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Christmas Midnight Mass Reflections
Peace on Earth Good Will to Men! As I sat in church at St. Mary's a few Christmas Eves ago, I started reflecting on the years gone by and what Midnight Mass meant to me.
First of all, you have to understand that having a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve was not the exception when I was a youngster; it was the rule. As a child I remember the five block walk to church in cold blustery weather most of the time. It was the 50's and our father did not drive let alone own an automobile. If you were lucky and early enough, you got seats in the pews and would sit and wait almost an hour for the mass to begin. If not, you stood almost crushed by the crowds around you who always attended the first Christmas Mass to welcome the Christ child for another year. I remember leaning against the wall to keep from falling over when I was lucky enough to get inside the church and not being in the vestibule.
Usually the choir would sing selections of religious Christmas caroles and you were lulled into a half sleep by the warmth of the church and all of the scent of the pine wreaths hung on the pillars around you. If you were standing it was hard not to swoon into the person next to you.
Finally, the Mass would start and you listened to a foreign language as the priest started the mass in Latin. The gospel was always long and the complete story of the journey that Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem to be counted like the cattle, what the Romans called a census. The story would continue on to the angels visiting the shepherds and their visit to the Christ Child.
Again, if you were lucky you got to sit while the priest gave his homily that was always long and very boring to a child. You were usually asleep by the time it was over and you got to stand again.
But, through all of this stringent discomfort, you didn't feel put upon and you endured it. You felt the exuberance of the Christmas season and the anticipation of everything being right with your world again. Everyone around you, whether they were paupers or rich men, extended the good will of the season and no one felt that they were less than anyone else.
When the Mass ended, usually to Joy to the World being sung, everyone would filter past the life size nativity displayed in one of the entrances and then out of the church to go on your way to your homes and another celebration would be over.
Not so for my brother and I. We would walk back home and then we would be given eggnog as a treat and if times were good, we might even be given a piece of chocolate candy from a box of chocolates made by the exclusive candy shops. Then we were sent to bed so that the adults could do what needed to be done for the awakening surprises in the morning.
Four years ago, I sat and reflected on all these memories and the ones when my children were growing up saddened by the loss of my youngest son that year. Then our family suffered the loss of my oldest step-daughter just before Christmas. But, even with these terrible tragedies of life, I feel the good will of my fellow participants in this the most holy night of the year, the night when Christ was born.
© 2012 Laura L Scotty