There is no Mass with an Introit that begins “De Gallo . . .” In fact, Misa de Gallo isn’t even Latin; it’s Spanish for “Mass of the Rooster.” You probably know it better by its Tagalog name Simbang Gabi (Night Mass). It has also been called Misa Aguinaldo (Gift Mass).
In the Philippines, the Misas de Gallo are the nine pre-dawn Masses from December 16 to December 24. They are like little solemnities, with a sung Gloria and white vestments; and the Philippines had to receive a special indult to celebrate them during the penitential Advent season. Devout Filipinos like the challenge of “completing” this novena by getting up one to two hours early, nine days in a row, to hear all nine Masses. My first “complete” Misa de Gallo is from over a decade ago.
I wish I could say that this year I will also complete a Traditional Latin Misa de Gallo . . . but I already missed the very first day. It was demotivating enough to tempt me to miss the other eight. Instead of giving up, however, I reminded myself of all the devotions that I began and never finished. And then I decided to finish this one that I didn’t begin.
Rorate caeli, desuper . . .
“Drop down dew, ye Heavens, from above . . .”
The traditional propers for Misa de Gallo are from the Missa Rorate caeli desuper, which is a Votive Mass in honor of Our Lady during Advent. (PDF Link) It’s the same Mass for all nine days, and it’s perfect.
It’s also a contrast to Misa de Gallo in the Ordinary Form, which has different readings and prayers each day. We hear about Our Lord’s ancestors, His forerunner St. John the Baptist, and of course, the events right before His birth. As we get closer to Christmas in real life, we get closer to the first Christmas in the Gospel readings. It definitely helps to build the anticipation!
Yet I have never felt anticipation for Christmas like what the traditional Missa Rorate caeli despuer is building in me now.
Et ingressus Angelus ad eam, dixit: Ave, gratia plena . . .
“And the angel, being come in, said to her: ‘Hail, full of grace . . .'”
Making the Gospel readings into a nine-part “miniseries” was logical. Just as the novena Masses lead up to Christmas, the novena Mass readings lead up to the Christmas Mass Gospel. Together, they all become one long story, which we hear in chronological order. Until this week, I thought this was excellent preparation for Christmas.
Meanwhile, in Latin Mass communities all over the Philippines, devotees have heard St. Luke’s account of the Annunciation eight times. And we will hear it one more time before the novena is complete. In the traditional Misa de Gallo, the Annunciation is not just one out of nine events, which all deserve equal emphasis and attention. Instead, it is presented as a special moment in history, which nothing else can outshine. That is, nothing else except the Nativity. When the Annunciation finally gives way, it is only to Christmas.