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December 25, 2005

Comments

Sue

You are lucky to have sung real Christmas carols. At our church (where the music is normally acceptable) we were "treated" to the totally insipid Christmas "songs" of Haugen-Hass. And we thought we were safe from that nonsense because everyone does the carols at this time of year.

thomasina

DC area. Had to go to a parish other than the usual because we missed an earlier Mass and guests would have been waiting at hotel too long. So this was an 11:30 a.m. Mass. This may or may not be how the music went: Entrance: O Come All Ye Faithful. Offertory: The First No(w)el(l). Communion: Silent Night, and ?? maybe Hark, the Herald Angels Sing? Closing: Joy to the World. (The entrance and closing are really predictable, aren't they?) I may be wrong, but it sounded like the Gloria was done sort of to the tune of O Come All Ye Faithful, in a call-and-response fashion (is that legit?) It was a choir with strummy guitar and the usual contemporary-to-1973 sound. I was grumpy too; I really try to stay away from the excesses of church music snobbery, but that stuff always sounds forced to me. I will make myself sing though unless it is obviously in conflict with Church teaching. My husband says there was trumpet which was a nice touch, but I didn't notice it, and that the guitarist had trouble keeping time.

I was terribly prone to distraction, but the homily had something to do with seeing God's will in the circumstances that really exist and not how we think it should be. I think the general tone of things can be summed up by the fact that the priest thought saying, "Have a nice day" would add something after the formal closing of the Mass and before the closing hymn.

meg

Point Pleasant NJ
Midnight and 12:00 Christmas day

The church was decorated rather sparingly. Lots of poinsettias, one undecorated, unlit tree on the a The church itself is one of those 1970's remodeled all purpose rooms but in the past has usually radiated the Christmas feeling with lots more trees (white lights and all) and plants. A visiting priest whose mother lives in the parish celebrated midnight mass. The homily was about... I'm not sure but it was well delivered and kept my attention at the time. At one point he was mentioning how beautiful the night sky was tonight. Everyone just looked at each other because there was heavy fog and you couldn't see in front of you. Oh well! The music was ok there wasn't much life in them and the parish wasn't in the singing mood. It's a shame because it was always the most beautiful mass to attend on Christmas, not anymore. There was no incense, no chanting, nothing special. I know there are a lot of people who attended just to say they went to midnight mass and it shows. Many people did not know the responses or when to stand, kneel or sit. I think next year I'll skip it. The noon mass was nicer. Just two cantors and lots of people. Not as crowded as the vigil masses but standing room only. The strange thing was the pastor didn't seem to be having a good day. He did mention in his homily that the readings for the day were not the ones we would think of or expect. That most people think of the nativity readings. He then went on to illustrate how they were really appropriate for the day. Rather over the heads of many and especially the kids who became very restless. He didn't even wish us a Merry Christmas. This really bothered a relative who often doesn't attend church and probably will not start coming any sooner based on his feeling about how it went. Overall, just average everyday masses nothing special and actually not as good as it usually is week in and week out.

Jerry

Christ the King, Norfolk VA 10am 12/25

Organ and a cantor, rousing carols over the course of a 90 minute liturgy. In the quiet after one carol before the start of mass my 3 year old shouted "how 'bout Here comes Santa Claus" to the smiles and laughs of few and the groans and rolling eyeballs of more. Refusing to move back to "the commons" area we persevered.

Smells and bells, Eucharistic Prayer #1, wonderful homily on forgetfulness and how we (and the world around us) may have been that way through Advent and now Christmas, and that the most important take away of Christmas is the Father's passion for his creation....good stuff.

We are finding a preference for late Christmas morning Masses as they tend to focus the kids more on Christ, also less hustle and bustle as opposed to the vigil.

Fr Septimus

Well, you can visit my blog and read my two homilies for Christmas here.

I had the Vigil at 6 pm, and Midnight, my favorite. On Thursday evening, I met with the servers for each Mass to go over the liturgies. I was giving them a lot to do: they would lead a Gospel procession with candles and incense, the thurifer (I called him the "smoker") would be very busy, coming in, going out, at the Gospel, at the preparation, and at the elevations; and one of the servers would ring bells. They are not used to this sort of thing. Plus, at 6, we would divert over to the creche, where I would bless the scene, then a family would place il Bambino in the crib; at which point one of the servers would plug in the lights on the creche.

They did pretty well, although I noticed everything they muffed; but folks said they loved it. They worked hard, for which I thanked them. They liked doing it.

I got many comments about the bells: "are you bringing them back?" Eventually, I said -- it takes time to acquaint the servers.

The church was pretty well set with candles; I added more, at the creche, for midnight, since no one would be placing anything there; after midnight, I placed prie-dieus there for devotion. I have some candlelabrae in reserve for Epiphany!

The church was decorated with white-gold pointsettias, and some gold cloth, as well as some evergreens -- looked pretty classy to me.

We were packed for 6 pm, and again at Midnight, which was a joint project for my parish, and a neighboring parish. The pastor and retired priest from there came over to concelebrate at midnight.

I decided to leave half the lights off until just before Mass, to help keep things subdued; seemed to work.

The retired priest, who concelebrated at 6, read the long version, with all the "begats", on which I preached, in part. At 6 pm, we had a small children's choir, and more contemporary instrumentation (keyboard and guitar), and a nice variety of music; midnight was more traditional, with some a nice chant piece I didn't know, "Of the Father's Love Begotten," which is from the 5th century. We did the Angus Dei in Latin, which is new to the folks; they didn't kneel right away afterward, surprisingly. Next year, I hope we can have Adeste Fideles in Latin, then English, which seems a sensible way to do it.

Oh, and we had carols before Mass, of course; I regret I am so busy I can't really sit and enjoy them. I also regret the "inclusive language" bowdlerization of "Hark the Herald" and "Joy to the World."

I sang almost everything, from the Sign of the Cross to the dismissal. I forgot to sing the blessing at 6 pm. The concelebrants opted not to chant the Gospel, but I did sing the Christmas proclamation, at Midnight, and the Roman Canon. I included all the saints at Midnight.

For those who say, "that all takes too long!" Mass went about 1:20 both times. The president of Pastoral Council said to me, over dinner: "Mass seemed to go fast!"

Also, for next year, I'd like to have someone peal the bells after the first Mass; I'd love to do it for midnight, but that wouldn't be considerate of the neighbors.

Oh, and for midnight, I wore my biretta to and from Mass, but not during. I confess I haven't quite got the nerve for that, nor do I know when I'm supposed to take it off and put it on, etc. I did wear my cassock, but didn't find my sash, which probably would have been rather tight anyway!

Apparently, I made some folks very happy, because I said it was okay to put lights in the trees behind the nativity scene. I think it's very cheerful and see no problem with it, except that the creche goes in front of Mary's altar, which is no longer visible. No other place to put it, however.

Mary

8:00 PM Christmas Eve Mass
Long Island
The Mass was proceeded by 45 minutes of carols ranging from There is a Rose to the "Glory of the Lord "and new to me "Grosser Herr" from Bach's Christmas Oratorio.
The Mass was said by our regular visiting priest "Father Ed" a Redemptorist based in Brooklyn. His Mass was somewhat strange with his usual adlibs,such as changing the sign of peace to "Merry Christmas", his blessing the creche at the begginning of Mass and his rather traditonal use of insense.
The music was great with a mix of tradional hymms and classical liturgical music such as the Gloria from Hayden's Lord Nelson Mass. Father Ed's homily was better than average for him, but not memorable.

Fr Septimus

Oh -- at Midnight, after the closing hymn ("Joy to the World,") and after the procession ended, the choir and music director struck up "We wish you a Merry Christmas," which I didn't know about, but didn't bother me. The folks still in church broke into applause, not for the latter, specifically, but for the music overall. Then the choir sang "Tell out my soul" which I like very much. The preparation hymn -- which needed to be long, due to collection, and incensation, was a complicated affair involving "Angels we have heard on high," followed by some other piece I can't remember, although it was nice (something contemporary) and the two were sort of blended. It was well done, though it went a little long.

John Gibson

Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Parish, Homer Glen Illinois.

Highlight: Having my three youngest kids chrismated, and my youngest had her first communion. My rite change went through a month ago and the Pastor suggested Christmas for their sacraments.

The Church is beautiful with Icons painted all over the temple walls.

We had a small mixed choir that lead the chant and the Homily was one of those that made you think about you should strive to love the Lord better. The question that our Priest asked us at the end was that the Incarnation of Jesus changed everything, it changed the world, the universe, but has it changed us enough so that when people look at us they will see it in us.

I am blessed to have found this parish, every Liturgy is done with reverence and the love of God.

Shaun G

I'm home for Christmas and attended Mass with my mother and her neighbor.

We went to nearby St. Cornelius Parish in Chadds Ford, Pa., a fairly wealthy suburb where it's not uncommon to see two or three adjacent Land Rovers in the church parking lot.

Msgr. Greg Parlante, assisted by the parish's two permanent deacons, celebrated 10am Mass — the only Christmas Day Mass — which had been preceded by about seven Christmas Eve Masses.

The music was subdued — flute and keyboard — as opposed to the usual dozen-member praise and worship team or whatever they like to call themselves.

Msgr. Parlante's homily was of about average length. He kicked it off with a requisite Christmas-themed joke, then mentioned all the tragedies that occured this year, then pointed out how it's sometimes hard to feel confident that God is listening to us because he's so far away — and then mentioned that one of the great joys of the Incarnation is that Christ was given human ears — so when we pray, we can actually visualize Him listening to us. The rest of his homily riffed on that joy: the joy of the presence of God, the closeness of God, made possible through His Son's birth.

I must say, I've always felt a little disappointed in the homilies I've heard on Christmas and Easter, because knowing that a lot of folks only show up on those two holy days, I feel like this is the big chance to evangelize, to reach out in a special way to those who are not regular churchgoers, to really pull out all the stops and dazzle them with the Truth.

I mentioned this to my girlfriend tonight, though, and she thought that maybe my expectations were unrealistic, or maybe even misguided. "I think if God has moved them to take that first step of coming into the church, then as long as the liturgy is reverent and they feel welcomed, God will take care of the rest."

I think the only part of the Mass that made me cringe came just before the close of Mass, when Msgr. Parlante addressed those visitors "looking for a spiritual home" and touted St. Cornelius as a "dynamic faith community" with a "strong lay involvement in its leadership."

Aw shucks. If he had mentioned "fellowship" and "inclusive," I could've yelled "Bingo!"

Or "you sunk my battleship."

Ian

St. Gabriel's midnight Mass, Colorado Springs

First Noel, Away in a Manger, O Little Town of Bethlehem before Mass.

5 servers (2 candle-bearers, crucifer, thurifer, acolyte), deacon and father. Deacon and Father were wearing beautiful gold and red vestments, the deacon had a dalmatic.

Opening hymn was Christus Natus Est - an ancient two-voice chant

Proclamation of the birth of Christ chanted by me.

Very nice homily about the birth of Christ needing to be truly in our hearts so we can spread the light to others.

Offertory was four-voice Silent Night with two soloists.

Father read the entire Roman Canon with all the saints names.

Recessional was Hark the Herald followed by Tollite Hostia accompanied by a recording of Christmas bells ringing somewhere in Europe.

My family (with all five kids) survived the Mass without any meltdowns.

This was the best Christmas Mass I have been a part of in about seven years.

St. Elizabeth of Cayce

-5 PM Vigil and 11 AM Christmas Day Mass at "small university parish in a southern capital city."
-Midnight at "Mother Church" in same area, so I got to hear from Matthew, Luke and John this weekend.

As one of the volunteer musicians in our Parish, I sang at 5 PM and 11 AM Masses here. On Christmas Eve, the larger choir (with multiple guitars, keyboard, & flute) came to the 7 PM Mass, so we had a smaller ensemble here at 5 PM. Musicians were 2 guitars, trumpet, keyboards and vocals by soprano, alto and contralto.

I've sung for many years in far larger churches with professional choir directors and large numbers of professional-caliber instrumentalists, so I can understand the longing for more "exalted" music that is often expressed in comments to this blog, especially for those who strongly dislike the folk/guitar style. I would just like to add that, unless some of those disgruntled folks volunteer to play and or sing or direct, it might be nice to "cut some slack" to those who do try and offer musical leadership as we all lift our voices to praise God.

That having been said, we did lots of carols at the Masses in our Parish, not for lack of any other resources, but because it's Christmas, folks! We've got a pretty loose group of musicians here, so folks who show up get to sing. I don't know how the vocal balances were at either Mass, but Fr. seemed to appreciate having folks showing up to sing, including his special request of Mary, Did You Know?

Sunday AM we began to think that there might just be two of us in the "choir" until a couple more guys showed up and agreed to sing. We had 2 tenors (one on the 12 string) and one bass, with all the guys mostly covering melody, and me, the alto. The smaller, mostly international crowd (over 50% from India) sang along enthusiastially and one young lady came up afterwards and offered to join us next Sunday.

