“Merry Christmas, Cebu!”
Love in the Raging Storm
First Day Misa De Gallo
It was the 1st day of Midnight Mass (Misa de Gallo) in preparation for Christmas. Everyone is always excited especially for the first day. But many were also apprehensive. It was already rainy and chilly early dawn. We all knew that the typhoon is coming, but nobody thought it would be soo bad. Cebu is an island at the very center of the archipelago and we are seldom visited by very violent storms. At around 3:00 in the afternoon, it was already raining hard. At 4:00, the power went out. And when it was fully dark, at around 7:00 in the evening, Odette arrived.
The Longest Night
It was not an ordinary stormy night. The wind was sooo strong, you can hear it howling, or should I say screaming. Time seemed to stand still as we felt the whole priory shaken by this great turbulence.
In a few moments we heard a loud thuddd!!! The first tree fell. Followed by another, then another and another. The screen doors of the chapel came next. After some time, we heard voices. It was our neighbors who came running for shelter. Their houses, made of light materials were in complete danger. So they decided to evacuate as soon as possible. They took refuge at the St. John Hall beneath the Chapel. For the next three hours we couldn’t do anything except to stay put and wait, hoping and praying that the roof will not give way, or that a tree will not fall on someone, or anything worse than that. It felt like the longest night one could ever imagine. I remember the disciples inside the boat in the middle of the sea, when the storm hit them. We are not in the middle of the sea, in fact we are somewhere in the mountains. But the winds and the waves seemed to crash on us just the same.
Second day Misa De Gallo
And then finally at 10pm, the wind died down. The rain stopped. And there was calm and peace and silence. It was as if Jesus was awakened in the boat and commanded the winds and the waves to be still. They said that it was the eye of the storm passing and a second wave will come. We braced ourselves for what a second wave would look like. But thankfully there was none. At dawn, the families who took shelter in the priory proposed that we continue with the Misa de Gallo. So we had the 2nd day of Misa De Gallo at the small Chapel of the Apostolic Sisters (the brothers’ Chapel was a big mess and could not be used for a few days). The first thing we did after the storm was to celebrate Mass…In the dark. Just like the first Christmas. It was a prayer of thanksgiving for our lives were spared. And also of supplication for all those who lost their homes in this super typhoon.
For several days, there were long, endless lines for gasoline, ATM machines and drinking water. It was very alarming that even drinking water was hard to find. It was probably the first time that Cebu had to spend Christmas in darkness. But it was a Holy Darkness. With all the barren trees, and no power to turn on the Christmas lights, it led us to literally focus on the true meaning and essence of Christmas. It was as if Typhoon Odette has brought us straight to the Manger, without stopping by parties or selfies whatsoever. As the song goes: “Though My love can seem like a raging storm, this is the love that saves…” (Holy Darkness By Dan Schutte https://www.musixmatch.com/lyrics/Dan-Schutte/Holy-Darkness)
Christmas is all about Jesus in the Manger – God who became Man, who became a little Baby out of great love for us. This year, this message penetrates uninterruptedly into our hearts.
The First Christmas
Wasn’t it that the first Christmas was also dark with only the stars shining in the night sky? Wasn’t it that the Holy Family also had no roof on their heads, no house nor room for them to stay, except for a poor stable with animals and hay? Wasn’t it that the first adorers of the Messiah were shepherds who probably had no time to take a shower in their haste to see the King? Christmas 2020 is so much like the first Christmas. No water, no electricity, no Wi-Fi. Only Jesus – the true Light burning in our hearts, who Himself is leading us to His own Heart. When all else is gone, we continue to celebrate, because Jesus is indeed the reason of the Season.
When we realize that we had nothing, not even drinking water, we also realize that Jesus is our everything. And He is our Life-giving Water.