MANILA, Philippines - Catholics cannot attend Simbang Gabi or the holiday season dawn Mass inside shopping malls, the Archbishop of Manila said yesterday.
Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales said the early morning Mass should only be celebrated in the parochial church.
“They may only be held in a chapel if it has been given permission by the parish priest and in coordination with the parish,” he said.
However, Rosales said Simbang Gabi may be celebrated in a chapel inside a shopping mall where the Holy Eucharist is celebrated with frequency, with approval from the Catholic Church.
“We do not allow Simbang Gabi to be celebrated in corridors and hallways of shopping malls where the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is needlessly exposed to shoppers that are indifferent to the celebration,” he said.
Rosales said the celebration of Simbang Gabi or Misa de Aguinaldo in the morning, mid-day or late afternoon is regarded as an abuse, not in keeping with the liturgical norms of the Archdiocese of Manila.
“Therefore, only the dawn and, when pastorally required, the evening Masses are considered Simbang Gabi or Misa de Aguinaldo,” he said.
Rosales said when Simbang Gabi is celebrated in the evening of Saturday and Sunday, one should take the liturgy of the Sunday.
“It should be noted that Sunday evening Mass should not anticipate the weekday Mass of the following day,” he said.
Rosales said the practice of holding dawn Masses at night began during the martial law years.
“At this time, they had to adjust the Mass schedule from dawn to evening to avoid conflict with the curfew imposed at that time,” he said.
“This practice continues to be observed in some parishes until today.
“Many of our faithful who follow the urban rhythm of work find it easier to join in the evening instead of the dawn Masses.
“This adjusted time allows them to continue receiving spiritual nourishment and appreciation of the Christian meaning of Christmas amid its secularized celebration.”
Last Nov. 15, Rosales disseminated the “Guidelines on the Celebration of Simbang Gabi” to all parish priests under the Archdiocese of Manila after receiving several queries on how Filipinos must observe Simbang Gabi.
A tradition among Filipino Catholics, Simbang Gabi has always been celebrated during the early hours, from 4 a.m. to 5 a.m., nine days before Christmas.
If the Mass is held at 8 p.m., “it should be motivated by genuine pastoral care for the spiritual benefit of the faithful.”
The tradition of Simbang Gabi came from Mexico. It was also called “Misa de Aguinaldo,” with “aguinaldo” meaning “gift.”
For this reason, the faithful wake up early for nine days before Christmas for the dawn Mass because they make this sacrifice their “aguinaldo” to God for the great gift of Jesus.
This practice could also be interpreted as the preparation of the faithful to receive from God the great gift or “aguinaldo” of Christmas, which is Jesus, the Savior of the world.
Another explanation is that for Filipino Catholics, enduring the Simbang Gabi is an expression of their filial devotion to Mary, the Mother of God.
For nine consecutive days, they join and accompany her, so to speak, as she awaits the birth of her son, Jesus Christ.