Monday, December 25, 2006

above thy deep and dreamless sheep

Midnight mass is one of those traditions that marks Christmas as a special occasion in the church, too, not just society as a whole, and I was looking forward to it because we have a new priest who is, apparently, into all those trappings of Catholicism that most churches seem to forgo in the interest of money, time, modernism, and, I suppose, asthma (incense). I'm happy to report it was everything I was hoping for.
There were bells during prayers, there were vigil candles and big clouds of incense, and the alter servers have new vestments. There was singing, both in the forms of hymns (many!) and my favourite, sung prayers. And there was Latin, not just the snatches of gloria-in-excelsis-deo or even just the Christmas traditional Adeste Fideles (which reads, amazingly, like an exercise in the subjunctive, with the hortatory "O come let us adore him", "Venientes adoremus") but an honest Latin chant, to open Mass. The lights out, the altar servers leading the priest in a cloud of incense, and the unheard-of luxury of a good, male voice, steadily and with feeling, singing. I couldn't pick out more than just snatches of "laudemus", "adoremus te", and other usual church Latin bits, but for a few minutes you could see two thousand years of tradition.
Of course there was the usual going-to-church silliness, too: seeing people we haven't seen, except in church or maybe at the mall, since high school; amusing typos in the Christmas song lyrics (O Little Town of Bethlehem has both occurrences of "sleep" replaced with "sheep", which almost killed me). But I think the most memorable bit of the evening is seeing Mass done by someone who really loves, not just the community of the church, but also its history.


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