccávimus, et fácti súmus tamquam
immúndus nos,
et cecídimus quasi fólium univérsi:
et iniquitátes nóstræ quasi véntus abstulérunt nos:
abscondísti faciem túam a nóbis,
et allisísti nos in mánu iniquitátis nóstræ.
Víde Dómine afflictiónem pópuli túi,
et mítte quem missúrus es:
emítte Agnum dominatórem térræ,
de Pétra desérti ad móntem fíliæ Síon:
ut áuferat ípse júgum captivitátis nóstræ.
Consolámini, consolámini, pópule méus:
cito véniet sálus túa:
quare mæróre consúmeris,
quia innovávit te dólor?
Salvábo te, nóli timére,
égo enim sum Dóminus Déus túus,
Sánctus Israël, Redémptor túus.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr

Tomorrow is the liturgical memorial of Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr of the early Roman Church who is among those mentioned in the Canon of the Mass.

Lucy, whose name means "light", was a young woman from Syracuse, of Greek and noble descent. She was destined to be married to a young man, Pachasius, chosen by her own mother. Lucy however was resolved to give herself completely to Christ and won her mother over to her cause only after having obtained the latter's cure from a long and painful hemorrhage through the intercession of the virgin and martyr Agnes of Catania (pictured with her above).

The pagan bridegroom was expectedly furious and denounced him to the local governor who then ordered her to be turned over to forced prostitution. Just as no offer of reward or threat of punishment could move her, not even the strength of a team of oxen can bring her to the place where she would have lost the virginity she had offered to her heavenly Bridegroom. After many horrible tortures, including the plucking out of her eyes, she was finally condemned to be burned at the stake. And when even the flames refused to touch her pure body consecrated to Christ, a soldier was ordered to stab her in the throat. Thus she went to receive the palm of martyrdom and the crown of virginity from her heavenly Spouse, now beholden to her no longer earthly but glorified eyes.

And so let us pray to Lucy, faithful Bride of the Lord, that she may grant us the strength to remain true to Christ no matter what the cost. In this Advent season, may the light of our faithful waiting for the Lord who is sure to come, like that of the wise and prudent virgins who kept their lamps alight, be our joy and consolation even as yet we await in darkness.

Saint Lucy, pray for us!

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Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Philippines, and therefore an obligatory memorial throughout the country, as we have been discussing the past couple of days.

Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe began in Mexico 1531 when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared four times to a native convert, Juan Diego Quauhtlatoatzin, with a request for a church to be built upon Tepeyac hill: "so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows." The initial response to the Virgin's request was cold and unfavorable until she herself gave a sure sign of her presence: splendid roses blooming in the harsh cold of winter. And as if these were not yet enough, she left a trace for people of future generations to see and venerate: an image of herself appearing on the coarse cloak of Juan Diego right before the Bishops' eyes.

From Mexico, her message has since spread throughout the world: her word of love and compassion for all people and her motherly care especially for the marginalized and suffering. She comes to us as an advocate of social justice and human solidarity-and knowing that the struggle will be difficult-imparts to us the same assuring words she spoke then to Juan Diego: “Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish?"

Our Lady of Guadalupe is titular patroness of the minor seminary of the Archdiocese of Manila where I had my early years of seminary formation. Under the shadow of Mary's motherly mantle, I joyfully discovered the warmth of the love of her Son. Just as Jesus was formed by the Holy Spirit in her most pure womb, so were we moulded by Spirit of Love in her most pure womb after the heart of her Son.

Happy Feast!

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Monday, December 11, 2006

More on Principal and Patroness

I did a bit of research today and read the Acts and Decrees of the First Plenary Council of the Philippines (Acta et Decreta Primi Concilii Plenarii Insularum Philippinarum). A copy is available at the Rizal Library of the Ateneo de Manila, but 90% of it is in Latin.

Here, in Title VII, Chapter V, De cultu Beatae Mariae Virginis, we find that the Immaculate Conception is indeed the principal patroness of the Philippines, Philippinae gentis Patrona inclyta, principalis et universalis, venerated as such from as early as the First Synod of Manila in 1907, and confirmed as I had mentioned yesterday by Pope Pius XII who declared her: "primaria et universalis Patrona Insularum Philippinarum." It is also from this document that we get the liturgical mandate to renew the "Consecration of the Philippines to the Immaculate Mother of God" every Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The prescribed formula for the consecration is given in Appendix III of the said document with versions in Spanish, English and Tagalog. (This is something I learned really just now as I have never seen it being observed anywhere in all my twenty years. Apparently it is an old formula, seeming to be in need of updating if not revision.)

The next paragraph now mentions the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which, as I have correctly intuited, traces itself to our affinity with the Church of Mexico (New Spain) where many of the missionaries who evangelized these Islands came from. It was mainly this that prompted the bishops to petition the Holy See to proclaim Our Lady of Guadalupe patroness of our Islands, granted by Pius XI on July 16, 1935. The document then exhorted the pastors and the clergy to promote devotion to Our Lady under this title among the faithful.

