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Readings for the Simbang Gabi (2011)

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This year’s Simbang Gabi masses is almost a lectio continua of the birth narratives. I say “almost” because the series of lectionary readings gets broken up in only one place, on December 18, which falls on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. This year, therefore, we won’t be reading the Anunciation to Joseph. Instead, we will be reading the Annunciation to Mary twice, in combination with two separate sets of OT and NT texts.

December 16, 2011 Friday

Isaiah 56:1-3.6-8 A House of Prayer for all Nations

The inclusion of non-Israelites into the people of Yahweh is highlighted here. The situation is like that of Ruth and Naomi: Naomi a Moabite becomes a part of Boaz’ clan, and therefore is numbered among the Jews, because of her hesed. In the same way, even foreigners who show loyalty to the covenant – that is to the Law of Moses – will become part of Yahweh’s people. They too will be able to worship in the Temple which will become a house of prayer for all peoples.
The reading is included in the cycle of readings for Advent because the Son of God’s Incarnation will be for the sake of all humanity. The Isaianic oracle also points to the Church that will include both Jews and Gentiles.

John 5:33-36 The Witnesses to Jesus

In John 5:33-36, Jesus talks about the testimony given about him. There are three who testify to him: John the Baptist, his works and the Father. The reading is chosen for Advent because of verses 33-35, but most especially 35: “John was like a lamp burning and shining, and you were willing for a while to enjoy his light.”

December 17, 2011 Saturday

Genesis 49:2.8-10 The Blessing to Judah

The selection is about Israel’s blessing to Judah on the eve of the Exodus. The blessing looks to a time when Judah will have the sceptre, that is, to the time of the Messiah. This blessing will be upgraded into an oath pronounced to David, the king of Judah and of the whole of Israel.

Matthew 1:1-17 The Genealogy of the Christ

The genealogy is the Jew’s identification card. It places him within the history of the people of Israel and among its tribes. Jesus is clearly identified as belonging to the tribe of Judah and of the clan of David. In the line of Jesus’ descent, the foreigner Ruth is remembered (through Boaz), and the irregular levirate marriage of Tamar is recalled Both women are known for their hesed; in the case of Tamar, it was a loyalty that even the patriarch Judah had to recognized. Remembered too is the sin of David with Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon. The part of the genealogy which is indicative of Jesus’ divine origins (to be explained in the account of his conception, Matthew 1:18 ff) is in v. 16 “Jacob, the father of Joseph the husband of Mary – of her was born Jesus, called the Messiah.”

December 18 — Advent IV

For the readings of the fourth Sunday of Advent, check out this page from the Bible Workshop.

December 19, 2011 Monday

Judg. 13:2-7.24-25 The Birth of Samson

The story is about Samson’s birth. Samson was from the womb of her mother a nazirite, a man dedicated to God. He is one of the judges of Israel, that is one of its superheroes, through whom God will save his people. This is not the case similar to the virgin birth of Mary, since, the story teller tells us that the wife was barren. The case is similar to that of the mother of John the Baptist. In fact, the reading from Luke with which this selection of the Judges is coordinated for the Simbang Gabi, is about the conception of the Baptist.

Lc. 1:5-25 The Annunciation to Zechariah

The beginning of Luke’s infancy narratives is the annunciation to Zechariah, and is an integral element in his comparison between John the Baptist and Jesus. The concern is to show that from birth, it was John’s role to point to the coming Messiah, Jesus. As in the case of Manoah’s wife, the Baptist’s mother was barren. There is an added difficulty in Luke: she was, like Zechariah, already advanced in age. The skepticism of Zechariah made him mute. He will not be able to speak until the birth of the Baptist.

December 20, 2011 Tuesday

The Prophecy of Isaiah

A threat upon the kingdom of Judah is the backdrop of the prophecy of Isaiah about the virgin that shall give birth to a son who will be known as Immanu-el, God is with us. The Hebrew original speaks of a almah, a young girl; the LXX translated it into parthenos (the equivalent of which in Hebrew is bethulah) – perhaps envisioning a dedicated virgin. The birth of the Immanuel which will the occassion of the lifting of the threat to Judah, will prove to King Ahab that God is with His people.

The Anunciation to Mary

If Matthew presented the annunciation of Jesus’ birth from a male perspective, here we find Luke putting Mary at the center stage. It is through Mary’s “fiat” that the Incarnation is realized. With her and Elizabeth, Luke underscores the role of women at the beginning of salvation history. He will highlight this when the two women meet later on.