Of course, Midnight Mass in the cathedral-sized church with the processing choir, professional organist, cantors, etc., was truly glorious and I'm so glad I went. I'm used to helping lead music, so it was quite interesting that I found myself seated directly behind a large pillar, so that my vocals bounced back directly to me, and could be heard by no one else. I couldn't help but think that, for once, I was singing only to God. What a great "audience" for Christmas!

Interesting final note: Amy's piece in the NRO made an impression on our Padre, who used it in both of the homilies I attended.

Ed

Western Suburbs of Chicago
8:30 A.M. Mass

Went to the earliest Mass on Christmas morning, thinking it would be lightly attended. WRONG ! Was still able to find a place without much trouble.

In order of things I try to pay the most attention to ( chronological sequence not meant ) are the Consecration, the Gospel, the homily, and readings. I only pay attention to the music in a perfunctory way, since most of it should be consigned to oblivion. The use of Christmas carols or hymns relieved the need to ignore the music. Musical highpoint was the solo singing of "O Holy Night" by a lady who had a very good voice, rather operatic. That's not a slam but a compliment, since there are high notes which are difficult to manage. Interestingly, the soloist bore a passing resemblance to Margaret Thatcher, the former British PM.

Stacey

Midnight Mass, somewhere in the Diocese of Savannah, GA:
There were some good things about Mass last night, one of which was incense. Unfortunately, only on the procession in. After that, I think it hung over in the corner for the rest of Mass. And most of the music was traditional Christmas music, for which I was extremely grateful. Yes, carols, but at least not the usual OCP stand-bys we have.

However, there were two things that I wasn't happy about. One was the final song sung by the choir before Mass. (Apparently, they were doing some sort of concert...I suppose they would say that they were leading folks in carols, but nobody else seemed to be singing.) Actually, the choir did backup on this song, since it was primarily a solo by one choir member, who left his spot with the choir and stood down (yes, down--the floor slopes) by the steps to the altar facing the congregation for his solo: "Mary Did You Know?" To which I answer, well, DUH, the angel told her. But he has a nice voice and so he got a lot of applause when he finished. But not from me. Just call me the grinch.

The other thing was that Fr.'s homily was a bit, well, strange. I do believe that's the first time a priest has ever wished me a Happy Chanukah! But he spent a lot of time talking about Chanukah. Kinda weird.

Mike Hayes

NYC St Paul the Apostle

Went to "Midnight Mass" which was held stupidly at 10PM preceded by a one hour program of Carols which was outstanding by the St Paul's Singers under the direction of their fine director Ms. Anne Holland. While I like the carols beforehand, I'd do away with them if I were the pastor because at least 15 rows of people leave immediately after they are done and mass begins. Funny story --I know a Jewish family that comes and leaves before mass every year.

Some gripes: First off, mass should be at Midnight. It's one of the more identifiable "Catholic" things in the world.

Secondly, the homily given by the administrator (pastor is being replaced by the Paulist General Council soon--no scandal just a transfer)was dreadfully boring and over the head of anyone who doesn't have theological training. Lots of things about the birth of Christ being "awe-some" and "lowly." Much about the "word being present with God because He is God." Saw lots of quizzical faces after that line. Also spoke about St Francis and his reaction to a manger scene (broke down in tears). Made the common mistake of calling the town St Francis is assoicated with as "A sissy" instead of "Ah-cease-ee."

His pacing is the major problem--as the content isn't terrible oftentimes. He reads a line of text like Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day off. Since I was the lector, during the prayer of the faithful I snuck a piece at his text and saw that it was only 2 pages long--but it took him over 15 minutes to read it! Ay-yi-yi. If I'm a first timer, looking to reconnect to the church--I'm never coming to this church again.

Music was outstanding:
Entrance: O Come All Ye Faithful
Gloria: the same O Come all ye faithful parody--which I agree is kinda silly.
Offertory: O Holy Night
Communion: Silent Night and something I can't remember.
Recessional: Joy to the World.

Want to hear how the mass at Ascension in NYC was--as this is quickly becoming the big "young adult" church in Manhattan.

Fred K.

Midnight: Olathe, KS.

Christmas Carols for music. Our pastor reminded us to kneel during the creed (yaa!).

Homily: In communion we encounter Jesus who was laid in the manger. What would you say to Jesus if you could hold Jesus in your arms? Cootchy Coo? How about thank you? When you come up to receive Jesus, tell him thank you (I don't need to hear you say it).

MJ

I am the organist and choir director at a small ethnic parish in northwest PA. For the 5:00 vigil Mass, the choir sang some carols before Mass -- old standbys (God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; Angels We Have Heard on High) and a few not quite as well-known (Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming; Infant Holy, Infant Lowly) -- just singing in unison, but sometimes alternating men and women for variety. We had hoped to do “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” (with the Bach instrumental part on the organ) but didn’t have time, and had to wait to do that this morning. We got together a children’s choir just for Christmas, and they stood at the front of the church and also sang carols after the adults finished. The church was decorated in a subdued but tasteful manner -- two lit trees on the altar, lots of poinsettias, and a beautiful large creche at the side. The processional was “O Come All Ye Faithful.” We sang two verses while the priest and servers processed in, as the youngest child from the choir (who happened to be my daughter!) carried the baby Jesus and laid him in the crib. Then we stopped singing while Father blessed the creche. We continued singing while he incensed the creche and the altar, finishing up the carol with the traditional Latin verse.

We sang the Gloria -- a modern setting, but majestic -- and the OCP Respond and Acclaim setting of the Responsorial Psalm and Alleluia and Gospel Acclamation. The offertory was “Silent Night“, and the Communion hymn was “The First Noel“, these out of deference to the children, who had learned them to sing along with us. I played “O Holy Night” as a Communion meditation. We ended with “Joy to the World“.

The sermon was the (youngish) assistant priest telling us a short version of his life story -- his success at his career, but a longing for something more, which led him to the priesthood. He tied that into the longing that we all feel for Christ, and the true joy that Christ can bring, even though that joy may not be an absence of problems. He also gave invitations to those who were at different stages of what might be called their “faith journey” (although he didn’t use those words -- thank goodness!): those who were coming to church for a once-a-year visit, those who were doubting, etc. It was one of the most moving and perfect sermons I have ever heard, and we are blessed to have sermons like this almost every week.

Musically, I am enjoying this church so much -- a lovely old pipe organ (in need of some repairs, but so much better than most electric ones), and singers who have very good voices, and beautifully moving ethnic music that has opened a whole new world to me. But more than musically, the church and its people have been so good to me. They have given me and my family gifts, and money, and food, and kindness upon kindness ... I thought about myself, my family, and our choir as I was playing that majestic opening hymn -- how the little girl carrying the Baby to the crib had stood, just a few years before, next to the piano in our home, singing that same hymn while I played, and how all of us had been a thousand miles from where we are now. I thought about the changes we have gone through, and the suffering of the past year. I also thought about the suffering our choir members have endured -- cancer, and health problems, and long hospitalizations, and for one, the recent death of his son -- and yet they were all there, singing so well, and being so kind to me, and most of them coming back for the morning Mass to sing again. Amazing.

Domenico Bettinelli

Austin, Texas Midnight Mass

The church itself is a 60s-70s era brick box, but it wasstill decorated beautifully. There were lighted garlands suspended over the sanctuary, radiating out from a central point. Eight Christmas trees, six behind the altar and two up front. The ones of front had icons as ornaments. There was a large creche to one side. And every few pews had a tall candle torchiere thing attached to it.

The hour before Mass was Lessons and Carols (Scripture related to the coming of Christ). Some of the songs were sung by the choir alone, some by the whole congregation, and some were instrumental. A few (mainly the ones sung by all) were traditional carols, while others were less familliar like "Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming" and "Adam lay ybounden."

The end of the lessons and carols moved right into the process for Mass which included eight altar servers--in full get up including white gloves--two acolytes, a handful of deacons, and four priests. There were also two banners, the local Knights of Columbus 4th degree assembly and Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre.

As for the people present, most were decked out in finery, a few came in jeans, some were inexplicably wearing Santa hats, including some men. When did men forget that you don't wear your hat indoors, never mind in church?

We had the full smells and bells for Mass including chanting of the Gospel and the Canon. I was a little surprised, with all the other pomp and finery that they chose Eucharistic Prayer 3 instead of the Roman Canon.

The homily itself was fine, but made me squirm at the beginning. He was trying to tell the salvation story form a different point of view, I guess, to put it in a way that modern ears, some unaccustomed to church talk, would get. But he lost me when he said that maybe God created the universe because he was bored or lonely. Um yeah, God can't be lonely because he's a Trinity, a complete family. Neither can he be bored.

That was really the only downside to it. It was very good otherwise.

Didn't get home until about 2 am. Long night.

Darren Norton

4:00 - Family Mass, Christmas Eve
St. Mark Parish, Richmond, KY - www.stmark-richmond.org.

Arrived with my family at 3:30, hoping to sit with my parents and my brother and family, but the seating in the santuary was already limited.

My wife commented on the extensive number of small votive candles around the church. When I noticed, it was a beautiful sight. Father Jim mentioned in previous weeks that this would be a "family" Mass, in that the families of the parish would partcipate.

The servers were a father, mother and college son. The Gifts were brought up by a family I didn't know.

My brother (who is coming to Mass more and more lately) commented on our Liturgical Director, Dennis Cornell and what a great job he does during Mass.

We are very fortunate to have an excellent homilist in Father Sichko, and a Liturgical Director who, in escorting the lectors to the Word, and assisting the servers in their service to Father, gives the Mass a feel of extreme importance and reverance.

Father's homily was centered on, of course, the Christ Child. It was very enthusiastic and well-delivered. He did invite families to begin a tradition his family practiced when he was a boy - one of visiting the Nativity in the Church after Christmas Mass and looking a Baby Jesus. It was nice after Mass to see my three kiddos slip away and kneel in front of the Nativity for a short prayer - especially considering we were on our way to my in-laws where we would begin the festivities of the next 36 hours.

The songs were mostly Carols with a soloist singing "Mary, Did You Know" during the Eucharist. Normally she is very good, but this effort left me only smiling politely.

There was a full High Mass at midnight and a Christmas Morning Mass today at 9:00 am.

Very enjoyable - as is Mass almost every Sunday and Wednesday morning.

If you are ever in the area, please stop in, or visit my blog - mycatholicreflections.blogspot.com as I reflect on what goes on at St. Mark and in my own growth as a Catholic spiritually, intelectually, and politically.

Have Merry Christmas as we continue to celebrate to the Epiphany!

Augustine

Vigil Mass
Austin, TX

I really like our pastor, he's very orthodox and reaches out to the parishioners whenever he can, including at Mass.

From the post above, I wonder if the wonderful Bp. Aymond instructed something about reaching out to the "Christmas Catholics", for he changed his style and thanked them for their presence.

His homily was good in contents, as usual, but the form suffered a bit, as my wife stated, due to the accommodating style.

We were expecting a more special Mass, but it wasn't that much different from a normal Sunday Mass. In years past, the pomp and circumstance of the Vigil Mass rivaled that of the Midnight Mass under the previous pastor. Yet it still touched my heart through the carols and for my having received the sacrament of Confession just before Mass, hopefully inspiring "Christmas Catholics" to come back to this wonderful sacrament, as the priest reminded briefly in his homily.

Gob bless.

Mary

Anchorage, AK: Homeless shelter

My husband, sister and I, along with a nun were the singers. We brought along two guitars and our voices. We sang O Come All Ye Faithful, the Gloria to the tune of Angels We Have Heard on High, Silent Night for Communion, and ending with Joy to the World.

I love celebrating Christmas mass at the homeless shelter because it is simple. The residents of the shelter packed in for the mass, more than I have ever seen before. The wealthy benefactors, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, sat next to them.

With all the chaos of Christmas shopping and prepping for family dinners, the shelter always reminds me that Jesus was born in similar circumstances.

Tracy Fennell

Santa Cruz, Buda TX, Midnight Mass

Church was decorated nicely, though somewhat subdued. Poinsettias and Christmas trees were the order of the day. Christmas carols were sung, including a very nice rendition of, oh, I'm having a brain fart...the song that goes, "heaaar the angels voicesssss". A nice baritone singer. Father Deane's homily was about the mystery of the Incarnation, and used a prop, a real live baby from the front row pew, asking us to imagine God like this small child, and how powerful and fearful is Holy Innocence. He also remarked at how Christmastide was his favorite season, but being from Ireland he always feels a little lonesome, and has a heavy heart and asked for prayers for his comatose sister and brother(also a priest) who is suffering from Parkinson's. Being the cantankerous old Irish priest he is, also related a story to answering the phone earlier in the afternoon and the caller was expecting a recording of Mass times in the next town over....they were surprised they got him, and he said he's "the best recording they'll get!" and said if not for his Christmas cheer, would normally have told them to go to hell! No kidding! LMAO.

