The past Advent season seemed different from past ones. It was extra busy with work and ministry, compounded by longer periods of travel to, within and from Metro Manila. But something else made it stand out.
There was the usual rounds of Christmas parties, get-togethers and Masses, plus the childlike excitement of receiving gifts and cards from close friends and people you touch base with once a year in this season of joy.
There was also the frenetic task of sending out gifts to folks who similarly look forward to the once-a-year “traditional greetings” with bite-size sapin-sapin.
More of the same it would seem, but there was something really out of the ordinary. The expectation and excitement have taken on a new soul.
Christmas is a time to synthesize the year. With your kind indulgence, please allow me to remember the past year, its moments and movements of grace.
This year kicked off with preparations for a Lenten recollection on the movie “Ignacio de Loyola,” with the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra and the Ateneo Chamber Singers performing the soundtrack live, and Ryan Agoncillo and Dingdong Dantes giving their reflections.
The moment of grace was the success of the event with over 1,000 in attendance, close to 600 of whom were students, teachers, administrators and principals from our partner public schools.
The movement of grace was how it built community among all who were part of the recollection—from the attendees and volunteers who organized the event for months, to the performers, sponsors and supporters.
This experience was an affirmation of what I thought was part of God’s call over 12 years ago, to build a spiritual community.
In our work with the public schools, a new chapter commenced with the establishment of the Magna Anima Teachers College.
After 12 years of successful work with over a hundred principals and thousands of public school teachers from Bulacan, Metro Manila, Laguna, Bicol, and Cebu, the journey led us to decide to open an undergraduate program for future public school teachers.
The moments of grace were the months and years of sweating it out in the salt mines, so to speak, that often felt like a roller-coaster ride of success and failure, inspiration and challenges.
Through all these, we held on to what we believe was and is God’s mission for us, and in the 12th anniversary Mass of our work, the movement of grace became clear. We are where God wants us to be. We are doing what God wants us to do. This movement and moment of grace came together in this realization.
In March 2017, we started a formation program on ABS-CBN, “Remembering Our Core,” whose goal was to renew the network’s sense of and commitment to service. What started as a “tiny candle in the dark” brought together hundreds of people who embraced and owned the program and its process of remembering our core.
After eight months and eight runs of the initial seminar, I am confident that the many tiny candles that have brought light to the journey of remembering our core will bring hundreds more into the journey, and form a community rooted and grounded in the spirituality of service inspired by love and compassion.
The moment of grace was when people embraced the process of remembering their stories, and the movement of grace was discovering in their stories remembered, others who also had their stories to share. Again, it is the grace of community, of shared stories and being companions in the journey of remembering.
These were the highlights of the moments and movements of grace in my journey the past year. These defined the soul of the expectation and excitement that marked this Christmas, a different Christmas.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone,” wrote the prophet Isaiah.
When the “great light” finally shone and shattered the darkness, it did so in this fashion. In the dark of night, in the ordinary humdrum of keeping “watch over their flock,” simple, ordinary shepherds were the first witnesses to the fulfillment of the promise.
The soul of the expectation brings me back to the first Christmas, among the shepherds keeping watch in the dark of night. It was to these ordinary people that the heavenly host and the angel proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” —CONTRIBUTED