My daughter thinks mass is boring. I thought the same when I was eight years old. Mom injured her knee on Friday and needed to rest. So I went to the English Midnight Mass alone last night at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish.
I left home knowing that the church parking lot would be full, that the church would be overcrowded, warm and even smelly, and that it was too warm for a picture perfect snowfall after mass. This may sound like I had low expectations, but I didn’t. I simply approached the familiar experience with acceptance.
I parked at the back of parking lot and found a seat next a young blond woman with a friendly smile. The organist was different from the one I’m used to on Sundays which threw me off, but it didn’t matter because I still sang. Since I was one of the few singing in my section and singing off key to booth, I’m sure my neighbours tapped into their reserve of tolerance. (Thank you for bearing with me fellow believers.) I wasn’t used to the new priest either. I could barely see him because a large tall man stood in front of me, but I heard his invitation to visit the manger by the altar after mass and contemplate Jesus’ birth. And I thought I would do that. I expected to say a quick prayer and see the usual lineup of characters: the necessary Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus; the magi and their gifts; and of course, the animals. Then leave.
When the mass ended, the organist played a Christmas hymn which she sang in Polish, rousing every Pole in the congregation to join her. While I stood before the manger, I didn’t see it. Instead, I heard a melody I vaguely recognized with words foreign to me, and yet I was absorbed by the spirit of Christmas flowing through the church at that moment.
There is such a thing as Christmas magic. It is a gift without a price, without wrapping and without a bow, but it is given from the heart, freely and shared with everyone. You don’t have to be a Christian to receive it because peace (the freedom from war as well as the state of serenity) and love (the compassion we show ourselves, our friends and family, and even strangers) are not proprietary to any religion, race, ethnicity, gender, or group. They are the right of all humanity.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!