Tracy Fennell

Upon reading the other Diocese of Austin comments, I too can add that Fr. Deane did call out the C&E Catholics, in his infant meditation, and in other places, to come to the Child, come to Confession, take Communion often, etc. Must be something to that...

Mary Kay

But Amy.... I've waited FOUR WEEKS to sing Christmas carols! It's one of the joys of Christmas for me that after 4 weeks of Advent music, to be able to belt out Christmas carols.

From a normally Dissidentville parish, the homily was gleaned from Christmas homilies of...I want to say St. Augustine, but brain fade has kicked in. Theme was reversals, coming as a baby etc.

I sing in the choir and we did a half hour of music before "Midnight Mass" which started at 11. Hodie Christus Natus Est, O Little Town of Bethlehem, There is No Rose, O Come All Ye Faithful (firt verse in Latin which surprised me), Silent Night, Mass of Creation, How Beautiful are the Feet (a selection from Handel's Messiah), Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Angels from the Realms of Glory and Joy to the World. All very nice up til that point. However after Mass, there was what sounded to me like an avante garde (spelling?) rendition of secular Christmas music that reminded me that I was indeed still in Dissidentville.

Ellen

Our almost 150 year old church is being renovated so we were in the parish hall. We couldn't put up the large creche, so we had several small ones around the room with poinsettas and candles. Very pretty!

I went to the 8:00 am Christmas Mass. It was not very crowded since most people go to the Christmas Eve and Midnight Mass. Choir was guitar, mandolin and tambourine (shudder)!
Christmas carols were fun to sing but I HATE the political correctness version of Hark the Herald Angels and Joy to the World. Also, the closing hymn was Go Tell It On The Mountain with tambourine and was lame in the extreme.

The sermon was focused on the character of the landlord at the inn in Bethlehem. Although he had no rooms, he gave this tired pregnant woman and her husband the only thing he had - a place in a stable. We are like the innkeeper, if we give what we have with love, it will be enough. It was an excellent sermon and made up for the lame music.

Dale

I attended the 8pm Christmas (Eve) Mass at St Augustine's Parish, Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia (part of the Lismore Diocese).

It's summer here in Australia and the temperature at the 8pm Mass was over 30 degrees (86 degrees Fahrenheit). Our city, Coffs Harbour, is a popular holiday destination so most Masses are standing room only and filled with many people from different places throughout Australia, and often visitors from overseas.

The music at this Mass was provided by our eclectic 'orchestra' incl. an organ, acoustic and electric guitars, violin, banjo, clarinet, etc. It was a combination of Christmas carols and other hymns that had a Christmas theme. Three Sudanese teenagers sung a reflection song after communion.

The homily had a theme of Jesus being born into humanity, one of us, and how we can meet him regularly throughout the year. Well, this was the main theme I came away with, there was more too it of course!

Merry Christmas.

JTII

Philadelphia, PA
7:00pm Saturday Vigil

This was one of the most beautiful Christmas services that I have attended at my parish in the past 9 years since I have lived in Philadelphia.

Our parochial vicar's homily emphasized the fact that Christmas is not an end to itself - it is a beginning. He mentioned how in the rush of the past week he had caught himself thinking "I can't wait until this is over on Sunday!" Then he realized how wrong that was in so many ways. Not the least of which was overlooking the beginnings of the new life that Christ brought to us with His birth.

We had carols, beautiful traditional carols, and the organist's daughter accompanied the music with a violin that was skillfully played.

When our pastor spoke at the end of the Mass thanking all of those members who had made the beautiful service possible, there was rousing applause especially for the music.

The heartbreaking part was the fact that it was the most sparsely attended Christmas Eve service that I have seen in this parish.

John Henry

Archdiocese of Philadelphia, western suburbs. It was a chilly morning, as we dragged our sleep-deprived and blurry-eyed selves to the 7:30 am Mass. Expecting larger crowds than the usual fare, the place was quiter than usual. The 7:30 was chosen because 1) we had to be in New Jersey pretty early for the family festivities, and 2) because it is the Mass where there is *no* music. Don't get me wrong, we love music, especially carols and the like, but we knew we would not get to sing them at our parish. We knew we would get the standard Haugen-Haas shyte, so we chose...nothing. We chose...no aggravation on Christmas. Not today.

Homily was delivered by our tired-and-ready-to-retire Pastor, and not by our young-orthodox-and-dynamic-young'un. Homily was very forgettable, so much so that I can't remember it. Something like, "Kids love gifts, Jesus is a gift."

Praying at the Nativity post-Mass, we got our picture taken with Pastor. Good man. Just tired.

Michael Tinkler

Mass of Christmas DAY
Geneva, NY, St. Stephen's

From the Parish that the 80s forgot I got 4 solid carols, so I'm happy!

The creche was smallish and over in the north transept, so it wouldn't have done much for the small people.

The sermon was surprising -- the main text was Peggy Lee's "Is that all there is," balanced with Groundhog Day -- Fr. is not usually so interested in pop culture, but he made it work: do you say after the last present is over, after the last guest has been bundled out the door, "is that all there is?" I guess he prepared us for this in the opening prayer, where there was something about Jesus not coming in glory but coming in humility; it would've gone better with the reading for the Mass of the Shepherds than all the theological wonderment of Hebrews and the opening of John's Gospel. YOW those are a great set of readings and prayers!

Flo

Bavaria, Germany

10pm Mass, six altarservers (two candlebearers, two for incense)

Homily, based on current theme of a major catholic christmas charity collection. Connecting spiritual and material need.

Mass was chanted in latin (nothing too unusal, we do it one sunday a month)

Music great, traditional Christmas carols, some choir sung, usually accompanied by organ, two also by trompete, one by oboe. During communion violin and organ piece from Bach's Christmas oratory.

jane

We went to a Christmas morning mass. The priest who celebrated mass visits on holidays and in the summer to help out. Otherwise he ia heretical professor at a mid-Atlantic Catholic college. His homily was depressing and very political, he tends to lean left of Howard Dean.

The music was rowdy. We have a new organ and the music director treats it like a teenager driving a porche. Not a good combination.

However, being with our children at mass is a grace unto itself. The Lord is faithful. I see our parish in general striving to take serious their faith. Hope for the future.

Peace to all!

Barb Szyszkiewicz, sfo

St. Peter's Church, Riverside, NJ (near Philadelphia)
We like smells and bells in our parish! The altar servers were busy with both.
Our transitional deacon preached on how baby Jesus is often depicted in art with open arms, to welcome us all, and how He came to a world much like our own--because God loves us. He invited those who aren't regular churchgoers to resume the practice in the coming year, and those who are--to deepen their own faith in other ways.
There were 3 musicians, after a big "musical politics mess"....one on keyboard, one cantor and myself as guitar and alto harmony. Except for prelude (chosen by me) and Lord's Prayer (chosen by Father) the rest of the music was selected by the music director
Prelude before Mass: "This Baby King" by Doreen Partyka Colletti
"O Come All Ye Faithful"
Mass of Creation Gloria
Psalm from Respond & Acclaim
Gospel Acclamation from Mass of God's Promise, with Christmas verse
"Silent Night"
Mass of Creation mass parts (incl. Lamb of God)
Lord's Prayer, I think by Malotte--that can't possibly be a liturgically correct way to do this, but Father insisted on this one
"Away in a Manger"
"Holy is Your Name" by Haas
"Joy to the World"

Decor: a lovely big manager scene on one side, almost big enough for kids to climb right into it! Many families were seen stopping by the manger after Mass (hooray!)
Christmas trees in the back flanking the Tabernacle as well as on each side of the altar (BAD idea--the musicians can't see Father!)
Every candle in the place was lit.
Wreaths and swags, lit up, along the sides and back of the church.

Ronald Van Wegen

St Aloysius
Melbourne Australia
Midnight Mass
Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter - The "Latin" Mass (not the schismatics).
Heaven on Earth (again)
Gregorian chant,
Polyphonic Hymns sung by highly trained small choir.
Incense.
Candles.
The works.
Beautiful.
The Holy Father could have walked in and felt completely at home.
I'm blessed.

+veritas+

Mass: Christmas Midnight Mass
Where: St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
Main Celebrant: His Holiness Benedict XVI
Music: Sistine Chapel Choir

'Nuff said. :)

Check out my blog (click my name below) for pictures!

Gen X Revert

Amityville - I was at the same 8PM Mass as Mary above. The music is incredibly good - the music director gathers an orchestra (!) and choral singers in addition to the parish choir. O Holy Night was excellent, the Gloria is sung in latin, and the last hymn was the Hallelujah Chorus. The music is better than any I have ever heard at any parish, but it sometimes was too theatrical. I would have preferred a simple, chanted Agnus Dei, but a soprano did a long version. The Mass was almost 2 hours. There was lots of incense and Eucharistic Prayer I. The homily was good, about focusing on 3 things in the creche scene - the wise men, the humble manger, and one other thing I forgot.

Meggan

Pax Christi parish
Lexington, KY

I don't remember specifics from the homily, although it was good as always.

I don't remember specifically what music we sang (except that we ended with the traditional and always uplifting Joy to the World). But I remember that the music was fine.

Our very bare church always looks good during Christmas and Easter because it's a blank canvas that can be really dressed up.

I really was awake during the Christmas eve mass. I don't remember the specifics because it was not out of the ordinary. I remember being irritated by a couple of things, but they don't matter at all because the best thing was the mass itself. Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ with my fellow Catholics. Being with my family and friends. Worshiping Jesus Christ.
Genuflecting at the words in the creed: "...conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary he became man...," Offering the Blood of Christ to my fellow Catholics (I was an Extraordinary Minister that night)...

It was a good night.

Father Ethan

I did the 6 pm Christmas Vigil and the 10 am Christmas during the Day. Both Masses were nice. The Pastor did the Midnight (Idid it the last two years). I think next year I will organize the servers and have more of them so we can do more smells and bells. My homily was ok. The problem with Christmas is that you have to have a different homily for every Mass, however, the theme remained the same. The Church was beautiful, but we don't have a creche inside the Church. I should bring that up.

Saying Mass on Christmas this year was hard because I just "lost" the tip of my right index finger closing a safe on tuesday and the entire finger is wrapped in a bandage. It just made everything harder, including typing this post.

Merry Christams Amy!

Lee Podles

St Leon de Westmount, Montreal 10:30 AM (or thereabouts; there is a latin attitide toward punctuality here).

The French can be charming and inventive (the two do not always go together).

However, all in all very well done.

The large, almost life size, crèche occupied the sanctuary in front of the altar. The child was placed on an large, open Bible (Et verbum caro factum est).

The church has a small choir which does excellent modern versions of the proper (The church has a strong association with Early Music groups, which shows even in the modern compositions).

The choir sang traditional noels, including my favorite, Il est ne, le devin enfant (Il est beau, il est charmant) and the organist let loose with a rousing Daquin Noel number 10.

My French is a little wobbly, but the sermon was pleasing.

But: at least in Montreal, the French don’t sing any more than Americans sing, which is a great shame, since there are wonderful hymns and noels.

And the Canadian Church (French and English) almost never uses the Nicene Creed, even at Christmas; The Apostles Creed was printed in the official booklet, Prions. I don’t know whether it is ideological (that maudit word homme, man) or a preference for brevity (a traditional vice or characteristic of the Roman liturgy, depending on your taste). Any Canadians out there know?

Mike Walsh, MM

Mass of the day. Mass began with the placing of the child in the creche, in a procession followed by the crucifix --a juxtaposition I pointed out as illustrating the meaning of the feast.

I preached (about 5-6 min.)on the Incarnation. NB: I write out the full text and read it; maybe not the best way to preach, though I do make eye contact, and I don't do 15 minutes of free-association as I have heard elsewhere.

High point: distributing communion, while the choir (children) sang "O, Holy Night" (rather well). Saying "the Body of Christ" over and over again as I watched people come up, one after the other. Observing physical features as they migrate from parent to child, and realizing the stamp of Christ is on them all, too.

Thomas

Homily
Father Paul Ward
Christmas Day, December 25, 2005
St. Joseph, St. Josaphat, and Sweetest Heart of Mary parishes, Detroit, Michigan

And we Saw His Glory, full of Grace and Truth (Jn 1:14)

Do you think the glorious music you hear comes just from mortal men? No, indeed, the angels themselves sing with us this splendid night, for God was born on earth.

In the cold of the night three men huddled around a fire. They were lost, and in the dark they could only think of their failure. They were surrounded by strange beasts, camels and other dromedaries, loaded with rare treasures, such as gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But then their guide appeared again, a star, stronger than ever, and it descended in the valley upon a stable in the outskirts of Bethlehem of Judea, and they rejoiced with great rejoicing. The three kings, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar jumped up, leaving their meal unfinished, for great things of the heavens were afoot, and they had to seize the moment.

