Friday, December 25, 2009

Maybe it was the unusual presence of snow on the ground that added stillness to tonight's clear night. Or that houses seem more decorated this year than in previous years. But driving down Windsor Rd. just a little while ago, I got a sense that people were keeping vigil, with their lights on, waiting. A really hopeful, quiet and peaceful expectation.

I tuned out the beautiful choir to say a rosary for a special intention. Jeff said Christmas comes once a year so I must go out again, alone to pray. I finished the rosary and the choir began Silent Night. Since I had arrived twenty minutes before midnight, I knew this was their final prelude and I allowed myself to listen to it.

A cantor greeted us with "Good morning," which after a moment's thought made perfect sense and we welcomed his greeting. Someone, I don't know who, sang the entire reading from Matthew and since it hadn't been read at the earlier service I attended, I was glad to hear it. It was well-done. But were some people around me snickering?

Just after the quotation from Isaiah but before the conclusion of the reading, the fire alarm went off. Very loud and very bright. No one moved but some people looked around. The woman next to me insisted someone turn it off, but her companion cautioned the fire department would arrive shortly. The alarm was silenced within a few moments without any further interruption.

The celebrant processed in wearing a chasuble. His stole was, I believe, propped up in his chair. He censed the altar and the creche. Then he slipped out of his chasuble and donned his stole, fumbling with the microphone while the transitional deacon intoned the Kyrie. The Gloria was like I'd heard at the earlier service, with a refrain of Gloria in excelsis Deo. I had translated it earlier for Kenny but this time I tried to sing it to God instead of the choir director. Being in a larger church, with a huge choir and a choice instrumental ensemble removed the self-consciousness I usually feel about singing.

The readings were the appointed ones. The transitional deacon processed around the church with the book of the Gospels behind the censor. The celebrant followed him actively with his eyes, looking expectant. The homily was about welcoming people who maybe haven't been to church since Easter. Father said he'd only been there since June himself so now would be a good time to sneak back in because he doesn't know everyone yet. "I'm new, so I haven't missed you." I wasn't aware of how new he was. I liked the previous pastor(s) fine.

He recited the Creed facing the altar, and we all genuflected at the appropriate time. The incense was brought out again when the gifts were presented. I can't say I've ever seen people incensed until tonight: everyone got it directed at them. The monsignor gave me communion. I wonder what he thinks of the new pastor's trends.

The choir was so good that there was spontaneous applause after the communion hymn. Previous pastors have invited the congregation to show their appreciation for the choir towards the end of the service, so it seemed unusual to me that this one hadn't.

The prayers that really made an impression on me:
By our communion with God made man may we become more like him who joins our lives to yours ... May we share his life completely by living as he has taught ...
And from the earlier service:
as we keep tonight the vigil of Christmas, may we celebrate this eucharist with greater joy than ever since it marks the beginning of our redemption
And both services used "Christmas I":
In the wonder of the incarnation your eternal Word has brought to the eyes of faith a new and radiant vision of your glory. In him we see God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see.
And the first Eucharistic Prayer which will be the last one standing and that's alright with me:
Though we are sinners, we trust in your mercy and love. Do not consider what we truly deserve, but grant us your forgiveness.
Even though we sang three verses of O, Come All Ye Faithful, we did not sing the final verse printed in Latin. With all the traditional moves the new pastor is making, the choir director may, unfortunately, be laying off the Latin.

After the final blessing, I made my way to the alcove of candles. I didn't have any money so I didn't light a candle for my intention. Instead, I waited for a spot on a prie-dieu to free up and I knelt down on it in front of a picture (not an icon) of Theotokos of the Passion. And I did something I never do, I asked for OLPH's intercession for this intention. I didn't get an answer and am not at the point where I'm looking for one. I'm still just waiting.

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Daughter of Wisdom said...

Hi Teresa,

Sounds like a very moving service. I like formal services as well as informal ones. I sometimes visit a Presbyterian church during the Christmas holidays to get a dose of formal worship (which I do not get in my church). I just did a post on the Twelve Days of Christmas. As this is not my tradition, I would like you to read it, if you like, and tell me what you think.

Peace and Blessings,

Moonshadow said...

Thank you for your comment, Hillary, and merry Christmas.

I helped decorate the interior of a Presbyterian church a few years ago and, 'though I wasn't able to attend the service, the sparse ornaments were tasteful. I lean that way, esthetically, towards simplicity. A few times a year, I make an effort to attend a service there; they are less formal than they used to be.