Now, there are many more problems facing this country at the moment, than just these liturgical complexities that are also important. More than anything else, let us pray to our Blessed Lady that she who is invoked and loved as the patroness of these Islands may always guide and protect our people, strengthen us in righteousness and faith, and sustain us in the struggle for justice and peace.

Words incribed above the main door of the Manila Cathedral: Tibi cordi tuo immaculato concredimus nos ac consecramus. Amen. Amen.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Principal and Patroness

This is to clarify a claim made by an advertisement placed on page A9 of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Sunday, December 10 issue regarding the liturgical observance of the memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe here in the Philippines. Implicitly, it called for a correction of a mistake, “to this day… has not been corrected,” that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the principal patroness of the Philippines, instead of the Immaculate Conception, allegedly called for by no less than His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin, of happy memory.

The Diocese of Manila was established as a suffragan of the diocese of Mexico in 1579 and was since placed under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At that time, the Manila diocese covered a territory encompassing the whole country until the dioceses of Cebu, Nueva Segovia and Nueva Caceres were erected as separate ecclesiastical jurisdictions, suffragans of Manila, in 1595. By way of extension, the Immaculate Conception has always been recognized and observed as the principal Patroness of the Philippines, and has been observed as a solemnity (it was so in all Spanish territories anyway, including Mexico, but only on December 9 then instead of our December 8), even long before it was declared a dogma by Blessed Pius IX in 1854 (a move that has been in fact already anticipated by Pope Clement XI who extended its celebration as a solemnity for the Universal Church in 1708).

On the other hand, it was only in 1935 that the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe was extended to the Philippines, reaffirming its roots with the Archdiocese of Mexico where the devotion is rooted and from where it has since spread here and elsewhere in the world. Nonetheless, this declaration would have been superseded when in 1942, the Immaculate Conception was officially declared Principal Patroness of the Philippines by Pope Pius XII.

But there is no real conflict here, no need to exclude one to assert the other. Rightly, the late Cardinal Sin, in his circular of 2001, called attention to the fact that the memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe was being observed only as an optional memorial in many places and made the proper correction that it is to be observed as obligatory, in conformity with Pius XI’s bull of 1935. This does not at all change the fact that the Immaculate Conception remains the principal patroness of the Philippines, a holy day of obligation for all Filipino Catholics, and a title of honor that is not diminished by other patronages.

Please do not get me wrong here. The same person of Mary is being honored by both the Immaculate Conception and Our lady of Guadalupe. These two Marian titles are in fact very closely related. We are just trying to be liturgically, if not historically, precise here.

The correction has been made already: Our Lady of Guadalupe is also a patroness of the Islands, and her liturgical memorial is to observed throughout the country as obligatory. The correction that has to be made is in this advertisement.

The Nativity Story

I just watched the superbly-crafted film, "The Nativity Story," still showing in most theatres all over Metro Manila. It highly deserves the endorsement and praise given by no less than officials from the Vatican, where it had its world premiere.

Among the things I particularly liked in the movie was the portrayal of the person of Joseph and his relationship with Mary. Among the most moving in the film were the scenes where Mary and Joseph were conversing with each other or simply journeying together. It truly shows how our holy Savior was born into a family of mutual love, self-giving and sacrifice. Another thing to watch out for is the fresh and creative portrayal of the three wise men as well as new perspectives on the persons of Joachim and Anna, Zechariah and Elizabeth. The soundtrack should also be something to look forward to, with its selection of beautiful music including traditional chants rendered beautifully and used meaningfully in the film.

The verse from the Book of Kings that was repeated twice in the film really struck me this much and in this way only now: "But the Lord was not in the storm, in the fire, in the earthquake... the Lord was in the still, small voice." Indeed, many tribulations came into the lives of the various characters in the film comparable to storms, fires and earthquakes. But in the midst of it all, there was the Lord, cold and weak and persecuted too, in the lowliness and poverty of the manager: the still, small Word of God to all mankind who not only visits us but pitches his tent among us to share our life.

Visit the site and download the wonderful Advent Calendar that they have. Go to the movies and watch it on DVD and wonder with amazement upon our Lord's humble but nonetheless marvelous bith into our world.

VENI, veni, Emmanuel
captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exsilio,
privatus Dei Filio.

R: Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!

VENI, O Sapientia,
quae hic disponis omnia,
veni, viam prudentiae

ut doceas et gloriae. R.

VENI, veni, Adonai,
qui populo in Sinai
legem dedisti vertice
in maiestate gloriae. R.

VENI, O Iesse virgula,
ex hostis tuos ungula,
de spectu tuos tartari
educ et antro barathri. R.