In the stable, all was quiet and silent. A marvelous thing had happened: a virgin mother bore a son through a virgin birth. No one was there but Mary and Joseph, two humble souls of the house of David, and with them the animals of the stables, and these were the first since Adam and Eve to see God with the eyes of their flesh. For God had mercy on us, and appeared before men!

Who are you, small baby, lying on the altar of a manger, where animals eat? I am the Word made Flesh, who have pitched my camp among men, even when they do not accept me. I have not come born of blood and flesh, but of the power of the Spirit. I have come to save, you, sinner, from yourself, and to save you from that sin of Adam and Eve which was perpetrated at the dawn of the world. I came to die for my enemies, to save at least some. For I have had mercy on men, and I now dwell among them.

And so it is that he comes among us, he comes in this year, 2005, with our tsunami and our hurricanes, with our conflicts and wars, with our former Pope and our new Pope, with our Year of the Eucharist and the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, with our World Youth Day in Germany, with our developments in technology and our regressions in morality. It is to us he comes this Christmas, really and truly through the liturgy, and he dwells among us.

Who are you, small baby, who spread your arms on the wood of the manger, as one day you will on the wood of the cross? I am the one the world hated, and the world will hate you, too, if you believe in me and follow me.

For the world is full of relativism, where each claims to have his own truth or his own private perception of it. It is a world full of historicism, which claims that I and each of my prophets and apostles never really existed or were imaginary creations of ancient communities. It is a world of rationalism, which rejects trust in God’s revelation. It is a world of skepticism, which rejects trust in the intellect which God gave man. It is a world of pride and disobedience, which I, says this baby, will save by my humility and obedience. It is a world full of the sins of the flesh, and a world which I intend to save by the sacrifice of my flesh on the cross.

Who are you, small baby, who proclaim such Truths even in your silence? And his mother speaks to us, “Do whatever he tells you.” Give gifts to one another, not just of dolls and video games and household items and gift cards. Give gifts of joy, and let your spirit be filled with tremendous interior silence and prayer. For the Lord commands us to a life of humility and a life of charity. Let us put aside our petty squabbles, let us be greater than small irritations, let us not loose ourselves in a cup of tea thinking it’s a stormy ocean. Let us serve one another. Let us serve the Church, and dedicate real time, time on the clock, to work at the service of the Church and of the parish. Let us really do what he tells us, for he is Christ the Lord, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, and he has come to dwell among us, as an example, as a sacrifice, as our redemption.

The light appeared in the sky, and the three Kings sped with haste to find the King of the Jews, indeed, the King of Heaven and Earth. The light was their guide, and the darkness had ended. Even in our sky, the days are now becoming longer and longer, a couple minutes each day. For the light comes into the world, the Light that illumines all men, this day. God has come into the world, and dwelt among men, and still does through the Holy Eucharist.

Let us live in the light, with faith in God’s revelation, with hope in God’s promises, with love for one another, with love for Mary and love for Jesus her divine son, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, King of Kings, born in a manger. And with the angels we sing, Glory to God in the Highest, and peace on earth to men of good will. Amen.

Epovick

Joliet, Illinois 6:00 p.m. Christmas Eve

Church was full but not overflowing.

Good: beautifully decorated church, traditional Christmas hymns, reverent Mass

Bad: altar servers wore street clothes. One well-endowed server wore a sleazy dress.

Gashwin

Midnight Mass, Cathedral
Macau, China

Incredibly crowded (we were sitting on the floor at a side altar) The congregation was largely Chinese, with a smattering of foreigners (several Indians), dressed to the hilt. Several had cameras and were taking pictures as Mass started (but thankfully, stopped after it started). The most annoying thing was (and hardly surprising given their ubiquity in China) the more than occasional cell-phone going off. A lady near us received at least half a dozen text messages during Mass, completely unfazed.

Mass was celebrated by the Bishop, with several concelebrants, in Cantonese. I peeked over the shoulder of the guy in the pew next to me, to follow along in the trilingual booklet (Cantonese, Portuguese, English) that were in very short supply. The first reading was in Cantonese, the second in Portuguese. The Bishop's homily was in Cantonese, Portuguese and English, relatively short (given the repetition, no doubt): the child that is born brings peace, justice, obedience and truth to a world that sorely needs it.

During the Gloria, a priest processed with altar servers to the creche towards the back of the nave to blace the infant Jesus in it. (At the recessional, the Bishop processed back there and incensed the creche. The infant was carried out in procession.)

The choir was fantastic: several familiar carols (all in Cantonese), with a Gregorian Kyrie, a really beautiful Alleluia, and Adeste Fideles (in Latin) as the recessional. I didn't recognize the rest of the music.

This is the first time I've been somewhere where the GIRM's suggestion, that the Creed be learnt and prayed in Latin, in a slightly complicated Gregorian melody. It didn't seem like anyone really participated, and I wonder whether this is the best text to start congregational Latin participation.

Highlight: A heartfelt Alleluia during the Gospel Acclamation. And praying the Creed in Latin.

Sheng dan kuai le! Merry Christmas!

cs

10 Christmas morning
Holy Trinity, Pottstown, PA

This Slovak parish has been supressed, and the sucessor pastor has 10am Mass each Sunday. House was 3/4 full, Five person choir beautiful. Slovak hymn singing before Mass, entrance Adestes Fidelis, long Gloria, Silent Night in Slovak, recessional Joy to the World. Smells and Bells. Pastor welcomed everyone from out of town. His homily juxtaposed the wood of the manger with the wood of the cross. It did feel like Christmas.

dymphna

Midnight Mass, St. Rita's in Virginia

Mass was lovely. We had one altar boy, one seminarian and both priests. Before Mass the organist, trumpter and the ladies of the choir sang carols. Nothing secular and nothing written after 1818 snd best of all, they were corraled in the choir loft so this didn't turn into a show. The soprano who sang the history of Jesus' birth completely blew it but she was trying hard so I won't mock her.

The church was very beautiful. Somebody at that chuch has a eye for design. We had one huge tree behind the altar and a bunch of little trees behind the creche.
Before Mass the cantor directed all the non Catholics to look at the instruction booklet. The homily was great : pomp and parties and even showing up at Mass are useless unless you actually obey Jesus and allow Him to train you into the person He wants.

At communion the ushers stood and discreetly let a few people know that you consume the Host and it's not a Christmas keepsake.
I was satisfied.

cs

Amy,

No kneeling at the Incarnation's mention in the Creed, though I out of habit made a reverent bow, before realizing that this is one one two days that we kneel.

Sigh.

Wodamark

St. Joseph, Macon GA. Savannah Diocese
http://www.stjosephmacon.com/cms/

6:00 PM Vigil Mass – it was full with some standing (550). One of the six Masses.
Parochial Vicar with Monsignor (retired) co-celebrating
6 altar servers and a deacon
Children’s choir and pipe organ
Full smells and bells

Short homily (reminding us that the birth of Christ was real and not some nice story) followed by a children’s pageant with 30 children acting it out (my daughter was the ox) and narrated by a 6th grader – the Annunciation through the 3 Kings departing.

What a blessing.

Camilo

I went to 9 PM Mass at the local Carmelite Nuns Monastery, in Santiago, Chile. I arrived late, in the middle of the homily (there was incense in the air); I almost couldn't hear the priest preaching because of the awful sound system of the church, (which by the way is very little and beautiful!). The nuns attend Mass in a special room, behind bars, in the right side of the sanctuary. They sing... like only a choir of cloistered nuns can sing. It sounds like the choirs of the Angels but without the angelic majesty. (And they sing the Gloria, the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei and the Pater noster in latin). There was kneeling in the Creed (the priest told us to do it).

(Totally different to my parish. There you got noisy, non-reverent, "us"-directed, stuck-in-the-sixties guitar music. And, needless to say, a wide amount of liturgical abuses. Seems like liturgical crisis is not US-only)

 Other Marc

Central MN. ALso went to the traditional German parish which is also very beautiful and also very well-kept also out of great pride despite great expense. (gotta love the Germans!) We stood at the back despite getting there 30 minutes early! My sons have been learning Latin, so they were very excited to be able to sing Adeste Fidelis even though there were no hymnals left. (Amy-that's one bonus of having Christmas carols-everyone knows the first verse at least)

Great homily about the humility and smallness of Christ-sprinkled with many pleas for C+E'ers to continue to experience this joy by coming back next week. Oh yeah, incense and genuflecting at the Creed. Gotta love the Germans!

Cindy

Midnight Mass, St. Ignatius of Loyoloa, Chestnut Hill, MA

Mass preluded with 45 minutes of music, full choir, organ, the works. It also featured dacncers from a dancer's Christmas which was written by Father Bob.

Prelude Music: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Personent Hodie
O Jesu Sweet Child
The First Noel
A Boy Was Born
Low How a Rose E'er Blooming
Infant Holy, Infant Lowly
O Little Town of Bethlehem
O Holy Night

This then led into O Come All Ye Faithfull which was the processional hymn complete with the dancers leading, and then all who followed carrying candles into the still darkened Church.

The rest of the Mass went on as normally, and all of the songs that were sung later on were carols (Angels we Have Heard on High, It Came up on a Midnight Clear, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night, Joy to the World-recessional)

As far as the homily goes it was very meaningful as well, at the time, but the fact that at that point it was close to 1am, I am not sure I can recall much of it! The church usually posts the homily of the week so I can recall it later once it has been uploaded.
The entire thing was very beautiful and moving. I feel very blessed to be able to have been there.

As far as whether or not there was incense during the Creed, there may have been, but it was hard to see from where I was (too short!) and there was no kneeling.

Michael Tinkler

Kneeling? Incense? Hah!
(though we DID have incense at the last mass of the semester on campus for the students, but that was at THEIR insistance).

Stephen Joseph

Zurich, Switzerland

On Christmas Eve, we attended a children's service at the French Catholic Mission. There were about 20 young children accompanied by their parents. We started out in a classroom where a teacher read a short story about a donkey who made the journey to Bethlehem. All the other animals discouraged him and ridiculed him - why would the Savior care about a stupid, little donkey? But he made the trip, with all of the challenges, and when he arrived, the baby Jesus smiled at him.

We then made a our way to the church by a passage lit only by candlelight. The priest explained to the children (and parents) that we were also making a pilgrimage to Bethlehem to pay homage to Jesus.

We entered the church, which was lit only by candles. There on the alter was a statue of baby Jesus in a crib lined with hay. The priest read from the Gospel of St. Luke. We sang a few Christmas carols and then the priest encouraged the children to approach Jesus and welcome him to the world. The priest made the point that Jesus came for everyone. Everyone, no matter how small or insignificant, is called to approach Jesus.

This was a very moving and effective way to convey the meaning of the day to our children, even though they do not speak French.

Christmas Day: 11:30 a.m. Mass at Liebfrauen Kirche, Zurich

This was one of the most beautiful Masses we've ever attended. Mozart, Missa in C KV 220, Gregorian Chant, lots of Latin mixed in with the German.

The church was packed. The Swiss are pretty funny about saving spaces in the pews for tardy family members and friends - sort of like the "dibs" scenario regarding parking spaces in Chicago after it snows. Lots of nasty looks and "un-Christian" comments. Entertaining, though. Fortunately, we arrived early.

Nothing special about the homily. Christ has come into the world . . . God took the form of a something as weak and defenseless as a baby . . . our hearts and lives should thus be filled with joy . . . we need to bring that joy to a cold, disbelieving heart.

Again, one of the most touching aspects of Mass in Switzerland is this song of Thanksgiving before the closing prayer. This time it was "Silent Night" and EVERYONE sang. Just beautiful. Then after the closing prayer, everyone sticks around as the organist belted out another hymn. Some folks kneeled and prayed and others just sat in their pews and others struggled to get the coats on their 4 young children.

After Mass, people congregated in the back of the church and outside, exchanging greetings etc.

Just a beautiful Christmas Day experience all around. We felt that this Mass, combined with the Christmas Eve children's service, was the perfect for us to celebrate the birth of our Lord.

Again, one thing that impresses me about these traditional churches is that everything about them teaches the faith. During Mass, our children would ask us questions about the paintings and statues that surrounded us. Many wonderful teaching moments.

Mark Judge

The priest at the 10:30 Christmas mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., led the congregation in a version of "Happy Birthday Dear Jesus." The couple in front of me got up and left. Is this normal? The singing "Happy Birthday" I mean, not the leaving.

Anna B

Attended 9:30 Christmas day family Mass in Stockholm, Sweden with husband, big boy (5) and twins (2 1/2).

