Letter from Fr. David
Dear Friends in Christ,
I have not written any bulletin letters for a few weeks, so it is high time I do so again. Besides, some of you may be wondering what’s on my mind. Or not. In either case, I would like to take these few weeks before Lent begins and give you some updates. This week I reflect back on Christmas.
As I mentioned recently in church, I was extremely happy with our celebration of the Christmas season here at St. Mary. I noted publicly that this high quality of work is due to the dedicated efforts of many – liturgical ministers, choir, decorators, cleaning crew, staff, and various other volunteers. At Christmas we see clearly and profoundly how meaningful liturgy is a labor of love of the entire parish community, not just of a few. This truth holds throughout the church year, but we become more acutely aware of it during these special seasons. We will witness the entire parish working together once again for Easter, if not even more so.
The overall feeling I experienced throughout Christmas was a combination of joy and encouragement. A joyful spirit was palpable here this Christmas, and I was encouraged by it. These good feelings make January and February much easier to endure!
Since Christmas, a few questions have been brought to me regarding our particular celebration of it, so as a dutiful pastor I now very briefly address each of those items.
- The Nativity Scene
It is proper Universal Church protocol to not put any symbols in front of the altar (the table) that could detract from the preeminence of the altar. Flowers and other decorations can of course be put there, but only to enhance the altar. The Nativity Scene placed in front of the altar would necessarily draw much attention, and thus it would pull our gaze away from the centrality of the altar. Therefore such symbols need to be placed in a less prominent place, as we have done at St. Mary since I have been pastor here. Having the Nativity off to one side also allows for more personal devotion. If it was in front of the altar we would not be able to place a kneeler there and people would not be able to draw near and pray before the infant Jesus. Understand that I am following Church rules here. If you think about it though, the change is a win-win – the altar is properly respected, and the Nativity is made more accessible for personal devotion.
- Midnight Mass
Midnight Mass is a wonderful tradition that has been around for hundreds of years. At the precise moment we welcome Christmas Day we come to adore the newborn King. There is no other night quite like it in terms of its joy, beauty, and anticipation. Save perhaps the Easter Vigil Mass. While we are not strictly required to celebrate the night Mass of Christmas at Midnight – and some parishes don’t – it is the most appropriate and meaningful time. I sympathize with those folks who say Midnight Mass is a difficult Mass to attend. Believe me, even in my early 40’s Midnight Mass can be challenging! But I always get some rest beforehand, even if I don’t actually sleep, and generally plan around it. Many people absolutely love Midnight Mass and organize their Christmases around it as well. I know these folks would sorely miss Midnight Mass if it was changed to an earlier time, say 10 or 10:30. But these folks don’t have to worry, for I will keep the night Mass at Midnight!
- No Early Christmas Day Mass
I do very much sympathize with those of you who enjoy the early morning Mass of Christmas Day. There is something special about that Mass too. Unfortunately out of necessity I needed to trim the Christmas Mass schedule this year. Being on a Sunday evening / Monday, Christmas put extra pressure on me and some of the church ministers. Having three Masses (which by the way still had room for more people, even the 4pm) that were spaced reasonably well apart seemed like a workable balance. I know that I did what I could within my physical and mental limits. If we had another priest to assist, which we did not this year, then perhaps the early morning Mass could have been added. (We did reach Fr. Fuller in an effort to accomplish just this, but he sent his regrets that he could not help this time.) I just wanted you all to understand that for Christmas Masses I did all that I could this year, even if it wasn’t enough for some of you. In numerous places the Church is dealing with adjusting to thinner Mass schedules. This includes us at St. Mary. So, we adapt, and move on.
Once again, a blessed New Year to you and your families!
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