It’s Christmas Eve. The evening of Christmas Eve. We go to the Vigil Mass at St. Matt’s, starting at 5:30 p.m. Oh, but we get there around 4:40 p.m. though. Just under an hour early, I suppose. We would prefer to sit. It’s SRO by showtime.
And there’s a choral prelude starting just after five. It’s the Contemporary Choir of the Cathedral, not the Schola Cantorum. Many of the same members though, including the sublime Ellen Kliman, who has a dazzling solo later in the actual service, after communion. But during this actual prelude there’s some strange stuff. Something called The Holly, She Bears a Berry. And another piece called Ain’t That a Rocking All Night, which doesn’t actually rock, à la Elvis or Little Richard, like I expect it to.
But lots of singing for us too during the whole mass. O Come, All Ye Faithful as the entrance hymn. O Little Town of Bethlehem at the preparation. Silent Night and It Came Upon the Midnight Clear at communion. And Joy to the World as the recessional hymn.
And while we are indeed at the Vigil Mass, we get the readings for the Midnight Mass. First, some really earthy Isaiah:
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.
I’m still not sure when this day of Midian is supposed to be. Is that Gideon? With his three hundred men, blowing the trumpets, in Judges 7? I get that far with Wikipedia. Catholic Encyclopedia is no help.
The Gospel is from St. Luke. That means shepherds. (St. Matthew’s got the Magi.) You know, what Linus goes on about in Charlie Brown Christmas:
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
We get a fun moment in the Credo where we kneel at the Incarnation. Normally we just bow. Even though it’s noted in the program, Monsignor also reminds us about it just before we start, saying that we do this only twice a year, at Christmas and Easter. But the program also mentions a brief moment of prayer. But we don’t in fact stop for it. We just keep on going.