At the very heart of the Simbang Gabi is this day, the day which commemorates the Annunciation. It is the fullness of time, 9 months before Christmas day, when God sent the Angel Gabriel to bring the news of great joy to Mary that she was chosen to be the most holy Mother of His only begotten Son. This is the moment of the Incarnation, the time when the Word became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Of this moment, the Holy Father exclaims: “The joy of love, the answer to the drama of suffering and pain, the power of forgiveness in the face of an offense received, and the victory of life over the emptiness of death: all this finds fulfillment in the mystery of the Incarnation… In Him who died and rose again for our salvation, the examples of faith that have marked these 2,000 years of our salvation history are brought into the fullness of light” (Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 13.).
At the head of these examples of faith would be that of the Blessed Virgin. She, who is the Virgin most faithful (Virgo Fidelis), manifested great faith at the Annunciation: “By faith, Mary accepted the Angel’s word and believed the message that she was to become the Mother of God in the obedience of her devotion (cf. Lk. 1:38.)” (Ibid.) Mary obedience of faith stands in contrast to the disobedience of Eve. A fallen angel tempted Eve to mistrust the limits that God has set for human nature and so enticed her to take things in her own hands by eating the forbidden fruit. An Archangel invited Mary to trust and submit to the Divine Plan, “for nothing is impossible to God.” Eve wanted to become like God without God’s help…and lost everything she had. Mary saw herself as nothing more than the Lord’s handmaid…and was so exalted as God’s Mother and Queen of heaven and earth. Eve believed in herself. Mary believed in God. Faith was Mary’s way of life: “Visiting Elizabeth, she raised her hymn of praise to the Most High for the marvels he worked in those who trust him (cf. Lk. 1:46-55). With joy and trepidation she gave birth to her only Son, keeping her virginity intact (cf. Lk. 2:6-7). Trusting in Joseph, her husband, she took Jesus to Egypt to save him from Herod’s persecution (cf. Mt. 2:13-15). With the same faith, she followed the Lord in his preaching and remained with him all the way to Golgotha (cf. Lk 2:19, 51). By faith, Mary tasted the fruits of Jesus’ resurrection, and treasuring every memory in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19, 51), she passed them on to the 12 assembled with her in the Upper Room to receive the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14, 2:1-4)” (Ibid.)
It is only fitting that Mary, who is Christ’s Mother and the first of his disciples, should be a woman of great faith for those who follow Christ “walk by faith and not by sight.” “By faith, across the centuries, men and women of all ages…have confessed the beauty of following the Lord Jesus wherever they were called to bear witness to the fact that they were Christian: in the family, in the workplace, in public life, in the exercise of the charisms and ministires to which they were called. By faith, we too live: by the living recognition of the Lord Jesus, present in our lives and in our history.” (Ibid.) Let us live by this faith most especially amidst the difficulties of our times. Even amidst our sorrows and pains, let us continue to say: Let it be done to me according to your word. “Man believes with his heart, and so is justified.” (Rom. 10:10)
We ought to get back the dimension of the sacred in the liturgy. The liturgy is not a festivity; it is not a meeting for the purpose of having a good time. It is of no importance that the parish priest has cudgeled his brains to come up with suggestive ideas or imaginative novelties. The liturgy is what makes the Thrice-Holy God present amongst us; it is the burning bush; it is the Alliance of God with man in Jesus Christ, who has died and risen again. The grandeur of the liturgy does not rest upon the fact that it offers an interesting entertainment, but in rendering tangible the Totally Other, whom we are not capable of summoning. He comes because He wills. In other words, the essential in the liturgy is the mystery, which is realized in the common ritual of the Church; all the rest diminishes it. Men experiment with it in lively fashion, and find themselves deceived, when the mystery is transformed into distraction, when the chief actor in the liturgy is not the Living God but the priest or the liturgical director. - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Chile, 1988)
Do we still need sacred space, sacred time, mediating symbols? Yes, we do need them, precisely so that, through the "image," through the sign, we learn to see the openness of heaven. We need them to give us the capacity to know the mystery of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified. - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Spirit of the Liturgy )