December 21, 2011 Wednesday

Canticles 2:8-14/Zeph 3:14-18

Song of Songs 2:8-14. This section of the Song of Songs merits a place in the Advent readings because of the way it has been interpreted by the Fathers of the Church. Here, the bride who symbolizes the Church hears her spouse the Beloved calling – the coming Lord – who invites her at the start of a new spring-time to have a tryst in the “clefts of the Rock.” The felt absence of the spouse during the winter is now replaced by the excitement and joy of an encounter longed for and desired.

Zephaniah 3:14-18. Zephaniah worked during the reign of Josiah (640-609), a time of renewal in Jerusalem. It was during this time when the book of the Law was discovered in the Temple that was then under reconstruction (2 Kngs 22:3-10). What followed this discovery was a covenant renewal headed by the king (23:1-3) that began religious reform in Judah (23:4ff). In this background, Zephaniah’s call for conversion and announcement of the Day of the Lord is to be understood. Zephaniah 3:14-18 is part of the book’s closing chapters. In fact, the original book of prophecies closed with the psalms of rejoicing. The Day of the Lord is not only a day of judgment but also a day of rejoicing for the people of Judah. Interesting in these verses are the translations for vv. 17-18 which portrays the God of Israel as a victorious warrior (or perhaps the owner of the vineyard during harvest) dancing in celebration in the midst of His people.

Luke 1:39-45 Mary Visits Elizabeth

Luke 1:39-45. The gospel reading is about Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. She who has received the Word of God in her womb now goes to the hill country of Judea, hurrying like a missionary, to a cousin in need. Her greeting of “Shalom” not only reaches Elizabeth but also the yet unborn John. The peace that Mary brings is the peace that the Lord within her gives. Elizabeth, one of those who have been waiting for the Salvation promised from of old, receives the Holy Spirit upon hearing Mary’s word and she recognizes her as “Mother of my Lord.”

December 22, 2011 Thursday

1 Samuel 1:24-28;2:1.4-5.6-7.8 Hannah’s Song of Thanksgiving

Samuel is the last judge of Israel and the one who anoints the first king of Israel, Saul, and the messiah, David. This is the story of his birth. He was born of a woman who had difficulty giving birth; it was because of this woman’s prayer with the blessing of Eli the priest of Shiloh that Samuel was born. The selection from 1 Samuel is the song his mother sings, a song that points to Mary’s song of praise.

The Magnificat

In Mary’s song of praise, the theme of the reversal of fortunes that Luke will develop throughout his gospel is highlighted. The song is actually about the fidelity of God to his promise. John Paul II explains this fidelity as the masculine love of God: loyal, faithful, trustworthy. The privilege given to the humble maid from Nazareth is proof that the promises to Abraham will be realized.

December 23, 2011 Friday

Mal. 3:1-4.23-24 The Messenger I Send Before You

For the Simbang Gabi cycle of readings, the selection from Malachi 3 points to the figure of John the Baptist (see Mark 1:1-8). In itself, the oracle speaks of a messenger that will purify the Temple before the awaited One arrives, the Lord Himself. The messenger is identified as Elijah the prophet (mal. 3:23-24) who will “turn the hearts of the children to their fathers.”

The Birth of John the Baptist

Zechariah regains his voice at the christening of his son. And with his healing, he also pronounces the place of John the Baptist in the history of salvation (see following card). John is Yohanan, “Yahweh has manifested his compassion.” With the appearance of John, a new period of salvation has begun. This is captured in the liturgy with the selection of readings from the Book of Consolation associated with the ministry of the Baptist.

December 24, 2011 Saturday

The Prophecy about the Baptist

The selection continues the narration of the christening of the Baptist. On the eighth day of his birth, the baby is circumcised and given a name. The name given is “yohanan”, the Lord has shown his mercy. Zechariah pronounces a prophecy, explaining the name.

The prophecy contains the following ideas:
(a) the God is sending His Messiah
(b) who will be the light for Israel
(c) and the Baptist is going to be the one who prepares his way

Zechariah actually is saying that all those prophetic figures foretold in the past who will come before the Day of the Lord (see Mal. 3:23-24) will be realized in his son.

2 Sam. 7:1-5.8-11.16 The Oath to David

The episode from this selection from 2 Samuel is about the oath to David whose descendants will have the monarchy in Israel. The desire of David to build the House for Yahweh is answered: it is through David’s son that the Lord will have His House. The Davidic covenant is realized in the New Covenant that will be forged in the blood of His Son, the Messiah.

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