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Churches celebrate Aguinaldo Masses amidst pandemic

For Caceres Archbishop Rolando J. Tria Tirona, OCD, attending Simbang Gabi belongs to those who are brave, with strong faith and follows correct health protocols. He was the main celebrant of the Aguinaldo Mass held early dawn at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral on December 16, 2020. The archbishop was wearing his face mask and face shield during the mass following health protocols. He said that it was delightful to see the living faith of the Bicolanos. “They have the interest and joy of celebrating the rich Marian tradition of Simbang Gabi. Let us imitate the Blessed Mother in her prayerful expectation, deep reflection and joyful proclamation,” Archbishop emphasises.

Fr. John Anthon Valencia celebrates Misa De Gallo at Barangay Omalo, Lagonoy Camarines Sur on December 16, 2020. Fr. Valencia is the administrator of the Omalo Catholic Mission Station whose community is being prepared to become a parish.

The celebration of Misa de Aguinaldo prepares the faithful, with Mary the expectant Mother, to enter into the mystery of the Birth of the Son of God into the world, - a very important historical event that even the reckoning of dates has reference to the birth of Jesus. The initials B.C. signify Before Christ and A.D., Anno Domini, means “In the year of of the Lord.” (Rex Andrew C. Alarcon, D.D., 2017)

Catholics wearing face mask and face shield went to Aguinaldo masses in their respective parishes and chapels. They are allowed to remove the face mask only during communion time (by the hand). Aguinaldo Mass, Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi is the nine consecutive early morning or dawn masses before Christmas Day, December 25. Some parishes in the Archdiocese of Caceres celebrated the anticipated Aguinaldo mass as early as six (6) in the evening. In this time of Pandemic due to Covid-19, the Church has adjusted the forms of important celebrations of the Sacraments and the Liturgy. It was in this context that the Archbishop of Caceres, Most Rev. Rolando J. Tirona, OCD, has issued the guidelines concerning Aguinaldo Masses or Simbang Gabi in a Circular Number 0027 Series of 2020 dated December 1, 2020. Adjustments are done due to the big number of mass-goers during Aguinaldo masses and the strict physical distancing demanded by IATF as safety protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.

As a pastoral accomodation during this pandemic, the “anticipation” of the following day during evening Simbang Gabi masses were allowed. Simbang Gabi Masses were scheduled in Barangay, Sitio Chapels and other venues to accomodate church goers while still observing health protocols.

In Naga City, these are the parishes that celebrated “anticipated” Aguinaldo Masses on December 15, 2020.

Naga Metropolitan Cathedral at 8:00 pm, Parish of Our Lady of Peñafrancia at 9:00 pm, Parish of St Jude Thadeus at 8:30pm, Parish of San Francisco at 8:00pm, Immaculate Conception Parish at 8:00pm. On December 16, 2020, these parishes celebrated the Misa De Gallo at 4:00 am while the Naga Cathedral and Peñafrancia Parish celebrated early dawn mass at 4:30am. Priests celebrating Simbang Gabi, following health protocols, are seen wearing face mask and face shields. At the church’s main entrance, temperature of church goers are taken, alcohol dispensers are available and all are requested to fill-up the log book with essential data.

Church-goers at the Parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Buhi, Camarines Sur, follow church protocol as they enter the church to celebrate Misa de Aguinaldo. (Photo: FB of Buhi Parish)

The circular issued by Archbishop Tirona also encouraged live streaming of the liturgy for those who will not be able to join physically. Nineteen (19) parishes of the Archdiocese of Caceres has live-streamed their Aguinaldo Masses in their social media account: St. Jude Thadeus Parish in Conception Grande and Bato, Camarines Sur, Peñafrancia Parish, Holy Cross Parish in Tabuco and Nabua, St. Bartholomew Parish in Baao, St. John of the Cross Parish in Agdangan, Baao, St. Rose of Lima Parish in Anayan, Pili, Our Lady of the Rosary in Bombon, St. Therese Parish in San Jose, Pili, St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Dugcal, Camaligan, St. Anthony de Padua Parish in Camaligan, St.Raphael the Archangel Parish in Pili, St. Joseph Parish in San Jose, Sacred Heart Parish in Garchitorena, St. Martin de Porres Parish at Tagontong, Goa, Immaculate Conception Parish in Conception Pequeña, Naga City, Fatima Parish in San Isidro, Iriga City and Miraculous Medal Parish at Santiago, Iriga City.

“This pandemic has separated us but live streaming has nourished and connected the people. We are separated but internet made us closer,” says Fr. Gerry Diwa, the Executive Secretary of the CBCP Commission on Liturgy. Fr. Diwa gave principles on live streaming of masses during the National Catholic Media Convention on November 23, 2020 which was held online. “All of us long to attend the gathering of the people of God. Thus, live streaming must create a desire to come back to the celebration of the liturgy in the church. Live streaming is not a substitute for the real presence during the mass inside the church,” Fr. Diwa concludes.

Archbishop Tirona was amazed to see the church - goers for the Misa de Gallo at the Naga Cathedral. “ Marami ang nag-attend in and outside the Cathedral practicing social distancing. Very edifying! Indeed, no Covid can separate us from the love of God!” says the archbishop.


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