VENI, Clavis Davidica,
regna reclude caelica,
fac iter tutum superum,
et claude vias inferum. R.

VENI, veni O Oriens,
solare nos adveniens,
noctis depelle nebulas,
dirasque mortis tenebras. R.

VENI, veni, Rex Gentium,
veni, Redemptor omnium,
ut salvas tuos famulos
peccati sibi conscios. R.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Saint Juan Diego

Tomorrow is the liturgical memorial of Saint Juan Diego, the Indian convert who was was favored to see Our Lady at the hill of Tepeyac. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002 and has been inserted in the liturgical calendar as an Optional Memorial.

Juan Diego was a devout widower when Our Lady came to meet him on his usual morning route, on the way from the village through the hills to attend Mass and receive religious instruction at the town church. He became the bearer of Our Lady's message of compassion for all peoples, and her desire for a temple where all may come to experience her motherly tenderness. He persevered in his task despite the mistrust of many of the authorities, who looked down on his humble stature. Finally, he received from Our Lady herself the sign which he brought to the devout bishop Zumarraga-rare Castillian roses blooming in the winter cold, which he wraooed and carried in his tilma on which appeared the image of Our Lady herself, which we now revere and venerate as Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Juan Diego later became a hermit and devoted his life to the care of Our Lady's sanctuary, remaining humble and lowly, calling himself a mere "leaf, a tail end, a worm."

The Opening Prayer is a proper text and the remaining texts may be taken from the Common of Holy Men and Women.

Lord God,
through Saint Juan Diego,
you made known the love of Our Lady of Guadalupe
toward your people.

Grant by his intercession
that we who follow the counsel of Mary, our Mother,
may strive continually to do your will.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


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Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, Patroness of the all the Philippines, of the Archdiocese of Manila, of the Diocese of Cubao where our diocese is located, and of countless other dioceses and parishes in our country and all over the world, including our very own and beloved Ateneo de Manila University. Pope Pius IX proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854 with the bull Ineffabilis Deus. God's love indeed trancends all description, in the mercy he has shown to our Mother and to all of us, by giving to us to be our Mother, the fairest of all the children of Eve!

Here is the article I wrote a couple of years ago for the 150th anniversary of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which I published in our group: Mary's Army for Peace, as well as the Marian Prayer I composed that year for the annual alumni homecoming here in San Jose.

Fair as the moon, Bright as the Sun,
Terrible as an army set in battle array

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The article seeks to understand anew this mystery of faith.

Throughout the ages, the Church praises the Mother of God for her exceeding beauty, highlighting the graces bestowed on her by the Lord. And in heaving such praises on her whom we acclaim as our prototype and exemplar, we are also discovering our identity as people of God. Amongst these praises is the ancient antiphon many of us are familiar with, used daily in the Catena of the Legion of Mary: Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising: fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?

The image of the dawn is truly fit to illustrate Mary, whom we acclaim as the Immaculate Conception. As the light of the sun is first seen in the dawn even before its rising, so did salvation bear its first and most perfect fruit in Mary even before the coming of the Savior. Many a time in Christian art the Immaculate Conception is portrayed as a young woman with folded hands wearing the blue and white robes of royalty. Yet in Scriptures, the apostle John sees a different vision as Juan Diego will also do in Guadalupe centuries later, of “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” Moon, stars and sun all together in a picture evoke only a single image: dawn.

Who is She?

Devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is an established Catholic characteristic. After Jesus, Mary is the most central figure in the faith. We honor her with various prayers and revere her under various titles. Her apparitions continue to draw pilgrimages accompanied by miraculous cures and astounding conversions. In the Philippine setting, she can even take center stage. Her festivals and images draw the most people to the Church. Some even fear that our devotion to Mary is but bordering on the idolatrous. The growing challenge then is to establish a Marian theology that clarifies rather than confuses the faith and a devotion that leads us to rather than distracts us from Christ.

One of the most ancient titles of Mary is the Immaculate Conception. Even if the dogma was proclaimed by Pius IX only in 1854, it has always consistently appeared in Catholic tradition. In fact, the over 400-year old archdiocese of Manila is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. In 1830, Our Lady appeared in Paris to Catherine Laboure asking that a medal be struck with the inscription “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” And four years after its proclamation, in 1858, there was yet another apparition in Lourdes where she introduced herself explicitly as “the Immaculate Conception”.

