Gypsy's Travels

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Eve 2007

Christmas Eve is one of my favorite times. The air of expectancy, everything done that can be done, and time for quiet reflection on the reason for it all in the first place. I love the midnight Christmas Eve service that ends with the hushed singing of Silent Night while leaving the sanctuary by candlelight. I am not Catholic, but this Christmas I was visiting DD#3 in Saint Louis, Missouri, and determined to attend the Midnight service at the Cathedral Basilica St. Louis.

I had visited the Cathedral previously. It is very impressive. Almost the entire surface of the interior is covered in small mosaic tile. There is so much gold, that the place glistens at all hours of the day and night. The grandeur is offset by small boxes in the entryway requesting alms for the poor. They were conspicuously absent Christmas Eve.

The church was packed when we arrived right at 11 p.m. for the carols preceding the service. It had not taken long to get there, except for the time spent waiting outside the wrong church. Not even Nellie the Navigator can get it right if I don't input the proper data. We found seats together about 1/3 of the way from the back of the church and settled in. Our seats, it turned out, were in just the right place. When an impressive procession started down the aisle, then stopped to speak to the church at large, we were in just the right position to see the group up-close. This is the same church that Pope John visited while our daughter was attending graduate school in the area. No Pope was present this night, but there were archbishops, rectors, altar boys, seminary students, and young priests. I only saw two nuns and they were scurrying on the sidelines, on passage ways off the main area. There were only men of the church on the main aisle. I missed our open and affirming church that welcomes the work of women and incorporated them into every area of the church.

After stopping to review the history for the congregation, the procession continued to the altar area. The fragrance of incense was heavy in the air, leaving a haze in the sanctuary that almost obscured the mosaic tiles. An unseen choir, housed in the loft above us, spread joy by their music. I make no pretense of understanding the Catholic religion, I just let the beauty of ceremony and music wash over me and leave healing in its wake. God is present everywhere.

We did slip out before communion since we are not invited to partake of communion in the Catholic Church. Indeed, people seemed to move in and out of the sanctuary freely. We stepped back into the cold, crisp air of the weary world, and headed home....ready for Christmas Day.


  1. Don't worry, it's not catching.

  2. And by the way, you can still be in the room while they do Communion; you can just stay in your seat. There's no secret handshake that you can't see.

  3. There's nothing quite like an impressive Christmas Service. In comparison, since our church is pretty poor and waning in attendance, there were only like a couple dozen people and a powerpoint presentation. Oh dear.

    Best of seasons greetings to you! I did enjoy your sometime poetic account of your attending of the church though!

  4. Hi Gypsy!
    We do not have any celebrations here in Phnom Penh but the ex-pat community here is trying to keep the holiday spirit alive.
    I hope you are enjoying the ongoing festivities with you and your family. Here is my e-card for you.

  5. Please, no offense intended. I have sat through several communions. DD-in-law even told me to take communion anyway.

    Stephen K, thanks for your comments. Did you have snow for Christmas?

    zj, Thanks for the link. What wonderful opportunities you are having and you are wise enough to take advantage.

    Happy New Year to all.....

  6. Beautifully written, Gypsy. I especially like this:

    "I just let the beauty of ceremony and music wash over me and leave healing in its wake. God is present everywhere."

    I have never been to a mass; thanks for giving me this beautiful peek.


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