As has happened in previous years, at the end of the year, on December 31st, the Catholic faithful of Macau were invited to walk up the hermitage of Penha, to rise to the top of the city for a night of an encounter with the Lord in the church present there under the care of the Trappistine sisters. In this way, lay and consecrated devotees, in a multiculturality characteristic of the territory, could give thanks for the blessings of the year that was ending and invoke God’s providence and graces for the coming year.
This four-hour New Year vigil was totally focused on a meeting of praise, prayer and Adoration of the Eucharistic Christ, the Lord of life – of past, present and future.
The ceremony began at 9:30 PM with the immediate exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and the singing of Te Deum, a hymn of thanksgiving. The night ceremony was led by the Bishop of Macau, D. Stephen Lee, accompanied by Fr Mike Cheung IVE, seminarians of the diocese and lay people who performed functions in support of the various needs of the event.
With eyes and hearts centered on the Blessed Sacrament, in this communion of the faithful in prayer in the real presence of the Lord, the adorers listened to a brief reflection given by Fr Mike Cheung, joined in the Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God (celebrated by Church on January 1st) and listened to a homily given by Bishop D. Stephen Lee, followed by prayers in the silence of the night. The small church, practically full, emanated the human and mystical warmth of the communion wrapped in a warm and tenuous light of recollection.
In his reflection, Fr Mike Cheung exhorted Marian piety and summarized Catholic doctrine on Marian dogmas: the main theological and biblical arguments and a brief of history.
Bishop D. Stephen Lee, in turn, recalled that the New Year is always included in the octave of Christmas, and that in this period of celebration and preparation for the New Year, fasting or abstinence is not necessary. In one of his wishes, the bishop appealed so that in the year 2022, we can love our neighbours more, especially those we have more difficulty in liking. He reminded us that liking is different from loving, and that in this way, we do not need to like everyone, but we must love them, stressing that to love is to want the good of the other. D. Stephen Lee stressed that love is at the center of the Catholic faith, and that the commandments and laws are only a consequence of the love of God and love of our neighbour. Bishop Stephen Lee concluded that we are not the religion of the Law, but the religion of Love.
Shortly after midnight, at the beginning of the New Year, the Bishop of Macau brought the Blessed Sacrament to the churchyard followed by those present. In the outdoor patio, in the cold night lit by the city with a beautiful view from this hill, D. Stephen Lee consecrated Macau to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and blessed the city with the Blessed Sacrament. After these moments of prayer, a small Eucharistic procession took place. Fr Mike Cheung brought the Blessed Sacrament to the replica of the grotto of Lourdes present there. In the grotto, on an altar next to the image of Our Lady, Mother of the Lord, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for some time and there was a moment of personal consecration to the Most Sacred Immaculate Heart of Mary. After this symbolic and deep moment during the New Year’s Eve program, Fr Mike Cheung took the Blessed Sacrament back to the church.
The Catholic faithful, lay and consecrated, belonging to different religious congregations present in the territory, priests and nuns, accompanied the Lord on his return to the temple. All stood inside the church, in solemn silence. Those present held a lit electronic candle in their hands. Before returning home the congregation sang the Marian chant of Fatima, waving the lighted candles, this now in place of the white handkerchief of the pilgrims’ farewell.
(Photos: Miguel Augusto)