The dogma states that “by a singular privilege of God almighty, in view of the foreseen merits of Christ the Savior, the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from all stain of original sin from the first moment of her conception.” But the idea isn’t as simple as that; at least while it wasn’t well laid out as “dogma”yet. It has been in fact subject of prolonged and extensive theological debate. The great Thomas Aquinas did not agree since he could not imagine Christ being the “Savior of all except Mary” since she was sinless and did not need any redemption. Thus the issue was resolved only when Duns Scotus came up with the clarifying clause: “in view of the foreseen merits of Christ”, making Mary pre-redeemed by the her Son who was yet to come and suffer, die and rise again; or in our present-day parlance, post-paid. But while the theological and philosophical underpinnings of the Immaculate Conception seems to be relatively settled and definitively (dogmatically, even) defined after the proclamation of the dogma, its pastoral significance remains a task to be done, and always to be done for peoples of every time and place. What exactly does this dogma mean to us and our faith? This article, even if insufficiently, attempts to address this problematic.

Fair as the moon

The moon doesn’t seem to be a very fitting image with our modern knowledge of it. It is but a barren mass of rock with plenty of ugly craters. The moon is barren and lifeless. And yet when we go out one clear night and gaze at the sky, we continue to look with wonder at the moon. The moon remains to be beautiful. It continues to enchant us despite its known unattractiveness.

The moon is nothing in itself. But it is beautiful because it shines with the light of the sun. In this sense does the moon qualify as an image of Mary. Mary is nothing without God. Deprived of all the graces God lavished on her, she would be just another woman. But she shines with the light of God living in her. Another woman also, when she lets God enter her life will find more meaning and purpose than being “just another woman”.

In cosmology we know the moon is made of exactly the same elements as our earth. When viewed from space, from a wider perspective, they still differ a lot but both are just as beautiful. As Catholics, we often see Mary as being more than us or greater than us. Hence we revere her so much yet care so little about imitating her. But in fact, she is just as frail and weak as any of us. Both planets would be nothing without the sun. The moon will be dark and the earth will die. The only difference is that she was “full of grace”. She was full of God. And this is not impossible for us but is even the invitation to us. Grace is offered to us at every moment. Grace never lacks. We only need to let grace work in our lives, to let God enter, like Mary did.

When we look beyond the light of the moon, we see that it actually points us to the sun. In the darkness of the night, the moon is our assurance of morning because as long as the moon still shines, we know that the sun is also there. Mary too, when we gaze at her would always direct us to the reality of a living God. When we look at her, it is not only her own greatness we see but also and even more, the glory of God who raises the lowly. “The Almighty has wrought marvels for me. Holy is his Name.” When we praise her, we are in fact praising God who is the Giver of all that is good in her.

One thing also about the moon is that it never leaves the earth. We know this is because of gravity. Mary too never isolates herself from us even when she is greatly exalted by God. It is this humility that makes her even more admirable. Thus she is truly the cause of our joy, the glory of God’s people, the highest honor of humanity. Her beauty is not something purely personal but a beauty which overflows and sheds its radiance on the whole Church, to the entire world just as the moon sheds on us its borrowed light. The gift of Mary may be singular but it is a gift that is shared. The graces lavished by God on Mary are his gifts to all his children in giving her to us to be our Mother.

Bright as the Sun

This image seems confusing at first since we know that the sun is almost always used to refer to Christ, the Sun of Justice which sustains all creation. It is dangerous because such perception of Mary may seem to obscure rather than elucidate Christ’s role in our lives. There is a spreading movement today which advocates Mary as Co-Redemptrix. The Church has not yet made any official pronouncement for or against the proposition. But it seems rather inconsistent with our faith and subtly misleading because it attributes to Mary a work, a faculty that is only God’s—to give new birth to creation.

Persons have only two God-given faculties for salvation: intellect that we may know God and freedom that we may choose God. “No man can buy his own ransom.” We can only accept God’s call to holiness. She did not help redeem us. She only allowed God to use her in this plan of salvation, with fullness of freedom. While it is true that Mary played a most important role in the story of our salvation, she is nevertheless only God’s instrument, though an instrument par excellence. “Everyone who hears my word and keeps it is my mother, my sister, my brother.”

Every vocation is most sublime. We should never equate Mary with God and separate her from us in the process. As a finite creature like all of us, she can only be so much but never like God. Like any of us, she is also in need of redemption, in need of God’s saving love which is shown in her Immaculate Conception. The Immaculate Conception is not a demonstration of Mary’s strength but of her weakness before God who embraced her frailty and became her strength.

And here comes the proper understanding of Mary as being bright as the Sun. Mary is bright as the Sun who is Christ, not because she is equal to Christ but because she is configured to Christ, attuned to Christ, wholly one with Christ. She is not the sun but “the woman clothed with the sun”, shining with the same marvelous light. Mary had the same call, the same vocation all of us share. She is our model of our aspiring and striving to be “holy as our Father is holy”, to be light of the world in Christ our light. Yet even when she has attained this perfection, she humbly acknowledges that it is all God working in her.