I didnt hear much as the twin I was responsible for became difficult. He was very upset that he wasnt allowed to walk up to the creche which was placed right in front of the altar. I was going to carry him into the crying room when we discovered another creche on the right side of the church which interested him through the readings! After that we had to leave and heard the beginning of the "homily" in the crying room (where one can hear Mass, but not see anything). The well behaved children were invited to sit in front of the creche by the altar and a lady talked about the figures and told some story about the shepherds being happy about seeing baby Jesus as he was also going to be a sort of shepherd when he grew up. I missed most of it as twin had to be taken to the bathroom. After we came back, twin screamed for Daddy and we switched twins. My "new" twin continued to behave well, so I could stay in the pew till the end of Our Father, when she had to be taken to the bathroom. I got back to receive communion, with some difficulty as twin girl hates to be carried and refuses to hold hands while walking (its not possible for one parent to stay with both of them). For the closing hymn, the whole family was together in the pew for the first time since the beginning of the Mass. The twins obviously enjoyed the Swedish early 19th century Christmas hymn (Var hälsad sköna morgonstund) and the beautiful organ music, for when it ended they called out with loud voices: "Bravo! Bravo!"
Big boy never causes any trouble regarding Mass with the exception of always bugging us for not going "as a family" (last time we went all five was Easter). I think he wont bring that up for a while.

Caroline

I was distracted by what I heard read from the Gospel book.. That Joseph went with Mary his "betrothed" to Bethlehem. I aways thought they were married by this time and that Joseph had followed his instructions from the angel before the Nativity.

Beth

Midnight Mass
St. Patrick
Columbus OH

Once again I'm reminded of how blessed I am to have found this parish as I prayerfully consider swimming the Tiber.

Packed, but not so bad that it was uncomfortable, at least for those of us in the front 1/3 of the church. (We got there 45 minutes early, and ended up in the middle, so people had to "climb around" me. Sorry!)

Incense, wonderful music (choir + strings + brass -- mostly carols I knew but can't remember,) beautiful church overflowing with poinsettas. The creche is HUGE, and very realistic -- lots of people stayed after to pray in front of it or in front of Mary, who was all decked out for the season!

The homily was simple and approachable, about how we are used in our society to being able to have everything *exactly* as we want it, and for things to go according to our specific plans, even in asking for Christmas gifts. But that's not how Jesus came into the world, and we got a different kind of gift than we would have asked for. Explicit mention that today we should genufluct at the mention of the Incarnation. I wouldn't have known to do so otherwise, but I bet most of the congregation would!

midwestmom

I KNEW I'd be able to come here to vent! Thanks Amy!

Dateline: Northwest Iowa. The homily was something about how everyone presumes that the Fallen-aways don't really believe anymore but they actually do and aren't they all just so wonderful for that. No mention of Christ whatsoever.

The music was done by two high school girls who have never played for a Mass before. One was on the electronic keyboard (piano setting) and the other played the trumpet. A few other girls joined in for the singing. They sounded okay but their lack of experience killed them. There were no introductions to the songs so for two or more there was no one singing for the first line of the song. Silent Night was pitched so high as to be unsingable. Their self-esteem (no practice) smothered their good sense.

No kneeling during the Creed. No incense. Oh, and no hosts and wine set out before Mass in the vessels so at one point the priest and both servers were nowhere to be seen. They were all in the sacristy doing what they should have done before Mass.

Earlier in the week, while decorating the church, I left the priest a note next to a filthy corporal that had been on the altar since April 2004 that I had put there before confirmation. I suggested maybe he have the lady who washes the other altar linens also replace the corporal weekly. She saw my note and responded that in her ten years of cleaning the church she has never done that!

After Mass I talked to the priest saying that I wasn't blaming her but that it was disgusting to see how filthy it was. He said, "I don't notice those kinds of things." It was stained with the Precious Blood, wax, candle soot, etc. How could he not notice?

We were - overall - embarrassed by our Christmas Eve Mass.

Dan

Where: Ft. Wayne, IN

We went to 5pm Christmas Eve Mass early because caroling began around 4:30. The church was decorated tastefully, not overly done, with white lights in a tall, thin evergreen, several wreaths and a manger scene in the lobby.

We did have incense (a lot of it) and we did genuflect and stay down at the mention of the incarnation. The priest also processed with the Word raised high, flanked by a cadre of alter boys and the Knights of Columbus in full regalia, up and down every aisle with incense going before him. Our priest instructed us in this before hand. At this particular Mass, the children came forward and our priest discussed The Chronicals of Narnia and the power and attraction of the White Witch. He spoke of the Deeper Magic of sacrafice and of God becoming Man. A little girl then carried a model baby Jesus out from the alter to the manger followed by the priest dowsing everything and everyone with holy water off an evergreen branch. I was pleased to have all my kids home and to have them sit pleasently through two hours in a pew.

B Knotts

Our parish mission church
Western Washington
Beloved 80+ year-old Holy Cross priest, who offers most of our "special day" Masses
Christmas morning Mass

Attendence was a bit low...about 2/3rds of our normal Sunday crowd.

The priest focused on how God, rather than use his omnipotence to kind of strong-arm us into accepting Him, He used instead the ultimate humbling...becoming one of us...to show His complete love for us, in a way we could truly understand.

Our deacon reminded everyone that we would be kneeling during the creed today, so no problems occurred with that.

LC

Midnight Mass,
Diocese of Greensburg, PA

The priest (our pastor) started off by chanting the Proclamation of the Birth of Christ, which I wait to hear all during Advent. Hymns were some standard carols -- O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, etc. I have to echo the sentiments of someone above, who said she waits 4 weeks to be able to sing Christmas carols. I go to great lengths to avoid hearing any Christmas music at all during Advent, so the arrival of the carols is wonderful, and really it's the only time all year that most of the people join in singing.

The closing hymn was Joy to the World for two verses, and then our large and gifted choir segued into singing the entire Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah. Our choir is amazing, and we are blessed to have them. They also sang a half-hour program of carols before Mass began, but those were not the run-of-the-mill Christmas carols at all. I actually had never heard any of the songs before before, save for one, although they all sounded fantastic.

Yes, we knelt during the mention of the Incarnation during the Creed -- well, Father tried anyway. Most of the people listened to his brief instruction to do so and then proceeded to ignore it when they said the Creed. :) There was a lot of incense used during Mass, and we have bells during the consecration every week.

I like that our pastor is just willing to let the liturgy be as long as it is on any given day. He's not rushing through it, nor is he ponderously slow and showy. He never does a Sunday Mass that's less than an hour, and this Midnight Mass was about 90 minutes.

Father's homily was pretty good -- about how we have to be careful not to "separate the mystery of Christ," meaning not to isolate the Incarnation from the Crucifixion and the Resurrection and Ascenion, etc. He's not a very gifted preacher in terms of style, but his homilies usually have good points that provide food for thought and prayer.

All in all, it was a lovely celebration of the Nativity.

A blessed Christmas season to you, Amy!

B Knotts

Oh...I forgot to mention.

Incense: Yes
Kneeling during creed: Yes (as mentioned above)

And, as always, we had the sanctus bells. Our pastor introduced them a couple years ago. We also use communion patens. :-)

Music was Christmas carols: "O Come All Ye Faithful", "What Child is This?", "Joy to the World", etc., all sung pretty well.

Normally, parishioners go caroling the week before Christmas, but we were unable to do so this year because of a nasty ice storm.

Patrick Kinsale

Manchester MO, Suburb of St. Louis

Father wore a Santa hat in the entrance procession. I made a mental note to rip up my checks if he did not take it off. He took it off when he got to the sanctuary, and made the comment it was as close as he would get to becoming a bishop.

Usual Christmas music, tho I would have liked to end with Joy to the World rather than Go Tell It on the Mountain.

Father's homily was actually pretty good, about ridding ourselves of petty vindictiveness.

Elaine

SF Bay Area, Mass at 7:00 a.m., which I expected to be Mass at Dawn, but we heard the readings for the Mass at Day. Christmas carols, which I love, and the Gloria setting from the Mass of Light. We knelt at the lines in the Creed - the priest had to say 'please kneel' just before them, but we heard and did. I think the homily was good, but I don't remember it now.

Very few people there, I think most go to the Christmas Eve "children's Mass". We didn't feel like dealing with the crowd this year, so opted for the earliest morning Mass instead.

TNP

St. John Neumann
Knoxville, TN

Midnight Mass. Four altar servers (crucifer, thurifer, and acolytes), three priests, one deacon. Out-of-this-world music - and I mean that in a good way.

Homily was by our pastor, the main celebrant. He said that as Catholics we should just now be saying Merry Christmas, since the Christmas season actually begins on Christmas Day. He talked about the tone of voice we use when greeting others, especially those in our own families. Sounds odd here, but it all worked together in a good way.

We are truly blessed in our parish.

Amy Pawlak

We attended the 4:30 Mass at Old St. Mary parish in Downtown Milwaukee.

We arrived at 3:00, as their was going to be a harpist and brief choral concert before Mass and our parish fills up *extremely* fast on Christmas, Easter, and Holy Days.

The church was tastefully decorated. Greenery with red bows adorned the front doors and railings. Inside there were many poinsettias (red and white) around the altar.

On the left side of the altar was the Nativity. The Nativity is surrounded by real pine trees (with a few white lights on them) and poinsettias - it gives the Nativity this very comfortable grotto-type feeling. The statues of the Nativity are lovely, hand-carved. The manger was, of course, without the Infant.

The harpist played a variety of religious carols and did very well for her young age. Then the choral part began. Our organist is competent, but schmaltzy, and can over-arrange pieces or play festive music that doesn't fit in with the Mass (such as "Pomp and Circumstance" in May for graduations or "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" for St. Patrick's Day). Many of the songs were over-arranged, which made singing along difficult, especially for me - I need to find a clear alto voice to follow or I'm all over the place and terribly off key. My husband has a very good voice, a baritone that is regularly complimented by parishoners around us, and that throws me off too.

Then they had the procession of children, dressed as angles, shepherds, and Joseph and Mary for the blessing of the Nativity. There was incense - lots of it - and it warms my heart to see children taking part in the Mass.

Mass proper was in usual Fr. George style: reverent, smooth, and impactful. His homily - about the word being made flesh and the importance of carrying Christ with us throughout the year - was well-written and beautifully delivered. It is sad to think this was his last Christmas with us. He retires in June and will be greatly missed, given that he helped me convert and married us (I was kind of hoping he'd be around for the baptism of our firstborn).

During communion, they choir attempted "O, Holy Night" (my favorite carol) and didn't slaughter it like they did last year. I was impressed.

Mass lasted just over an hour; normal Sunday Mass lasts about 45 minutes (because it is a Downtown parish, Fr. George makes a point to keep his preaching style succinct so Downtowners can get back to work).

Hope everyone had a blessed Christmas and is enjoying the "official" holiday off...

Fr. Rob Johansen

Mark Judge wrote:

The priest at the 10:30 Christmas mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., led the congregation in a version of "Happy Birthday Dear Jesus." The couple in front of me got up and left. Is this normal? The singing "Happy Birthday" I mean, not the leaving.

I can't say whether doing things like singing "Happy Birthday Dear Jesus" is normal at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception these days, but as someone who served Mass at the Shrine and lectored there for several years, and worked in the Music & Liturgy office there as well, I'll say that such a thing would never have happened during the rectorship of Msgr. Michael Bransfield (now bishop of Wheeling, WV).

Gregoire

4:00 Vigil mass (Childrens' Mass) at Marion, OH St. Mary. Kneeling - Yes, Incense - Yes

Not my current parish, but the one I grew up in. It's a beautiful church built in the mid-19th century and restored to it's former glory after being ruined in the mid-1970's by the convicted molester pastor who took all the statues, corpus, kneelers, etc out of the church at that time. It looks great now, though!

Homily was for the kids, though, related to the "family tree" Gospel. had to laugh when the priest referred to a certain ancestry as "eye"-talian, that has become an in-joke amongst my family ;-)

Children's choir was OK, except I've never liked "Go tell it on the Mountain". Oh well!

Church was overfilled, good thing we arrived early!

Dave Pawlak

A few more things to add regarding Christmas Eve Mass at Old St. Mary's in Milwaukee:

No kneeling at the Creed. We did it last year, but that was because the Archbishop was celebrating...

After Mass, the choir broke into "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow" (maybe for the pastor) and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"...

BTW, please excuse my wife's typos. She slept in this morning, and she's not yet fully awake (which is, actually, a constant condition...love you, dear..:-) )

Jimmy Huck

As a visitor in Chesapeake, VA, at St. Therese de Liseux, a regular Christmas service with the standard carols in the midst of cold, gray, rainy morning.

The homily was centered around the theme of breaking the routines of life to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The visits of relatives, the special meals, the breaks from school, the days off from work, etc., ... all routines broken and our normal lives invaded by the birth of Christ. An interesting twist to this theme was Father's mentioning that we long for the routines and that we often get tired of the novelties the holidays bring and look forward to the return of the routine (i.e. when guests go home, when end the anxieties over planning special meals, gift exchanges, maintaining pleasantries in the gathering of perhaps not very familiar family members, etc.). Yet in spite of this yearning for the return to the routine, we can do so with more comfort and hopefulness knowing that the cause of the "disruption" -- the arrival of Jesus in our world -- remains even once the dust settles and in the everyday pace of life resumes.

