By Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, CM

Since I came here in St. John's University, I have been taking some photos of the sunset outside my window almost each day. Regardless of weather. Regardless of season.

I have been thinking: Christmas has always been equated with midnight (Midnight Mass) or dawn (Simbang Gabi) or morning (Christmas morn). But never is it paired with dusk, sunset, twilight, dapit-hapon, takip-silim, pagsalop sa adlaw. But why not, right?

For me, the best part of the day is the sunset. I was still 3 or 4 years old. I feel nostalgic to remember Mama and myself holding each other's hand while beholding the sea at sunset. It was sad. She cried, and I cried with her. Yet I felt so secure holding her each sunset.

Sunset is both restful and frightful. The day is done; yet we do not know what the night would bring. It is not yet fully dark. Not is it fully bright. The sun has set but the moon has not yet shown its light. It is in-between, both-and, a threshold, liminal, transitional.

That too is the experience of many today. We thought we are safe from the virus. But new unknown variants threaten us. Europe, US and who knows where is next. We thought our churches can be full but people are still afraid to come. We thought we can celebrate Christmas together again in one place, under one roof, then Odette took our roofs away. It is for nothing that the Belen here at St. John's is roofless too. We prayed for the rain to stop, and it did. Yet there has been no water to drink ever since. It is sunset. We thought we can rest. But we fear of another rain, wind, storm. And nothing can protect us from them.

The Christmas carols are in the air but they sound a bit lonely. Christmas parties continue but they feel empty. For how can we truly celebrate when millions are grieving and hungry.

The first Christmas must have also felt that way. There was no place in the inn; they did not know where to go. But there was the manger. No one welcomed them. But then the shepherds and their animals came. The child was born. But Herod and his men searched for him, and they had to flee in fear. They thought they can rest. But they had to go. It was sunset.

We are not totally happy. Yet we greet each other Merry Christmas anyway.

This Christmas greeting sounds melancholic. Gimingaw ra siguro ko sa amo. Kay mouli baya ko kada Pasko 🙂 Pero bisag sa amo, dili mahimo ang tinuig nga pagsaulog. Apan malipayong Pasko gihapon! Kay dili baya mapalong ang nagdilaab nga paglaum.

Merry Christmas to all.

Daniel Franklin E. Pilario, CM
St. John's University
New York