Mary’s story all started with her Fiat, a simple yet wholehearted yes to God. All the rest just followed. “For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” By herself she cannot do it, just like any of us find the struggle to be good increasingly difficult. But “nothing is impossible with God”. And she believed and let God work in her life. Mary’s life was and is a continual yes to God’s call. Discipleship is but a faithful following of Christ. We do not go our own ways to heaven or use our own “techniques” on being holy. No one can be good or holy on one’s own accord. For where else can we get or produce holiness or goodness unless God, who is himself Holiness and Good will grant us? We simply follow Jesus, our only Way. And that is precisely what Mary did and what all of us should do.

Terrible as an army set in battle array

“Terrible” is not a very flattering praise, especially to a woman. On first hearing, it is sounds more becoming of the devil than Our Lady. An army in battle array is also not a very promising image. It seems foreboding of war and destruction. But it is in this last phrase that the true meaning of the Immaculate Conception seems to be unraveled.

We are used to seeing Mary as beautiful. We dress her in all these embroidered gowns and heave on her all these heavy crowns that if we do a real person would render him or her unable to move. But the real beauty of the Immaculate Conception is in the struggle. God made the first move when he preserved Mary from all stain of sin from her conception. But even more wonderfully did Mary faithfully preserve this life of grace which is God’s gift. If she did not, then all would have been a mockery and we will all remember her as one who wasted God’s singular gift. But she did. And so her Immaculate Conception is the glory and mystery of a person’s working with God, of the Creator and of all Creation. Her beauty is not static but the beauty of the ancient Greeks’ “logos”, a struggle that gives birth to order and of “cosmos”, the universe that grows ever more beautiful in the tussle.

She is not just a decoration in the Church but our model. Before she became our Mother, she has always been our sister and companion in this pilgrimage of faith. In Mary we see the restoration of the dignity and perfection we have lost to sin. Humanity is given a new beginning in her, a clean slate and she did not fail God. Thus we are also given a new chance. The old Testament begins with a fallen humanity that has lost its God and goes on to search for Him. The new Testament begins with God, seeking us out and finding us by the rise of Mary to answer God’s call. The Word-made-flesh is the Eternal Word of God and the Human Flesh of Mary on behalf of all humanity, and all Creation. Salvation is wrought by mankind’s accepting God once again through Mary after our isolating ourselves from him by sin. God enters the human scene once again and begins an Everlasting covenant in Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary. Mary is our prototype and model but she is not a statue or mannequin. She is a living embodiment of what we are called to be and what we shall be if we follow Jesus.

An army in battle array, indeed, speaks of a struggle to victory. Our situations may be hopeless and infinitely more difficult now. But she is our assurance that holiness is possible and the battle of struggling to be perfect can be won. “For he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.” This discriminated woman of a conquered people triumphed not because of the strength or power she did not have but because she worked and struggled with a God who is her everything. And with God as fortress and rampart, who will not be terribly assured of victory?

She comes forth as the morning rising

The Immaculate Conception after all is more than just a decorative title or a singular privilege that has meaning only to Mary who received it. More than that she be a worthy vessel, it was such that she may freely say her yes to God. So that her reflecting God’s light or sharing in God’s blessed life is not a passive accident but an active discipleship.

Her Immaculate Conception, then, not only awes us but spurs us on to pursue holiness with perseverance and fidelity. Hence, the gift of Mary is not only her honor but is extended to us as a challenge. Thus, she is the moon in this dark night of exile that promises us there is still the Sun which will soon rise. In these dark and distressing times, she shines as a beacon of hope which points out to Christ who is our true Hope. She is like the Sun, telling us that our struggle to be holy is not impossible if only we let God work in us. We are mere dust but kindled with the fire of God’s love we shine with brightest light.

And so she comes forth as the morning rising. This woman is radiant yet also pregnant and in labor. This sign is a promise of greater things that the glorious vision we now see. “The night is far spent” and the day draws near proclaimed by the luminous dawn. In that Morning, we too shall be “fair as the moon, bright as the Sun, and terrible as an army set in battle array”. Let us continue to struggle even as we wait. Let us march with her to the rising of the Sun.

Mary, Mother of Jesus, yours is the singular privilege, given by the Father, to be free from all stain of sin from your conception. The guilt of our parents and of all humanity is forgiven by the saving work of Christ and it is in you, O Daughter full of grace, that his redemption first shines in its fullness as the light of the sun is first seen in the radiant dawn even before its rising. It was necessary that you be without all sin, not only that you become a worthy vessel, but that you may give your yes to God with fullness of freedom.

As the ancient Eve opened herself to sin, you, the New Eve, gave yourself completely to God’s plan. It is through this disobedience that sin and death entered our world, the Old Covenant begins with this vacuum of humanity searching for God it has rejected. By your Fiat is this undone. The life in God we have lost is restored. And in your immaculate womb, the Word is made flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit. God Eternal enters the human scene once again to bring us back when we have gone astray. In Jesus, our New Covenant, every longing for God is fulfilled; sin is vanquished and life is restored by his Resurrection.