We were also witness to a Christmas day baptism, though it was handled in an untraditional (and I thought very nice) way with the various elements of the baptismal ceremony spread out all throughout the mass.

No incense or kneeling through the mention of the Incarnation during the Creed, though we were asked to stand throughout the entire communion.

Pontificator

Midnight Mass, Virginia Beach, Virginia

This was my first Christmas as a Catholic, my first Christmas in twenty-five years sitting in a pew, and my first Christmas with my parents in twenty-five years.

My wife and my two youngest children attended the Midnight Mass at a large Virginia Beach parish which had been recommended to us. Alas, it was a very painful experience for us. The large 40+ person choir began its program at 11:30. They began with "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," followed by a several contemporary songs that we did not recognize, the congregation applauding after each one. In the middle of the program they invited the congregation to join with them in singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem," the choir director turning toward the congregation and directing us very exuberantly while singing into the microphone, with the result that we could only hear his voice. The program concluded with a solo "O Holy Night," the soloist belting the piece into the microphone. At a couple of times I had to wince it was so loud.

The Mass began with "O Come, All Ye Faithful," followed by the blessing of the Creche and a reading of Luke 2:1-7. The Mass then continued as normal.

The homily was a recitation, without attribution, of Louis Cassell's "Christmas Parable." The preacher then interpreted the parable as God showing us in the Incarnation how to be human.

The Lord's Prayer was exuberantly sung to a popular tune, the congregation holding hands.

We concluded with a couple of verses of "Joy to the World," with the choir director again directing the congregation, singing into the microphone.

All in all, the Christmas Eve Mass reminded me of the non-denominational Protestant services my parents like to attend. We were very disappointed. It did not feel or sound like Christmas.

KH

St. John the Evangelist
Stamford, CT

(Although we live in NY, we travel the half hour to Stamford because of things like this):


Yes, I am a weenie and didn't do midnight mass, so I took my younger kids to the earlier one which was, as always, rock-solid, no nonsense, beautiful but can't hold a candle - or scores and scores of candles - to what my husband and son got to experience at the midnight mass. My son insisted on serving at midnight mass since the other altar boys told him it was the coolest thing to do; only "real men" who can handle being up that late can do it, so of course he insisted. Since their mass rocked out loud, I'll tell you what their program listed.

A half hour prior, everyone joined the (professional) choir in singing O Lilttle Town of Bethlehem, Angels We Have Heard On High, Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming, Silent Night and interspersed, the choir solo'd It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, La Nativete, and two anonymous 16th c. Spanish pieces, "Riu, riu, chiu" and "Yo me soy".

Processional hymn: O Come, All Ye Faithful
Introit: Dominus dixit ad me Gregorian chant
Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus & Agnus Dei: Missa "O magnum mysterium" - Tomas Luis de Victoria
Psalms and Allelulia, Creed, Offertory all Gregorian Chant

and yes, printed in the program was explicit instructions to kneel during "ET INCARNATUS EST..." and the Creed was written out in Latin with that part in all caps so all would know exactly where it was that they should kneel.

Communion: In spledoribus Gregorian Chant
The Blessed Son of God Ralph Vaugh Williams
Coventry Carol Anonymous 15th c.
Christe, Redemptor omnium Claudio Monteverdi
Balulalow Peter Warlock
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing and Organ Postlude: Grand choeur sur deux Noels Cesar Franck

All told, there were 30 on the altar; 6 priests and the rest altar boys. All the priests wore white and pale gold brocade Roman vestments and birettas. This was a Novus Ordo, not Tridentine, by the way.

Oh, please, let me say that again: This was a Novus Ordo mass, not Tridentine.

There were about 8 or 10 pews reserved for the Sisters of Life; there had to be at least 60 of them. They must have some kind of special tradition as they alone sang a song right after communion. My husband had never heard it before, but they did a magnificent job with the harmonies and different voice parts.

At one point, he said there was so much incense on the alter that he could easily imagine himself being in this surreal, heavenly cloud...being so sleepy contributes to that, no doubt.

They got home at 2AM. The next morning my husband's first words to me were: "Everyone we know - every relative, every friend, everyone - has to experience that mass at least once before they die."

I guess he liked it.

Fr Septimus

Re: "Go Tell it on the Mountain," and other, like music...

I like these spirituals, when they are sung in proper style, something Euro-Americans seem not to do very often. A real, enthusiastic "Gospel Choir" is something marvelous. An all-white choir trying to sing that repetoire is usually something . . . else.

JWK

St. Mary's, Ft. Worth, TX
Roman Martyrology, Chanted
Figure 8 Procession, "Once in Royal David's City"
Introit Hymn "Of the Father's love..."
Gelineau Psalm
Offertory, "O Come All Ye Faithful" & Anthem
Eucharistic Prayer 1, all Saints included
Communion hymns, "Lo, how a rose" , "Let all mortal flesh.." "Silent Night"
Closing "Hark, the Herald..."
Mass of John Carroll for Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, & Agnus.
Minor propers sung to chant tones.
No guitars

Fr. Totton

Since Mark mentioned the abomination of "Happy
Birthday dear Jesus, I feel compelled to share my Christmas Homily with you. I too deplore such banalities visited on good Catholics by those who should know better:

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” So says the old Christmas song, but is it really? Poll 10 people on the street and they would almost certainly agree. Yet in fact, it is dark, it is cold, we are potentially at the mercy of the temporary devastation of ice and snow. Add to this the traffic, crowded supermarkets and retail stores, and the mundane details which come with inviting guests into our homes, and ask yourself: Is it really the most wonderful time of the year? Of course we will answer yes, and for any number of reasons. This is the season when we rekindle our relationships. We come together with family around a festive meal, we call to mind long distant friends as we write, address, and stamp hundreds of Christmas cards, we even reach out in generosity to help those less fortunate than ourselves. But why do we do all these things at this time of year? Why not Feb 16? Why not October 12? Of course, because at this time of year, and at this very moment, we celebrate Christmas, that is, the Christ- Mass, We celebrate the Nativity of our Lord, his birthday if you will, and we celebrate it by gathering in this Church and offering the Sacrifice about which he instructed us, “Do this in memory of me.”
Several years ago, I read about a morning radio DJ who thought the meaning of Christmas had been obscured and he wanted to do his part to foster a more authentic observance. Early in the week leading up to Christmas, he broadcast from a restaurant or a shopping mall, or some equally public venue, and he urged his listeners to come down and celebrate with him. He was throwing Jesus a birthday party, to remind everyone why we really celebrate Christmas. Now at this party, he served birthday cake – don’t ask me how big it had to be to fit nearly 2000 candles on it – and distributed pointed party hats and assorted party favors to all the listeners who took the time to come to this birthday party for Jesus.
The man should be commended for his sincere effort to recall his listeners to the true meaning of Christmas. However, Is Christmas really about the birth of Jesus? Is that all it is about? To answer that, we must consider what we believe about Jesus, about who he is, about why he came to be born among us. Some people will tell us, even some Christians, that Jesus was a great teacher, perhaps the greatest philosopher, and that if the world would merely heed his lessons, we would be better off, we might even live in a perfect place, a utopia. I will admit that Jesus has a great deal to teach us, and that, indeed, we ought to heed his teaching and then this world would be vastly different. But if Jesus is merely a teacher, if he is no more than that, then we are still in a world of hurt, however much improved it would be if we were, in all things, to follow his teachings. If Jesus were just a great teacher, then the birthday party thrown by that DJ would be the appropriate mode of celebration and Christmas would be just another civil holiday when we honor Him much the same way we honor George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King.
Yet we believe Jesus is something more than a teacher. We profess this belief every Sunday, and in doing so, we reaffirm the faith in which we were baptized. This evening (morning) is the perfect opportunity to examine that belief. Each Sunday we say,
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God…For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.
So the Christmas we celebrate is not merely a birthday, (with emphasis) it is the intersection of time and eternity, the Incarnation of the Son of God. The Eternal God, who created all things, deigned to come among us, to come among us not in appearance only, but to assume a human nature. This is profound! This is deep beyond our understanding. We even take the opportunity each Sunday to acknowledge the profound meaning of these words, to reverence the fact that God became Man, as we solemnly bow while professing the Sacred truth that, “by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.” On Christmas – and nine months earlier, on the Feast of the Annunciation – we pay special reverence to this fact by genuflecting during these solemn words – we will do this tonight (this morning) as we witness to the Truth which they express, the Truth which is the reason for our celebration here and now.
If we celebrate, in such a grand manner, a truth which is so far beyond our ability to comprehend, certainly we must ask ourselves, why? Yes, the Second person of the Blessed Trinity became Man, but Why? Many years ago, my father told the story of a man who had long since stopped believing. In essence he had lost his faith in the Incarnation and, subsequently, all that follows it. His family still believed, but they didn’t harp upon him to return to Church, they didn’t coerce his re-conversion. They did, however, invite him, every year, to attend Midnight Mass with them. Each year he politely declined, unable to bring himself to engage in the worship of a God in whom he no longer believed. One year, it was exceptionally cold on Christmas Eve. His wife and children bundled up with heavy coats, scarves, knit caps, woolen gloves and all the necessary armor to defend themselves on the four-block walk to the church. His wife, as always, asked him if he wished to join them, and, as always, he declined. / He was worried about the flock of birds which had been nesting in the barren tree in his backyard – normally they did not meet with such oppressive cold – that year was unusual. He waved his wife and kids goodbye as they headed off to Mass. Then he settled into his easy chair in front of the fireplace and watched the birds from the window. He could see them shivering, occasionally, they would puff up in an attempt to stall off the cold, but in vain. In amazement, the man sat for half an hour watching these unfortunate birds. “I know what I will do,” he thought, and he threw on his coat and went out to open the side door to the garage. “They can stay in here until it warms up a bit outside.” He would get their attention and motion to the door. The birds, still shivering in the cold would peer at him with curiosity blooming on their faces, but they would not go in. The man was getting cold, he was frustrated in his attempt to corral the birds to safety, fearing that unless they went in, they might perish in the cold. He thought for a minute, really an impossible thought, “if only I could become a bird, I could speak their language, I would know how truly cold they were, and I could lead them into the relative warmth of the garage.” About that moment, the church bells began to peal, marking the moments when the bread and wine were transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, the Incarnate God who humbled himself to come among us as a man, even to feed us with his very Body and Blood. The man felt a shiver, a shiver distinct from the cold wind which enveloped him and those hapless birds. He knew what it was – the voice of God speaking to him, calling him back to the Faith, a faith which he had forsaken because he lacked understanding. Now the Lord had given him the understanding he needed, and he had no excuse to persist in his doubt.
Yes, God became Man to save us from sin. The Word became flesh to be for us a model of holiness. But more than that, He came, and even sacrificed himself for us, that we might partake in His Divine Nature. He gives us the Sacraments, and principal among them the Eucharist, that we may share in the life and Love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that beatific vision of Heaven to which we all aspire. Let us then celebrate this feast with the greatest joy, with the utmost gratitude, and may it be a reminder that our home is ultimately with him in Heaven. Let us never dismiss the Truth about God, who became Man, and His Church and the Sacraments, the means by which He communicates His very life to us. Let us never take for granted the beautiful opportunity we have, each Sunday – and indeed every single day of the week – to receive Him in Holy Communion, as we once received him in that humble manger on the outskirts of Bethlehem.
Merry Christmas! (Merry Christ-Mass) This is, for that reason above all others, “the most wonderful time of the year.”

scotch meg

St. Joseph's, Boston suburbs.

We went twice. Vigil at 4:00 Christmas Eve, one child in the children's choir, one playing guitar, one playing trombone (!), there were at least five other instrumentalists plus the organ. The church was beautifully decorated and packed to the rafters. People in the balcony (usually closed), people along the side aisles and in the back. Carol concert for those waiting from 3:30 to 4:00. Mass said by young priest. Genuflection during the creed but no incense (alas). Readings from the children's version and all over the place -- first reading from Midnight Mass, second from Christmas Day, psalm from the fourth Sunday in Advent (!!!). But then we got Father's sermon. He started with King Wenceslaus, and how the man who wrote the carol looked through the lives of the saints for some king who would fit into the carol he'd already written, and then found St. Wenceslaus. Father said that Wenceslaus' life had nothing to do with our Christmas traditions, but everything to do with why we celebrate Christmas. Wenceslaus' mother, while serving as his Regent, gradually banned Christianity under pressure from nobles for whom Christian belief, morals, and practice had become inconvenient. Wenceslaus, when he realized that his kingdom was being separated from Christianity, took over from his mother and rescued the Church in Bohemia; his own life was a witness to holiness, and he died at the hands of his brother because of his Christian faith. Father talked a bit about how Christianity is always inconvenient but how practice of the Sacraments and building faith brings us Truth and Life. Beautiful. Afterward, my 13 yo commented on how she liked the sermon. 10 yo didn't pay attention (no surprise there). College student (extended annoying adolescent atheist phase) attended as a Christmas gift to the rest of us and amused the 5 yo (quietly) in the pew. Meditation after Communion was "Silent Night" sung by the children, holding candles in the darkened church. Beautiful. No baby in the creche (although dark, still not Christmas, I guess).

