You should have seen Saint Patrick Cathedral in New York, all decked out and blazing with light. The brightness was due in part to the recent renovation, which scrubbed clean the interior, and replaced every fixture with new, efficient and effective lighting. The decking included rows of wreaths and bows in festive colors. The trouble was, it was still Advent! A few days before Gaudete Sunday, I had gone there to see an exhibit and visit Fr. Nick. (He says Hello, and he’ll be here soon to visit.)
Back here in Four Corners, it was still Advent plain and violet, penitential and preparatory, up through the end of the 8:15 Mass on the morning of 24 December. Then an amazing thing happened: people showed up; flowers emerged from the basement; banners and bows and wreaths and statues and candles and cloths were brought forth, and quickly began the business of bedecking our fair church, like bride preparing to meet her bridegroom.
Elaine Vining, Kelly Weisgerber, Margaret McDermott, and Melissa Franklin led a squadron of helpers that included spouses and sons and daughters and volunteers from Religious Ed. Norma and Anthony Dao directed and detailed all the things little and big that need to be in place for a proper celebration. Then, like Creation itself but in far less than seven days, it was done. And we all saw that it was Very Good.
Of course, to make that possible, many of you had donated toward those flowers that were artfully arrayed in our sanctuary. The names are listed in our Christmas bulletin; our thanks to the donors, and our prayers for the intentions they listed.
The week before, our Holy Name guys had come out on a wretched December afternoon to erect the stable for our outdoor crèche. It remained dark and empty until we celebrated the arrival of its Divine Occupant, and now He and His Holy Family attract attention and adoration from parishioners and passersby on the busy boulevard.
Please allow me to direct your attention to the work that was hidden in the weeks of Advent but whose fruits erupted into glory in the day of the Nativity. The music was amazing whatever Mass you attended, but you may not have had the opportunity I did to realize it was different at every Mass. The Youth Choir and the brass at the first Vigil, then our choir with a tiny orchestra at the later Vigil, for the sublime Messe de Minuit by Charpentier, and some Mendelsohn added for oomph. The men’s Schola chanted the whole Night Office and Midnight Mass, with polyphony by William Byrd. Then the choir came back Christmas Morning, with yet still different music. Each Mass of Christmas – Vigil, Midnight, Dawn, and Day -- has different proper prayers, antiphons, and readings, and they were sung all throughout, and beautifully. John Henderson, our Music Director, and all our singers and instrumentalists gave God and us a great gift that I can assure you was unmatched at any local parish.
My altar servers and lectors were relentlessly awesome. Let me point out to you that many of them, and many of their families, adjusted their schedules for Christmas celebrating in order to make sure all of our Masses had a full level of liturgical solemnity and skill. That is huge. So did our ushers, who don’t attract a lot of glory, but they help us all give it to God.
Speaking of giving, our parish team of Expert Counters came in afterward to make sure that every gift and offering was counted and credited to the giver, with a level of detail and accuracy of which your sacred sacrifice is worthy.
Many hands make light work, the saying goes, but let’s change that a bit to say that hereabouts, many hands do the work of bringing the light. It is particularly noticeable and appreciated that the transformation occurs here suddenly, as did our Savior. I ask you to join me in thanking all the hands who lifted up this work of praise to God, and benefitted our prayer and worship. God bless them, and God bless you with the inner transformation all this outward excitement promises. May He grant you intimacy and joy with His beloved Son in this new Year of Grace!Monsignor Smith