Blessed be God forever!

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe, 24 December 2019

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16 ><)))*> <*(((>< Luke 1:67-79

Marker on the Church where St. John the Baptist is believed to have been born in Ein Karem, Jerusalem. Photo by author, May 2019.

At last!

These are most likely the two words we must be saying today on this ninth day of our Simbang Gabi.

Finally, we have completed the nine day novena to the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ for tonight will be Christmas.

But, more than being the last day of our novena, today is also the beginning of better days ahead for us all starting with Christmas!

From this day on, let us imitate Zechariah in his new found faith, hope and love in God expressed in his song of praise and thanksgiving after recovering his sense of hearing and speaking after nine months of forced silence.

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David.”

Luke 1:68-69
Sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, the Holy Land. Photo by author, May 2019.

Three canticles of praise, three prayers of faith

Popularly known as the Benedictus from its Latin opening verse “Blessed be God”, this is the second of the three canticles St. Luke tells us Zechariah had sang after naming his son “John”.

The other two songs are the Magnificat by Mary during her Visitation of Elizabeth and the third is the Nunc Dimittis by Simeon upon seeing the child Jesus during his presentation at the Temple of Jerusalem.

These canticles or songs make up the beautiful Christmas story by St. Luke who put them onto the mouths of Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon to signify their being filled with the Holy Spirit in experiencing the coming of Jesus Christ: Mary sang “my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord” during the Visitation in response to the praises by Elizabeth (Lk.1:46-55) while Simeon the prophet prayed to God to “let him go in peace” – to die – after seeing the coming of the Savior (Lk.2:29-32).

These eventually became part of the prayers of the Church (Liturgy of the Hours) we priests and religious are obliged to pray day in, day out:

  1. Benedictus in the morning to show how willing are we to face the new day by making our Savior Jesus Christ present in our lives like St. John the Baptizer, his precursor;
  2. Magnificat in the evening to praise and thank God in working his salvation in us through Jesus Christ;
  3. Nunc Dimittis at night before bedtime to signify our readiness to die and finally be one with God in Jesus Christ.

They are our “spiritual vitamins” that fill us with the Holy Spirit to strengthen and deepen our relationship with the Father in Jesus Christ which every Christian may pray too to experience and be one with God daily.

Pilgrims waiting outside the Church of St. John the Baptist in Ein Karem, Jerusalem. On the walls are the translation into different languages of the world, including Filipino, of Zechariah’s Benedictus. Photo by author, May 2019.

Why God is blessed according to Zechariah

The Benedictus signifies Zechariah’s coming to full circle after nine months of forced silence after doubting the angel’s message that he and Elizabeth would finally have a son.

Our sacristy, Advent 2019.

In singing the Benedictus, Zechariah did not only recover his power of speech but most of all showed the fruits of his nine months of silence and prayer preparing for the birth of his son John as well as, ultimately, for Christ’s coming (his song indicates it).

Finally, Zechariah has been healed of his pains and hurts that prevented him in experiencing God, in believing in his powers again, giving him more reasons to hope and be joyful.

This is the reason we also have the Advent Season when we try to dispose ourselves more to Christ’s coming to us not only at Christmas but everyday in our lives.

Zechariah mentions three powerful verbs why he praised God: for he has come to his people, set them free, and has raised up a mighty Savior.

God has come to us

Zechariah first experienced God coming to him when the angel announced to him John’s birth while incensing at the temple during the Day of Atonement. Unfortunately, he was “absent” at God’s “presence” that he questioned how Elizabeth would bear a child.

Everything now changes not only because he had seen his own son but he himself experienced God’s coming in his life.

Sometimes, our pains and hurts, frustrations and disappointments, defeats and failures blind us, numb us that we cannot see, we cannot experience God coming to us in every brand new day he gives us, through the people we meet with their smiles and greetings, with our family and friends who have have stayed with us in good times and bad.

Every morning we wake up to reminds us God has come to us. Rise and meet him in joy, entrust the new day to him, and ask for the grace to remain in him!

God has set us free

Every time God comes, there is always freedom – freedom from evil and sin, freedom from the past and all its pains and hurts, freedom from guilt feelings, freedom everything that prevents us from being truly free to be our own, good sel, to be free and faithful to love and forgive others too.

Carmelite Monastery, Guiguinto, Bulacan. Photo by author, November 2019.

Literally speaking, Zechariah felt free again to speak and express himself fully. But more than that is the experience to go and live fully in God.

We can never experience Christmas if we cannot assert this freedom Christ had won for us when he died on the Cross. Forget all those “hugot” lines and move forward with life.

The name of God is “I AM” because he is always in the PRESENT, never in the past nor in the future.

That is why each new day is a gift, a present from God who as set us free from yesterday’s mistakes and failures and sins.

Go and be free for God!

God has raised up for us a mighty Savior

Christmas is not a date but an event, a person we experience in Jesus Christ who is a dialogue himself according to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Jesus is always communing with us, inviting us to be one in him in his love.

In his Benedictus, Zechariah is also professing the saving work of God in Jesus Christ who became human like us in everything except sin. God is so blessed because of his great love for us, he chose to enter, or intervene into human history to bring us into eternal life by faith in Christ Jesus.

To raise up is a strong term also indicating the Paschal mystery Christ will go through, the ultimate communion of God into our own lowliness of suffering and death to bring us into the glorious victory of his resurrection.

Every morning, every day we are reminded by Zechariah of the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary regarding the birth of John: nothing is impossible with God.

And Zechariah had experienced this first hand when his barren and old wife Elizabeth conceived their child John.

May we have a renewed faith, hope and love in God at the closing of our Simbang Gabi this year. Like David in the first reading, rest be assured of God’s plan for each of us. Let us be patient to wait and prepare always for his coming like Zechariah even in his old age. Amen.

Birthplace of St. John the Baptist at Ein Karen, Jerusalem. Photo by author, May 2019.

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