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The Spirit of Christmas - 20th December 2015
This Friday we celebrate Christmas or, to give that day its correct liturgical nomenclature, the Nativity of the Lord.
Many people are honoured with feast days in the liturgical calendar, but in almost every case the date of the celebration is the day of the person’s death. The calendar recognises only three birthdays – the nativity of Jesus on 25th December, of course, and ….. I wonder if you can name the other two!
During the Christmas New Year period many people go away on holidays and attend Mass in a church outside their own parish. At the end of January, I always get a few emails from such people complaining about certain liturgical practices that they observed and, in some cases, expecting me to do something about it.
It is not unusual for this so-called “aberrant practice” to be totally liturgically correct - like starting the Communion hymn while the celebrant is taking Communion!
Sometimes the time and energy spent worrying over and complaining about a matter is totally out of proportion with the minor nature of the perceived misdemeanour - like singing a hymn with the word “Yahweh” in verse 3. Yes, it’s not the right thing to do but in the grand scale of things hardly worth calling in the Temple Police to deal with the offender!
What really bothers me about these bad report cards that are presented to me is the injustice of judging the liturgical practice and standards of a parish by what happens at a Mass or two during the Christmas New Year period.
I do the roster of readers and musicians for the Mass I attend and I know that it is a real challenge to find trained and experienced people to fill all the slots in December and January. I am sure that many parishes sometimes have to make do with willing volunteers at this time of year.
Besides all that, Christmas is the season of goodwill, the time for giving thanks to God for the gift of his Son. That sense of gratitude should be extended to others, including people who have assisted with preparing and celebrating Mass. A word of thanks is always greatly appreciated by those who have done their best to serve the assembly’s worship, be they the presider, musicians, greeters or other liturgical ministers. We can spread Christmas cheer by living out our mission as the body of Christ in our homes, communities and workplaces – and with our fellow worshippers.
Perhaps our New Year resolution might be to resist the temptation to rush to judgement, at Mass as well as other times. The people we judge as disrespectful may be anything but. The young man who “can’t be bothered” kneeling during the Eucharistic Prayer may have had knee surgery. The couple who “rushed out” immediately after Communion might be hurrying back to a sick relative’s bedside. The teenager who “ignored everybody” at the sign of peace may be struggling with a social disorder.
Finally, I wish you all a blessed and peaceful Christmas and offer my heartfelt thanks to all who sent feedback, expressed gratitude and gave me encouragement and support during 2015.
Oh, as for the other two birthdays that are included in the liturgical calendar: John the Baptist on 24th June and Mary on 8th September.