'Twas the Mass Before Christmas

Per family custom, we attended the 5:00 pm Mass at our local parish. This is, mind you, the parish I made my First Communion (March, '88) and Confirmation (February, '94). I went there throughout high school, college, and graduate school. Since I don't stay with my parents when I visit Cleveland, it's  now the case that I only go to my home parish on Christmas.

Now, Christmas Eve Mass provides an annual "Choose Your Own Adventure" liturgy. One can choose to attend Mass in the church where there'll be packed pews, usually a well-amplified if not particularly talented group of singers, and lots of familiar faces. The youthful pastor will deliver a great homily and, overall, even liturgical dilettantes can't fault it on much (well, other than the music). Sure, you'll see the well-dressed C&E crowd who take your usual Sunday seats, but that can be forgiven if for no other reason than the comedic value of watching irregular attendees continue to answer "And also with you" when the correct  answer is "and with your spirit."

Or, one can take a risk (of one's immortal soul) by going into the gymnasium. While not quite a gladiatorial death-zone, it's pretty brutal. Last year I won and we went into the church. This year, I compromised and entered into the gym...err, I mean, overflow church.

And, be assured, it was something. I was very much touched by the strumming guitar and what were referred to as "bridges" and "interludes" which, as a musician, I interpreted as mistakes covered over by heavy chording. The most my family found itself engaged was when it saw "The First Nowell" listed in the book and assumed it to be an egregious typo. The homily was so incredibly profound that I'm still, 90 minutes later, attempting to get my mind around it. Yes, the message was that profound. Or, perhaps, it was that it wasn't delivered in coherent English so that any point that may have been embedded within was lost upon the congregation.

Let me tell you: Facebook certainly experienced a log-on surge from a Western suburb of Cleveland, because just about everyone whipped out phones to wish family members "Merry XMas" or "Happy Holidays" or, for the more risque, "Merry Christmas."

Mind you, I'm never a fan of women and men wearing coats during the liturgy. I don't wear a coat when I'm eating dinner (suit or sport coat, yes, but certainly not a winter coat). Tonight, LOTS of people wore coats. I thought it was a fashion trend until Communion when the packed gym...errr, church...lost a third of its population. A sort of liturgical "Dine and Dash" as it were.

Particularly moving was the final rendition of "Joy to the World," at least for the two dozen of us remaining. I exaggerate, of course, because there were probably 100 of us still in there BUT at the conclusion of what seemed to be the final blessing they began to chat with those around them. When we were kids, we weren't allowed to leave until the priest had walked past us.

I decided to walk home from Mass. We live, after all, only a few hundred yards from gym...err, overflow church....to doorstep. I even got to walk past the main church, filled with its well-heeled worshippers. I stress "well heeled" because that's what I could see as I walked by: their heels. For, as it turns out, the overflow mass concluded a few minutes before the main church and the "dine and dash" that sapped 1/3 of our population gutted the main church. There were so many turkeys, bean casseroles with fried onions on top, and hams that were about to be burned that people fled the church as though it were on fire. Or they fled it as though they had just received Communion and ran out.

"All is calm, all is bright" - because right now, I'm drinking a glass of red wine as we prepare to celebrate this Eve of Christmas night.


The Duns Family Cousin

For any readers, know I write in slight jest -- totally truthful, but written with an eye toward humor. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and many prayers for a happy and prayerful New Year!
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