Simbang Gabi is over. But i still feel the carry-over energy of the multitude. Or is it the sleep deprivation hanging out a bit? Both could be true. The other night, i was alone again in the same ground used to be noisily swarmed by young churchgoers. Silence was there except that their 9 days physical presence seems to linger invisibly, jolting gently the stillness of the place. It’s akin to being home alone, the house just emptied by traveling kin – one feels their trails.
It wasn’t hard to notice, the young faces, the adolescents who brimmed the ground – some simply loitering or smoking or gripping hands with their BFF, others in their serious religious observance. Commonly, they came by cliques. The youthful eagerness for Simbang Gabi has never changed since my teenage days, it only grows more populous. Before and beside me, even the voices behind me and the barkadahan guffawing of the priest-admonished “Good morning” – i picked them up in-between as opinion-free as i can. A smoke-belching churchgoer is the least one could expect unless smoking is part of a ritual like American Indians do. But perhaps, even a smoking teener has some messages to preach beyond the pulpit.
And so are warmed, tangled hands. (wink)
For 8 days, i was in my casual pair of Spartan slippers. Most of those days, i was standing not because i was often late but young lovers and “frats” often outdone me with their quicker impulses. And with their bling-blings, their exuberance, their communal though cliquish mentality. They were there less for the Advent motive to wait for Christmas but more to group and exchange fives and gobble puto bumbong. But they keep me thinking: this country is getting younger and more people poorer. Is this country going to harness their potentials and youthful energy beyond singing competitions and fantasizing professional basketball much like India turning their high school students into budding computer geeks? So much talents lurk behind those guffawing and too sacred at the core to turn them into politicians’ personal capital.
For one thing, they were quite at home praying beyond the perimeter of the church building. It is telling – how they want to belong and to equally celebrate our symbolic lives in liturgy. But does our liturgy connect with their evolving cultural languages including the languages of their fertile bodies? Or their lack thereof of “silent fluency” or dwindling disability to read nonverbal cues thanks to texting? It struck me the first day the presider laid out the sermon outline for the 9-day pre-dawn masses: the 7 capital sins and the bodyguards of the venial ones. For all the subtleties and beauties and terrors of waiting that are so essential in our spiritual walk and Advent offers, why hammer young churchgoers just out from bed with mortal sins for 9 days? One theologian puts it bluntly: we Roman Catholics are overfed with the theology of sin we often miss the point, dreading God with all the shame and guilt we could muster.
And the point: God really wants to get intimate with me and my loved ones, more intimate than those warmed, tangled hands during Simbang Gabi. God’s desire was turned into Christmas. It’s happening everyday and beyond those youthful romance we see in church grounds (wink).