midnight mass

midnight mass
Originally uploaded by ulanmaya_cinq.

maligayang pasko, everyone! thanks for reading this blog. :-)

one of the christmastime traditions i dearly miss is simbang gabi, nighttime mass. filipinos in the homeland celebrate it at around 4 a.m. for i think nine days before the 25th. on the 24th, it culminates in a lengthy mass from midnight of the 24th until the early hours of the 25th, complete with reenactments of the annunciation and the passion. it's followed by a breakfast of sweet desserts, bread and hot cocoa. now is also the time to open presents. since it's daylight, my siblings, cousins and i don't sleep until that night, and we're permitted to play outside all day.

here in chicago, it's literally celebrated at midnight. during retreats with my old catholic group, participants and leaders would gather for an early morning prayer and short worship service. there's just something trippy about staying up in the early morning before sunrise. the midnight mass at holy name cathedral lasted 90 minutes.

in the end of mass, a woman screamed protests and obscenities from the back of the church, making cardinal george stop his closing blessing but not loosing momentum. isn't that remarkable - the woman was most likely protesting many practices that make the roman catholic church appear increasingly inaccessible to regular people. and yet the cardinal just regarded it as someone rudely interrupting a regular speech of his and moved on.

my mother wondered at that, and concluded that maybe she was just overcome with her prayers, and knew of no other way to express her strong feelings. i dismissed it as yet another consequence of holding public religious service.

which then made me wonder about my actions this past year. when i first started working at my present job, i was frightened of the smallest squeaks colleagues, fax machines, printers, TV and instant messages made. it annoyed me to kingdom come that i was so touchy - even after a couple years on the job.

i didn't realize how much i'd changed since then until my siblings and i picked up a copy of the latest harry potter book earlier this year and had to take the red line train home. a woman sat on a soiled seat in the train, and all i could do then was watch as disaster struck. i knew it was strange because i didn't even flick an eyelash. i didn't feel remorse or embarrassment for the passenger, because i thought no one was getting physically, irredeemably hurt.

which worries me a lot, especially last night at mass, i remembered how much i really enjoyed mass, midnight, noon or any other time of day. i used to go to mass everyday, and i didn't go mindlessly. i knew why i was there. now i hardly ever go, and i'm not sure why. maybe it was the classical music that bounced off every crevice of intricate wooden cathedral ceiling. maybe it was the purposeful way volunteers excused themselves in front of me, while they made sure misalettes and baskets were adequately passed around. maybe it was the relaxed and peaceful way people heard mass, standing with my family and i in the back of the church.

but i realized that come new year's day, one of my resolutions must be to find some sort of balance again where i would improve on my writing, but more so find what else it means to be truly human.

i have no clue how to do that. but i remember nameless volunteers at the madonna della strada church along katipunan avenue somehow managing to hoist a huge parol from the ceiling's pinnacle and lowering it slowly down to a manger to one side of the church. i watched hands through the ceiling's grillwork sprinkle flowers to the assembled. i noticed how the jesus character tripped over one of the "blocks" upon resurrection. they looked like regular gray hollow blocks used in construction sites, but they bounced around and cracked like the styrofoam that they were. i was in grade school, and i thought, how cool.
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