Accompany us in our constant search for God for you also longed for the promised Savior and found its fulfillment in your firmness of faith. Shine among us, O Star which guides our way, for you are the image of the Church in its perfection and where you are we all aspire to be. Especially in these difficult and confusing times, be the sure Beacon which points us to God who alone gives us true meaning and fulfillment. We take you as our model; help us open ourselves to God so he may dwell in us and work through us. You are the cause of our joy; be our consolation in this valley of tears. Always bring Christ in our lives, He who is our hope and our peace. Amen.

Rejoice, O highly favored daughter!
The Lord is with you.

Marian Prayer for thr 75th Annual Alumni Homecoming
150th Anniversary of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception
Eucharistic Marian Year 2004-2005

The people, bearing lighted candles, gather around the shrine of Our Lady. Near it are the ministers bearing the thurible and incense, processional cross and candlesticks. The presider is vested in white or blue stole with cope. A fitting hymn is sung.

Aba Ginoong Maria
Nemy Que, SJ

Aba Ginoong Maria,
napupuno ka ng grasya.
Ang Diyos ay sumasa’yo.
Bukod kang pinagpala sa babaeng lahat
at pinagpala naman ang ‘yong Anak na si Hesus.

Santa Maria, Ina ng Diyos,
ipanalangin mo kaming makasalanan
ngayon at kung kami’y mamamatay.

Introduction to the Celebration


In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

R. Amen.

V. The Lord be with you.

R. And also with you.

Gathering around the shrine of Mary
has been, through the years, an important and meaningful part
of our homecoming tradition.
Returning indeed to this house of the Carpenter,
we cannot miss the presence of this woman
who is Mother to us all.

This year is particularly significant,
as we celebrate the 150th anniversary
of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

Singularly privileged by God,
Mary shines among us as the first and most perfect fruit
of the renewed creation redeemed by Jesus.
In this valley of tears,
she is the cause of our joy
and pledge of our sharing in the divine life of God.

And so we come to honor Mary
asking her to continue to accompany us
and to lead us always to her Son.

Gospel Reading

A reading from the Holy Gospel According to Luke 1, 26-38

Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you.

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin bethrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. Upon arriving, the angel said to her: “Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.” She was deeply troubled by these words and wondered what the greeting meant. The angel went on to say to her: “Do not fear, Mary. You have found favor with God. You shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus. Great will be his dignity and he will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and his reign will be without end.”

Mary said to the angel: “How can this be since I do not know man?” The angel answered her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence, the holy offspring to be born will be called Son of God. Know that Elizabeth you kinswoman has conceived a son in her old age; she who was thought to be sterile is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible with God.”

Mary said, “I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.” With that, the angel left her.
Laudes Mariae

Alumnus 1:

Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women. The Father prepared you to be a worthy dwelling place of His Son. He never allowed sin to corrupt you and filled you with His grace. You in turn treasured God’s friendship and presence in your soul and kept your being pure and holy so you can offer it freely and wholly to Him. Obtain for us an ardent faith that we may believe and trust in God’s plan for us and seek to follow and fulfill his will for us. Help us follow our promise of obedience.

He places a rose at the foot of the image of the Blessed Mother.

R. You are all fair, O Mary!
there is not a stain of sin in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem,
the joy of Israel
you are the highest honor of our race!

Alumnus 2:

Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women. The Son shed his divine glory and embraced in your most pure womb our lowly humanity. Heaven kisses earth once again. And by assuming the face of man, Christ restores our dignity and claims us once more as His own. You said yes to God’s plan and stood by it even to the foot of the Cross. Obtain for us a persevering hope that will lead us to rise above our frailties and failings and sustain us in our calvaries with Jesus’ promise of resurrection. Help us fulfill our promise of chastity.

He places a rose at the foot of the image of the Blessed Mother.

R. You are all fair, O Mary!
there is not a stain of sin in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem,
the joy of Israel
you are the highest honor of our race!

Alumnus 3:

Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women. The Spirit came and gave birth to the Church which you nursed and cared for as you did you Son. You persevered in prayer with the disciples as they broke the bread and shared the cup. Obtain for us a generous love to give ourselves in the service of God’s people. May we become Jesus’ presence as we allow ourselves to be broken and shared for our brethren. Help us fulfill our promise of poverty.

He places a rose at the foot of the image of the Blessed Mother.

R. You are all fair, O Mary!
there is not a stain of sin in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem,
the joy of Israel
you are the highest honor of our race!
Salve Regina

The presider intones the hymn. He may place a crown on the image of Mary when possible and incenses the image of the Blessed Mother.

Salve Regina,
Mater misericordiae,
Vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, salve!
Ad te clamamus, exsules filii Hevae.
Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eia, ergo, advocata nostra,
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.
Et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
Nobis, post hoc exilium, ostende.
O Clemens, o pia, o dulcis, Virgo Maria!

V. Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genetrix.
R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

Let us pray.

All pause for a moment of silent prayer.

God our Father,
the graces you lavished on Mary
are your gifts to all your children
as you give her to us to be our Mother
who brings us closer to your Son.
By her prayers,
may we who honor her sinless conception
come to the Banquet of Your Son with ever greater joy and fervor
enjoy the fruits of the Redemption He has won for us
and reach out to our brethren
to be the living Sacrament of your boundless love.

We ask this through the same Christ, our Lord.

R. Amen.

All proceed to the Chapel singing an appropriate hymn.

Ang Puso Ko’y Nagpupuri
Eddie Hontiveros, SJ

Ang puso ko’y nagpupuri, nagpupuri sa Panginoon.
Nagagalak ang aking Espiritu sa ‘king Tagapagligtas.

Sapagkat nilingap niya kababaan ng kanyang alipin
mapalad ang pangalan ko sa lahat ng mga bansa.

Sapagkat gumawa ang Poon ng mga dakilang bagay
banal sa lupa’t langit ang pangalan ng Panginoon.

At kinahahabagan niya ang mga sa kanya’y may takot.
At sa lahat ng salinlahi ang awa niya’y walang hanggan.

At ipinakita N’ya ang lakas ng kanyang bisig;
At ang mga palalo’y pinangalat ng Panginoon.

Ibinulid sa upuan ang mga makapangyarihan;
itinampok, itinaas ang mga mababang loob.

At kanya namang binusog ang mga nagugutom;
pinaalis, walang dala ang mayamang mapagmataas.

Inampon N’ya ang Israel na kanyang aliping hinirang
Sa dakila niyang pagmamahal at dala ng laking awa niya.

Ayon sa ipinangako n’ya sa ating mga magulang;
Kay Abraham at lipi niya at ito’y sa magpakailanman.

Luwalhati sa Ama at sa Anak at sa ‘Spiritu Santo
kapara noong unang-una, ngayon at magpakailanman.

Act of Consecration

All kneel.

Mary, Mother of Jesus,
our own loving Mother,
we give ourselves wholly to Jesus through you
and we commend ourselves to your care
that you may safeguard this gift of ourselves that we offer to God.

Accompany us in our pilgrimage of faith,
you who followed you Son even to Golgotha.
Persevere with us in prayer as you did with the disciples.
Beg with us the Spirit of God
to renew us and give us strength
to proclaim the Good News of Christ.
Teach us your Magnificat in our moments of joy
and to say your Fiat of faith even when it is most difficult.
Show us we are but God’s humble servants
and after your example, to surrender ourselves wholly to Him
that he may use us for his greater glory.

Lead us always to Jesus.
We give our all to Him through you.
Make us desire only Him
and help us to see him and serve him in our brethren.


Final Blessing


The Lord be with you.

R. And also with you.

May almighty God bless you +
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

R. Amen.

Tota pulchra es, Maria et macula originalis non est in te. Tu gloria Jerusalem, tu laetitia Israel, tu honorificentia populi nostri! Trahe nos, Virgo Immaculata, post te corremus in odorem unguentuorum tuorum!

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rorate Mass

There is a beautiful custom during the Advent Season to celebrate a dawn Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, called the Rorate Mass, after the first line of the opening antiphon: Rorate cæli desuper et nubes pluant iustum... Here in the Philippines of course, we have a full novena of Dawn Masses beginning December 16. But for our community, majority of which composed by the theologians would have gone home by that time, December 12, the memorial of our Lady of Guadalupe, would be a good occasion to honor our Lady in this special season with a dawn Mass.

Honoring Our Lady with a dawn Mass, especially during the Advent Season is a fitting way to render homage to Our Lady and to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Verily, the Church has always hailed her as the dawn that precedes the rising of the Sun of Justice: "Who is she that comes forth like the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?" Rising early is a sign of readiness to receive the Lord, at any moment when he comes, just like Mary who gave her yes to God even in a seemingly very importune time when she had already made her own plans for her life.

And so let us pray to Our Lady to help us prepare to receive her Son. Below are the lyrics and music of the Marian antiphon, Alma Redemptoris Mater, traditionally sung after Compline from the eve of the First Sunday of Advent until the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

Alma Redemptoris Mater,
quae pervia caeli porta manes,
et stella maris, succurre cadenti,
surgere qui curat, populo:
tu quae genuisti, natura mirante,
tuum sanctum Genitorem,
Virgo prius ac posterius,
Gabrielis ab ore, sumens illud Ave,
peccatorum miserere.

Tempus Adventus
V. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae.
R. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Oremus. Gratiam tuam, quaesumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde: ut qui, Angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus; per passionem eius et crucem, ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Donec Purificatio
V. Post partum, Virgo, inviolata permansisti.
R. Dei Genetrix, intercede pro nobis.

