Monday, December 26, 2005

Penguins in Bethlehem...?

After the 10:00 AM Mass yesterday, a cute thing happened. There is a family in my parish that has two young boys. The younger one is about 2-3 years old. After Mass, his mother was showing him our creche, which is hand made by parishioners, and fairly large. The boy was looking at and naming all of the animals. Well, he took out of his coat pocket a little toy penguin (his mom explained to me later that he had received a play zoo as a Christmas present), looked at it, and then looked at the animals in the creche, and then proceeded to put his penguin in the creche, facing the baby Jesus. I almost said something to correct him, like "I don't think there were any penguins there in Bethlehem." But fortunately, I stopped myself. I told myself, "well, if Jesus had been born in Antartica, I'm sure there would have been penguins gathered around the manger!"

Mom also told me that a couple of weeks earlier, they had been driving somewhere when, spontaneously, the older boy (about 5) started signing in Latin! We've been chanting the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei during Advent, and I had the choir do a couple of other Latin chants. I'm glad to hear that it's making an impact!

A Belated, But Nonetheless Merry, Christmas to You!

Byzantine Icon of the Nativity

I hope your Christmas was a happy, merry, and blessed one, and I hope it will continue to be so! Remember that Christmas isn't just one day, but lasts through the Octave, that is, until the eighth day afterward. So Christmas isn't over, it's just begun!

My Christmas was a good, but busy one. This is my first Christmas as pastor of my own parish, so there were a number of things I had to learn about preparing for the festival. I had several moments during the past week or so when I realized, "Oh, yeah, if I don't do that, it won't get done. I didn't get much sleep over the past few days. But my tiredness was of a good kind. And I rewarded myself with a nap yesterday afternoon, and by sleeping in today.

The Christmas Masses all went fairly well: there were minor glitches here and there. Several of those glitches were of my own doing. For example, I forgot to instruct the congregation to kneel during the creed at the words "and became man", and to do so myself, at Midnight Mass. I remembered at the 6:00 PM Mass, and the 9:00 PM Mass, but forgot at Midnight. Oh well... But on the whole the liturgies proceeded smoothly. For the most part good liturgy isn't about creativity, it's about fidelity: doing things as the books tell us and according to the mind of the Church.

My parish churches are both decorated beautifully: I was very gratified that so many people came out to help set up the decorations and make the churches truly splendid settings for the celebration of this most stupendous mystery of God becoming one of us.

And we had some nice music as well. I had gentlemen chant the Christmas Proclamation at the Midnight and 10:00 AM Masses, and I had the choir chant the "Puer Natus Est" as well. They also did a nice job on a two-part setting of "Es Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen" ("Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming"). The people of my mission parish also put some nice music together: they sang a lovely 4-part setting of "Lo, how A Rose" and a song called "In Old Judaea", which I had never heard before.

It was a lovely first Christmas as pastor. I'm taking today and tomorrow off, enjoying a little "holy leisure". I hope you get some of that, too.