My husband and I didn't feel comfortable not attending Mass on Christmas Day, so we went to the 12:30 PM (last) Mass. Not packed, but not empty either, we were happy to see. Right readings this time. Organ and trumpet for music. Again, no incense, but we did genuflect. Same celebrant, same sermon (easier to pay attention without the 5 yo). For me personally, much more peaceful and meaningful, but I do feel guilty not dragging the kids. You can't wait to form the habit until they're old enough to understand. Pray for conversion for all of us, especially college and high school kids.

Merry Christmas!

Tom

Church of Our Saviour, NYC, Midnight Mass that began at 11pm with the reading by Fr. Rutler from the Roman Martyrology, alternating in Latin and in English; then procession through the nave followed by blessing of the creche. Then the processional hymn Adeste Fideles, first verse in Latin then switching to O Come All Ye Faithful. Offertory hymn was Angels We Have Heard on High, which struck me as truly glorious as we rose to be incensed enthusiastically by a tiny little altar boy. I think he had to swing the thurifer over his head! But he did well. Recessional was Hark the Herald Angels Sing. A harp or similar stringed instrument and a gorgeous trumpet added greater depth to the music. The Asperges and the Gradual and other musical elements covered nicely by the men in the choir.

Sometimes the hymns chosen for the High Mass on Sundays are not the most familiar -- the choir under Robert Prior is outstanding, just wonderful, to be sure, and the new organ magnificent -- but it can take a few weeks to get used to some of the hymns. It seems more people regularly can sing the Credo in Latin than know some of the hymns chosen, kind of a peculiar reversal but characteristic of this parish where -- I find, at least -- opportunities to learn are everywhere.

Speaking of which, along with the Ordinary of the Mass all sung in Latin, Fr. Rutler delivered the Eucharistic Prayer entirely in Latin. It seemed to me like he wanted to continue in Latin with the Paternoster too but the people started in, somewhat uncertainly, with the English as the familiar musical setting began, and at that point he used English for the rest of the Mass. I welcome the Latin!

The recent installation of more artwork in the Sanctuary made Christmas in this spectacular church even more beautiful, and Father's homily is always an occasion to listen prayerfully. All the incense as usual, and extra candles too for the Solemnity.

A blessed Christmas to everyone!

Joe

You might be interested in a contribution from the other side of the pond.

Here in our small rural parish in the English Midlands, where I'm lucky enough to be the organist (and the organ used to belong to Cardinal Newman), we had a traditional Carol Service with (maybe too many) readings and prayers at 11.30pm Christmas Eve, followed by Midnight Mass. Carol Service included Once in Royal David's City, While Shepherds watched, Come to the Manger and Silent Night as the infant was placed in the crib just before Midnight. For the Mass, we sang the Missa de Angelis and Credo III, with Adeste fideles (5 verses in latin) at the offertory, Angels we have heard on high at Communion and Hark the herald Angels at the end. It was a lovely Mass, with the Church lit mainly by candle-light. Credo III is part of our regular Sunday repertoire and throughout the year we often sing the ordinary to plainchanmt setting.
In Domino nostro.

Fr. Totton

As far as Christmas Masses, here is the rundown:

Immaculate Conception Parish, Lexington, MO

Christmas Eve
6:00 Vigil Mass (family Mass)
9:00 (Mass "at Midnight" - yeah, I felt funny about it too!)
11:00 Misa en Espanol

Christmas Day
9:00am Mass at Dawn.

The church was decorated beautifully: lots of poinsettias, several "pine" trees (unfortunately synthetic) decorated with dignified white lights, creche with Mary, JOseph Sheperds and all manner of livestock. Three wise men are travelling, but looked like they were camped out for the night on the other side of the sanctuary. Candles abounded everywhere. Both evening Masses began in the dark (the faithful were given handcandles as at the Easter Vigil - I don't know that we will do that next year!) Choirs did a nice job at the evening Masses (except Spanish - we are still sort of forming a regular contingent in that regard) Youth choir at 6:00pm and Parish choir at 9:00pm. Sang traditional carols and a few contemporary Christmas pieces - truly Christ-focused and beautiful (no Haugen-Haas) music. A cantor did a nice job with the Christmas Proclamation to begin at 6:00pm but at 9:00pm the choir director took the liberty of re-arranging that simple chanted proclamation and converting it into a relay (ie. "together, all, male, female, solo, tenor, bass, solo, female, male, all...well, you get the picture). The effect was to diminish the proclamative character - live and learn. Full complement of Altar servers - thurifer, crucifer, candlebearers (as full as we ever have here) They did a great job despite their general unfamiliarity with incense and extra processions (to the creche), cope removal, etc. (Though they ring bells every Sunday)

Oh, and as far as the genuflection/kneeling at the Creed, the (9:00pm) choir sang a beautiful arrangement of "Et Incarnatus Est" in polyphonic chant - their first experience with it, and they were all fascinated and very pleased with the opportunity to do so - an opening there methinks! - while all knelt. I wore the beretta in procession (removed it during genuflections) and while seated (during the liturgy of the Word).

9:00am was somewhat disappointed with less than 40 people in attendance (they had all come the night before) which leads me to question the need for two (english) Masses on Christmas Eve.

Joe

Forgot to add that we had the genuflection during the Credo and that the sermon was to the usual high standard we have every week from our dedicated PP.

Lucy

Vigil Mass [8 PM]
St Simon & Jude
Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston

The Mass itself was beautiful. The Homily drew from the genealogy of Christ, showing how God works through all of us in our varied states of perfection to achieve His plan for salvation as He calls us to greater holiness. Father has a nice custom of praying the Hail Mary at the end of the petitions. No incense, but there was kneeling during the Creed. Father, a youngish Vietnamese priest, sung the whole Mass. He used Eucharistic Prayer II, but singing the Mass made up for that. Last week, when one of the auxilary bishops was here, everyone except the celebrant, including those in the sanctuary, knelt during the Eucharistic Prayer, but that appears not to be a permanent trend. The rather banal 80s church was decorated simply, but nicely, although the Creche was a bit dimunitive. For some reason the parish didn't use the large Fontanini set of past years, but a small wooden one.

While at home from college, I attend the youth Masses at my home parish because a younger sibling plays in the choir. We've had some struggles with church-going with the kid, so I concede the music for Mass attendance. The other Masses at the parish tend to be much better.

This was the Youth Mass of the Christmas season. Some kindly benefactor was so unwise as donate a synthesizer type electric keyboard/drum set to the parish. The percussionist warmed up with about 10 minutes of banging while a large proportion of the congregation was attempting to pray. The drums dominated all the music and really spoiled the music. "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" will never be the same again.

The music choices were standard carols [in high keys] with the Mass of Creation settings, as well as a contemporary Offertory hymn that was impossible to understand. The cantor was a young girl with a rather weak voice who was rather difficult to hear and follow. The pianist and the other instruments were a bit off. All in all, a poor showing.

I'd give the Mass a 9, and the music a 3.

Darren Norton

Adding for St. Mark - Richmond, KY

Yes to both, Amy.

Genuflection at the Incarnation and incense during the Mass.

Darren Norton

Update for Amy -

At St. Mark's in Richmond, KY:

Yes to both. Genuflection at the Incarnation and incense throughout the Liturgy of the Word.

Pam

We went to the morning (10 am) mass in our small town parish in northeast Nebraska. Our parish shares our priest w/ another parish about ten miles up the road. The two parishes alternate who gets Midnight Mass -- this year it was our parish's turn.

I confess, the music was mediocre, (and I WAS the music -- me and my poor little guitar -- the alternative would have been the priest singing a capella) though the choices were predictable (as someone else mentioned). O Come all Ye Faithful, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, What Child is This?, and, both Silent Night and Joy to the World for closing. There's a reason for that, though.

I'm about six months pregnant, and had to run down from the choir loft to receive Communion, then run back up to lead the Communion song. Now, I'd planned to have Silent Night as a sort of Communion mediation... well...

I learned two very important things yesterday. "What Child is This" has no rests. And, women who are six months pregnant, who quickly take a flight of stairs up and down, and then need to lead a song... really ought not choose songs that have no rests. It was, well, frightful. But thankfully, our parishioners and pastor are very forgiving.

Needless to say, I had nothing left in me to do any sort of Communion meditation aside from thanking God that my breathing was resuming something resembling normal. My husband is VERY fond of "Silent Night" (to the point that he complains for days on end if it's not sung at Christmas Mass -- and that version w/ the "Peace, Peace" descant doesn't count). So, I turned that into the closing song, then tacked on "Joy to the World," because that's MY "it's not Christmas w/o it" carol.

The sermon was wonderful. As our pastor, Fr. Dave said, the beginning of John's Gospel is the philosopher's Christmas reading. I love it, myself. He did genuflect at the appropriate place in the Creed, but had forgotten to mention it before we started it, so very few in the congregation genuflected. We're in the Omaha diocese, which seems to use the bells at the consecration pretty consistently (and my three oldest boys were serving, and they LOVE using the bells). But, no incense, not at this Mass. There might have been at the Midnight Mass.

Oh, and Amy, I had initially planned on doing, "Of the Father's Love Begotten" for Communion. But, have you ever tried to accompany chant w/ guitar? It's not pretty. And, given my rather breathless condition, I suspect that using OTFLB rather than "What Child" would have been the ONLY way I could have done a worse job on the Communion hymn.

Jimbo

Christmas Eve at 6:00 PM in New Martinsville, WV - The parish persists in calling all young children to the front for a "children's Mass". Father read a longish story about Christmas trees and was surprised to find that a prominent role was played in the story by Martin Luther.

Young choir sang Christmas songs just a little off-key.

Church was literally packed cheek to jowl and was quite warm.

And yet despite the faux pas and the discomfort, we were reluctant to leave upon duly thanking God that it was over. We lingered with old friends and made a fuss over new babies. Our anticipation of the birth of the Prince of Peace was distilled and made sweeter.

Joe Gloor

Midwest -
6:30 AM sunrise Mass which I think is the official end of the Vigil.
No music (which is one of the reasons to attend this Mass)
Not crowded but about the same as normal 6:30 Mass
Homily had a tie-in to the "Chronicals of Narnia" which I have never read - but still excellent
All around a very pleasant experience


John B

The parish was St. Patrick in downtown Columbus OH

The parish was packed, probably around 500 parishoners, with a large range of parishoners, with many extended familes there, and a large number of young adults. The full chior was there(30 members) plus the brass and strings. The hymns and carrols were sung and English and Latin, most memorable for me was the gloria, sung in English and Latin to what I can describe as a high church Anglican/Anglo-Catholic setting.

The mass was concelebrated with the asst Pastor being the celebrant and the Pastor being the con celebrant, and most of the mass was sung by the priest. EP1(the roman canon) was used. There were 4 altar boys in red cassocks(2 toruch bearers, one crucifier and one thurifier) with all the smalls and bells.

All and all top notch.

Christopher Johnson

Holy Trinity Anglican Church
Webster Groves, Missouri
Christmas Eve

This church, an AMiA parish, is about a block north of where I live so I walked there a little before 6:00. The building is a plain, relatively unadorned little thing that was a Wesleyan church for most of my life. The only indication of its purpose is a cross built into the front of the building in white brick.

As befitting its previous incarnation, the interior is also rather plain and Protestant, conducive to the sort of low-church Anglican service that I love. Holy Trinity uses the 1928 Book of Common Prayer so I knew I was at home.

There weren't many people there, probably no more than 25(Holy Trinity is a fairly new parish). But the service was wonderful. Although he got rather tongue-tied at one point, the rector's sermon was a great one with the sort of Biblical content ECUSA gave up on a long time ago.

The music was mostly traditional Christmas hymns sung in the traditional way, none of ECUSA's politically correct twaddle. There were a couple that I didn't recognize but they were quite lovely. And "Away in a Manger" almost brought me low for some reason. I had to stop singing it at one point.

Grades? On a scale of 1 to 10, 10's all around.

Fr. Bryan

St. Joseph Parish
Muskogee, Oklahoma

Full, or nearly so, church at the 5:00pm Vigil and at Midnight. More than half full at 10:00am Christmas Day. Less so at the 7:00pm Vigil in Spanish. As expected, many inactive Catholics were present at the 5:00pm and Midnight, along with a number of non-Catholics or the unchurched. The area's Catholic population is only about 3 percent.