Oremus. Deus, qui salutis aeternae, beatae Mariae virginitate fecunda, humano generi praemia praestitisti: tribue, quaesumus; ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamus, per quam meruimus auctorem vitae suscipere, Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum. Amen.

Loving mother of the Redeemer,
gate of heaven, star of the sea,
assist your people who have fallen
yet strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature
you bore your Creator,
Yet remained a virgin after as before.
You who received Gabriel's joyful greeting,
have pity on us poor sinners.

During Advent
V. The Angel of the Lord announced unto Mary.
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray. Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts: that as we have known the incarnation of Thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an Angel, so too by His Cross and passion may we be brought to the glory of His resurrection through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Christmas Eve until the Purification
V. After childbirth thou didst remain a virgin.
R. Intercede for us, O Mother of God.

Let us pray. O God, who, by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary, hast bestowed upon mankind the reward of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech Thee, that we may experience her intercession, through whom we have been made worthy to receive the author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son. Amen.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Circular on Liturgical Concurrence

Circular No. 2006-58
15 November 2006



Dear Monsignori, Father, Brothers and Sisters,

Greetings of Peace in the Lord Jesus!

The Solemnity of Christmas (December 25) and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the Octave Day of Christmas (January 1) this year fall on a Monday. We are aware that the celebration of a solemnity runs from the First Vespers (Evening Prayer 1) of the previous evening until the day itself and the midnight of the day of the celebration. This means that this year, the Vigil Mass of Christmas and Mass on the Eve of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (New Year’s Eve Mass) will be celebrated on the eve of the previous day which, in this year’s case, is a Sunday.

The query of many is: which obligation is fulfilled when one goes to the evening Mass of that Sunday (December 24 and December 31). It is of the Sunday or of Christmas / New Year?

Response: So as not to put our faithful in an irregular situation, We decree that the Vigil Mass of Christmas (December 24) and of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (December 31) also satisfy their Sunday obligation and at the same time their Christmas / New Year obligation.

This also requires that there is only one Vigil Mass of Christmas and of New Year on that Sunday, which usually is the last evening Mass of Sunday.

We hope that this clarification will help you guide your Christian community and celebrate with lively faith the solemn celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord.

Sincerely yours,

Archbishop of Manila

Some Liturgical Notes for Advent

Advent is the season that opens the Christian liturgical year, a time of preparing for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we anticipate the celebration of the Lord's birth, we look forward to his coming again in glory, even as we prepare ourselves to receive him worthily-here and now in the blessed Eucharist, as on that final day when we shall partake of the heavenly liturgy.

Being a season of preparation, Advent has a true penitential character. We recognize our unworthiness to receive the Lord because of our sinfulness and we prepare ourselves by approaching the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by being more prayerful and by being more charitable to our needy brothers and sisters, especially those who are most in need.

1. Purple vestments are used throughout the season to remind us that we need to prepare ourselves to receive the Lord worthily. As to the shade of purple, liturgists opine that we use those with a bluer tinge to suggest the Marian character of the season (Our Lady after all is our best model, since she received Jesus worthily in her Immaculate womb) rather than those with a more reddish tinge which better recall the Passion of the Lord during the season of Lent.
2. We lessen the ornaments used in the sanctuary and the rest of the Church to allow for a more somber and quiet anticipation of the joy of Christmas. Christmas decorations are not yet appropriate, at least before December 17. (The same applies to the choice of liturgical songs)
3. The Gloria is not sung except during the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception or other celebrations of great import and prominence (Consult Table of Precedence of Liturgical Days). Note: The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is a holy day of obligation in the Philippines. The use of organ music and other instrumental music is also subdued in the liturgy, usually limited only to the accompaniment of the singing.
4. As such, it is liturgically opportune to hold penitential services during the season of Advent. The same also goes for retreats and recollections that complement our liturgical preparation. Outreach programs and charitable acts are also appropriate.

However, Advent is also a season of joy at the certainty of the Lord's coming as promised by God and foretold by the prophets. During the third Sunday of Advent called Gaudete (after the first word of the entrance antiphon, which is taken from the letter of Paul to the Galatians), we express this joy in the liturgy, as the coming of the Lord already draws near:

5. One of the candles in the Advent wreath, the one which is designated for Gaudete Sunday, is colored rose or pink. Rose or pink vestments may also be used and more ornaments may be placed in the sanctuary and the rest of the Church. (They are however to be taken down again after Evening Prayer II of that Sunday). The Advent candle is a crown of light that symbolizes our increasing hope and expectation as the coming of the Lord approaches. It is lighted during the celebration of the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours, and other appropriate times.

May our proper celebration of Advent prepare us to celebrate worthily the great season of the Lord's coming to dwell among us and share our life. May it help us to be more holy and more loving as we strive to work for the coming of God's Kingdom.

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