I braved my annual holiday malaise & attended Midnight Christmas mass as planned. I had nearly talked myself out of it, but was strangely relieved to enter with a group of teens in their pajammas & cowboy boots, followed by some middle aged women in shiny blazers. As usual, I staked out my place in the back. The church was darkened & gold banners had replaced the Advent-y red & purple. The Advent candles were gone. In their place, pointsettias had erupted on the altar. The music minister led some traditional carols, but few sang. Most talked to their neighbor, adjusted their clothing or looked around with bland expressions... all throughout the Mass.
The Nativity of the Lord, otherwise known as Christmas, began with the incensing of the altar, followed by the "Proclamation of the Birth of Christ". I had never even heard of this declaration till a couple weeks ago when I read about it in an Advent devotional. It came to life when I heard the priest sing it out. I was filled with a sense of wonder, as if I were hearing about Jesus' birth for the first time. The last sentence says "Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the flesh" and it reminded me that the scripture(s) say "TODAY if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts...", "TODAY is the day of salvation".
It seemed, however, that many who heard did not truly "hear". From my vantage point, many people were just there to fulfill an obligation. It troubled me. I began to question whether Catholicism was truly faith or at its core, just a cultural, social thing... For me, it IS about faith. I envisioned myself standing up at the end of mass- standing on my pew & crying out to these people- didn't they understand what was happening here? Didn't they understand what they were a part of? How could they not sing? How could they not drink in the scripture & be aware of the presence of God in that place? It seems that many Catholics don't even know what they have. What spiritual riches in Christ they possess already by virtue of heritage! How much more could be theirs if they only had faith?!