The music was great and varied, ranging from vocal and hand bell choirs with organ using tradional hymns/carols at Midnight, guitar accompanyment for the Posadas that began the Spanish vigil (I know that guitars are not everyone's taste for liturgical music, but believe me, they work very well with the Spanish hymns), to a ten piece brass instrumental group that played the "Alleluia Chorus" during the Offertory on Christmas Day.

The brass players, none of them Catholic, were part of a local group who spent their Christmas morning playing at the services of different local churches (in this case Catholic, Evangelical and Methodist). Due to the timing of the different services, they played only the one piece before having to leave to go the next church. They were a wonderful addition to the liturgy.

Incense was used at all the Masses, but for some reason we have difficultly getting it to smoke effectively at the right moments. At Midnight The "Proclamation of the Birth of the Lord" from the Roman Martyrology was read and the Gospel reading song. I forgot about the kneeling during the Creed. Better luck next year.

Since it was Christmas, I felt the need "to swing for the fences" with the preaching. Trying to talior each homily for the different set of Scripture readings at each Mass, I stated that having Christmas on a Sunday was more than a "two-for-one" special for us Catholics. It was a reminder that we can receive the gift of Jesus not only at Christmas, but each Sunday of the year in the Eucharist. Our parish is beginning an outreach to inactive Catholics in January so I also made a big plug for the program.

For the 5:00pm Vigil I used a children's version of the homily. I invited the children to come forward to set in front of, but not in, the sancutary. One four year boy was excited as a Jack Russell terrier and did his best to upstage me. His parents, active parishioners, were deeply embarassed and had their son apologize to me in person after Mass. I told them that it was OK, the boy is only four years old. I said that if he was fourteen and behaving that way, then we would have a problem. Also, Amy's reflection in the NRO did inspire me for the Midnight Mass homily.

One other note. At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word, I respectfully stated that unless they were expecting a call from Jesus Himself everyone should turn off his/her cell phone, pager, etc. It worked.

stephen

St. James Cathedral
Seattle WA
12 am

Twas a grand liturgy with Abp. Alex. Brunett as the celebrant. The processional lasted 5 minutes with 4 vss. of Adeste Fidelis (Latin and English), brass, 2 choirs, organ and timpani. There was lots of incence, & we knelt at the mention of the Incarnation during the creed. The homily was typical fare for Abp Brunett: none too surprising.

St. James Cathedral has amazing liturgies most Sundays, but this was astounding.

Stephen.

Meggan

Update to what I posted about my Lexington Ky parish.

We had no incense. Our priest has bad lungs and we'd lose him in the middle of mass if we had incense. Oh well.

I knelt during the creed. My Dad bowed (but probably would have knelt if he could have). I didn't notice if anyone else knelt.

All year, every chance I get, I tell people why they should bow during the creed. I teach RCIA/Adult Ed, so I don't go around just telling folks this out of the blue.
Anyway, because I am bowing (or genuflecting) myself I never notice if others are doing it.
I hope so.

Tony

My general location is Upstate NY, and 5 months ago in my parish, the Music/Liturgy Director's contract was not renewed. This was an issue, I believe, between our new orthodox pastor, and the more "progressive" Music/Liturgy Director.

We lost a lot of people once the "entertainment" was gone. I missed the music also, having been a choir member / cantor for the past 15 years, but I understood, and our pastor had to get a handle on some of the prior liturgical abuses at our parish.

We have an acting choir director, and a handful of volunteer musicians. We have one pianist, three guitarists, and about a dozen singers who fill in at masses.

For Christmas, we had 9 musicians. We did:

Prelude:

Emmanuel - Vince Ambrosetti
Lo How a Rose 'ere Blooming
I wonder as I wander.
Adeste Fidelis
The First Noel
Away in a Manger.

Psalm: All the Ends of the Earth - Haugen / Haas (inclusive version :P)

Gifts: Night of Silence / Silent Night

Communion:
Child of the Poor / What Child is This
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

Closing: Joy to the World

The Holy Spirit was upon us. With the 8 voices we had, we covered all the voice parts for the 4 part pieces. The congregation got into it and were singing out. My wife said we sounded like the full choir (but we had some amplification help).

The homily was about our relationship with God and the fact that the relationship is controlled by the partner who cares the least. Since God cares infinitely and always cares the most, the relationship is up to us. As usual a fabulous homily. We are blessed with a very accomplished homilist.

All in all a very moving Christmas for us. We are so blessed. We have a church building to worship in. We have a priest who brings us the body and blood of Jesus. We have a dedicated community (though smaller) of people who make this a great experience for me.

I'm blessed.

Mark

Cathedral Basilcia of Saint Louis, Midnight, Abp. Burke presiding.

Beautiful. The church had more than two thousand attendees, and it was hard to find seats. I was torn between attending Mass here or at one of the two Indult Latin mass churches, but my lady friend perfers the vernacular: she cried when the Christ child was placed in the manger. One of the greatest feelings of joy I have ever felt in church occurred that night, when singing "Adeste Fideles" (O Come All Ye Faithful).

Nick Frankovich

Florida's Space Coast. At this church, the choir is next to the sanctuary, so we can all see them. A lot of music and fuss about it, and it's not good. A solemn low Mass would have been more prayerful.

The homily begins with many thanks to the choir leader, to the choir, to the lector, to . . . and the people in the pews applaud. Then the priest launches ito a joke I remember from last year. People laugh. Then a long story involving Charlie Brown and Lucy. More laughing. In between that sort of thing, we are confronted with a warning against sentimentality (if you're against it, I'm thinking, don't perpetrate it) and with a few good sentences about the wonder of the Incarnation.

There are two flavors of "We Celebrate" booklets in the pews. One of them carries the subtitle "A Worship Resource." When I was your age, I'm thinking, we went to Mass and we read a Missal.

People tended to hold hands at the Our Father. In a pew in front of me, a woman rushed over to hold hands with people she assumed didn't have anyone to hold hands with, but hand-holding was not their style, and she walked back to her place.

Despite all this, the priest, an Irishman with a brogue, impresses me as somehow holy and also as kind but knowing. Is it that he had made a calculated effort to speak to us in what he thinks is our own impoverished language? To a Roman he is a Roman, and to a Middle American he is a Middle American?

Much of what went wrong yesterday wouldn't have been possible at a Mass in the old rite. Pope Benedict has indicated he's not going to endorse any big liturgical reform anytime soon because too much activism, as he put it, can be enervating. I would be grateful for modest liturgical reform.

Mary Jane

Holy Faith
Gainesville, Florida, USA

We did have incense and the clergy knelt for the "Et incarnatus" phrase in the Creed. No one else did because they didn't know. (I did, on 12/25, because I'd watched the Mass from St. Peter's after I got done with the 7 p.m and 10:30 pm (aka "Midnight somewhere"). The homilies (one heard twice - by the pastro, one heard once - by the associate) were good but not life-changing.

All of the music (I'm the assistant director/organist) ran smoothly descpite the choir's anxieties. While we did have a couple of solos in the pre-10:30 music, they were both well-executed. The music for the Mass stayed with carols throughout. We had organ, piano, trumpet, and the occasional thump on a drum. For the responsorial, we used the Haugen/Haas "All the Ends of the Earth." While I think the verses are funky, the congregation(s) truly sang on the refrain (unconsciously correcting the annoying leap of a sixth at the beginning of the second phrase).

One point all of us working on the music kept driving home with the choir was that the most important thing was the Mass - not the special music before. And I think it helped keep the focus.

We had three Masses on Xmas Eve and only one at 11 on 12/25. The one that was actually stuffed to the rafters was the 5 pm because it featured our new children's choir (which sang quite creditably thanks to Cristina Truman, our director) and because it's the Mass you can do and still get to dinner at someone's house.

Mike

Not my regular parish (Christ the King, Norfolk, Va.), but at the parish I grew up in elsewhere in the Diocese of Richmond. My parents and I went to midnight mass this year. Over the last 8 years we've been going to the double secret non-advertised vigil mass for parishioners with children with my brother and his family. It was nice going to a Christmas mass for grownups again. Not crowded. Most people went to the 3 pre-midnight masses (only one Christmas morning). There was a mixture of Christmas carols and Haugen-Haas carols before mass. Things looked up when when the Christmas proclamation was chanted, but then spiraled downward when the entrance song was the Gloria (putting things a bit out of order). The choir is greatly improved over how it sounded when I was growing up. However, too many instruments overwhelmed the singers and gave it the flavor of a Protestant praise band. EP3 was used (I've never in my life heard EP1 used in this parish). Father sang the Preface and the EP through the Last Supper Narrative. However, the pianist was tinkling away in the background which was highly distracting. No insence. No genuflection during the creed. Still more reverent than in years gone by.

Karen in Canada

The church which we attend in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is a small jewel of a building, with lovely stained glass windows and much wood panelling, well decorated with greenery and red boughs. And we are blessed with a young, zealous and orthodox priest.

Because this is Canada, we do not normally say the Nicene Creed at all (the CCB in their inscrutable wisdom have decreed the Apostles' Creed for us) but because it was Christmas we said the Nicene anyway (Hurrah!) And, I guess because it is Canada, we did not kneel at the required line, but Father made a point of requesting that we all genufluct rather than merely bow at those words. Of course the congregation made a pretty ragged job of it, since we're all so out of practice, but the effort and intent were there.

AND he used incense!

The part of the homily that I most remember was based on his observation that for Christmas there are roughly twice as many people coming to Mass as on any other Sunday of the year, and much of it was a very delicately and subtly phrased plea--welcoming visitors, welcoming back those long absent, encouraging them to come back regularly, but also gently pointing out that missing Mass without serious reason is a serious sin and confession should precede communion. He also spoke of the job of a priest (primarily to offer sacrifice, and explained how the Mass is a sacrifice) and of his own conversion experience.

He made a much better job of it than my description.

Now I'm going back and read all the other responses.

dymphna

Caroline, a betrothal was not an engagement. Once you were betrothed you were married. After the betrothal ceremony the girl went home with her folks and got her trousseau together. The young man went home and got to work getting a house for his bride and getting all the stuff needed to run it. This took about a year. If something went wrong the couple would not just give back their engagement gifts they'd have to get a divorce.
_____________________
Regarding "Go Tell it on the mountain." Whenever an all white choir tries to sing it or any other of the great Spirituals the results are just ridiculous. If you have no understanding of the song, the history or sufferings of the people who first sang the Spirituals it doesn't work.
__________________-
I'm really surprised about the Happy Birthday Jesus at the Basilica. The old rector hasn't been gone a year yet and flakey stuff is creeping in already....

MereIllusion

Midnight Mass, Small parish in Altoona -Johnstown diocese of PA

Not very crowded at all. There were a few carols before and during mass. The homily focused on the "light in the darkness" and the importance of the shepherds in the fields hearing "do not be afraid." The priest mentioned some of the times in the Bible where this phrase is repeated and how JPII incorporated it into his mission and writing. Actually a very interesting and inspiring homily. After communion, the lights were all turned out again while the priest sang the first verse of O Holy Night and the cantor joined him for the second verse.

MereIllusion

I forgot the most important points of the homily at my parish: Do not be afraid to let Jesus into your heart! Do not be afriad to use this season to return to the church!

=)

cw

Attended the 9 am Mass at our local Catholic mega-church. Beautiful church with lovely decorations. A music director who believes she is all that and a bag of chips "treated us" to many renditions of different Christmas Carol including one version of What Child Is This which was sung to the tune of Pachabel's Canon in D. That was ... different. She also included Silent Night in English and the original German.
The homily was awesome and was said by the one priest we really look forward to hearing from at this parish. He talked about Isaiah and John the Baptist and the Blessed Virgin. There was incense, but no kneeling that we saw. Everything else was pretty much like a regular Sunday.
Merry Christmas to all!
BTW: Amy, you were my Christmas present this year! I look forward to reading the Book of Days.

Peg

Church of the Risen Christ, Denver, CO.

Yes to both incense and kneeling at our 10:30 a.m. Mass. We are so blessed with Father Ken Leone and Father Felix Medina, the latter being the celebrant at this Mass. Father Medina, who is from Spain, has passionate homilies about how we need to realize God is in our lives and the need to focus on that rather than what's wrong with our spouses, kids, jobs, whatever. He can makes us laugh, too. He recently celebrated his one year anniversary as a priest.

I was particulary moved when he incensed the altar and Nativity figures in front of the altar. He did remind us to kneel during the Creed and we stayed kneeling for almost a minute.

I have enjoyed reading everyone's posts. Now the big challenge for me is to remember that Christmas season has just begun.

sharon

Mass in Franciscan parish in Georgia. Incense and beautiful, O Holy Night solo that the congregation just spontaneously joined .
The homily was powerful." If all you get from this Mass is the Baby being born, you are missing part 2 which is what Jesus can do through you for the world if you are willing."

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