Mindful of both the season and the recent devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in their ancestral home, thousands of Filipino Catholics are preparing to celebrate the archdiocesan Simbang Gabi liturgy at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels Dec. 15.Archbishop José Gomez will preside at the 6:30 p.m. liturgy, presented by the Filipino Ministry of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. This year's theme is: "Lord Jesus, Son of Mary, Mold Us into One Family of New Evangelizers" (Panginoong Hesus, Anak ni Maria, Hubugin mo Kaming Maging Isang Pamilya nang Bagong Tagapagpahayag ng Mabuting Balita). The theme reflects renewal of our relationship with Christ, making an effort to bring good news to the whole world. For parishioners like Bernadette Blackshaw of Holy Name of Mary in San Dimas, “Simbang Gabi brings back many memories of my childhood when our family truly sit down on the table and enjoy a meal, sharing stories of kindness and hope; that in the midst of any trial, Jesus will always be there for us." This year, Blackshaw added, “Simbang Gabi will have a different take for me because of the recent tragedies that our brothers and sisters in the Philippines have endured. I believe that miracles happen. God is in the midst of these tragedies and He is leading us to see what is important in our lives. I believe that the Lord is leading us to a better tomorrow. We hope in Christ. He calls us to renew our faith in Him.”In many parts of the world, Simbang Gabi is a tradition that shows the Filipino spirituality of festively celebrating the birth of Christ through liturgy, Christmas carols, parols, native delicacies and reunion of friends and families. Traditionally, Christmas day in the Philippines is ushered in by the nine-day novena of Masses which culminates on Dec. 24; the much anticipated family event, “Noche Buena,” the Christmas feast, follows Midnight Mass. “Simbang Gabi is an avenue where we all come together to worship as one, to celebrate our similarities, and be inclusive,” explained Chito Romero, a parishioner from Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Downey. “In our parish, our Simbang Gabi reflects a variety of cultures. We celebrate the liturgy in English, Spanish and Tagalog. Our main focus is to create a community of evangelizers who will reach the next generation of faithful.”Simbang Gabi traces its roots to Mexico. As the early Spanish settlers and missionaries traveled from the New World across the Pacific, they brought with them the religious practices of "Aguinaldo Masses.” The faithful made every effort for nine days to attend Mass in the early morning as preparation to receive from God the greatest gift or "aguinaldo" of Christmas: "Jesus, the Savior of the World." The tradition is also an expression of the deep devotion of the Filipinos to Mary, Mother of God. The people join and accompany her, as she awaits the birth of her son. Masses on those nine days are celebrated as solemn votive Masses in her honor.At this year's event, youth is very much involved in the music ministry. Music will be provided by volunteers from local parishes, members of Cherubs (ages 6-16) and the Filipino Chorale USA. “We want to involve young people to help them understand a tradition dear to our hearts; help them recognize the beauty of team effort and collaboration,” said Cornel Castro, a member of the San Pedro Pastoral Region Simbang Gabi committee.As part of Simbang Gabi tradition in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the parols of participating parishes will be processed at the pre-liturgy and blessed by Archbishop Gomez before they are sent to officially begin Simbang Gabi in their parishes. The procession also includes parols of Filipino religious organizations, civic and professional organizations and government offices. Father Albert Avenido, archdiocesan moderator of Filipino Ministry, the Leadership Council, and San Pedro Region parish leaders, headed by Deacon Willy Arban from St. Dominic Savio Church in Bellflower, will lead this year's celebration at the Cathedral, open to all.The schedule of Simbang Gabi celebrations will appear in the Dec. 13 issue. For more information, contact Deacon Willy Arban: (562) 920-7796 ext. 200 or [email protected]. {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/1206/simbang/{/gallery}