From the Pastor: Christmas Arrives This Week!
Santa Claus is coming to town! St. Nicholas is soon to arrive! He will have checked his list twice to see who has been naughty and who has been nice. Out of love of God and love of neighbor due to his love of God, he will bring presents to all of God’s good little girls and boys on the very night that God’s Love was manifest to all of creation by the birth of Jesus, born of Mary at midnight on December 25 just over 2000 years ago. I know that St. Nick already made a visit to us here at Epiphany, but he is so generous that he will also visit us at our homes! I can hardly wait but wait I must. The week will drag on endlessly as I count down the days. Monday will last a whole week. Tuesday will seem like a whole month. By the time Wednesday is done, I will think that it certainly has to be next Christmas already! But then a magical day comes with Thursday. Thursday morning will start off just like every other Thursday morning. Masses, confessions, Adoration, and everything else will be just like normal but something will be different. There will be a whiff of Christmas in the air, something hard to explain but far different from the endless, impatient waiting of the previous days. The clock races forward and then it happens! Evening comes and everything changes! Christmas arrives with the first Christmas Mass!
The Novus Ordo Christmas Vigil Mass at 5:00 pm will be the first of the Christmas Masses and, therefore, the official start of Christmas. (For those new to Tradition, Vigils are different in the new and old liturgical calendars. In the new calendar, a Vigil Mass is usually a Sunday Mass celebrated on Saturday evening or the Feast Day’s Mass celebrated the evening before a Holy Day of Obligation. Attending such a Vigil Mass fulfills one’s obligation for the Sunday or Feast Day. In the old calendar, a Vigil Mass is generally the daily Mass celebrated the morning before one of the greatest Feasts, even one which is not a Holy Day of Obligation. It is meant to prepare the people for a big Feast, not to take its place as the new-calendar Vigil does. So those Thursday morning Masses I just mentioned are the TLM Vigil of Christmas Masses. Unlike the Novus Ordo Vigil, attending one does not take the place of the Christmas Mass, nor fulfill the obligation to attend Mass on Christmas.) We never know how many people to expect at that Mass on Christmas Eve. One year, if memory serves correctly, we had three large families show up from out of town and they doubled our usual crowd. Each was simply visiting relatives in the area and found our parish either online or by word of mouth. This year I don’t know if we can expect any travelers. Our Midnight Mass (at midnight!) will once again be celebrated by candlelight. Unless we just happen to have a priest, deacon, or subdeacon stop by unexpectedly, it won’t be a Solemn High Mass this year (oh, how we miss Fr. Vincent!) but it will still be a High Mass and the choir will be heavenly. Just as I remember from childhood, Midnight Mass is expected to be the largest of all the Christmas Masses at Epiphany as you set aside all such obstacles as “tired children” and “long, very late, drives home.” In the morning our 7:30 am Low Mass will gather all of the early risers who must then wait until after Mass to open presents and eat breakfast. What a great explanation I heard one year about how the parents were teaching their children not only patience by attending that Mass but also teaching them that the greatest part of Christmas truly is attending the Mass celebrating Christ’s birth, rather than getting and giving presents, as important as that is. The 10:30 am Mass will see the return of the schola for another High Mass. This year we won’t have to worry about rushing through either of those morning Masses, as there won’t be a Vietnamese Mass in between. Parking should be a bit easier, too! Then, at 1:00 pm, we will have our last Christmas Mass of the day. Since we have never had a 1:00 pm Mass on Christmas (or any other Feast Day, since it was only begun this past June --temporarily, it seemed-- to allow covid anti-social distancing at the popular 10:30 Mass) I don’t know what size congregation to expect. Perhaps it will be full of families who were able to sleep in (hohoho) and then open presents and eat a hearty breakfast before coming to Mass. We shall see.
Fortunately, we will have two more weekends between Christmas and our big Epiphany Celebration which we will hold on Sunday, January 10. During that time we will get a huge tent set up behind the church, place dozens of tables and hundreds of chairs under it, get it all decorated beautifully, and get the hall ready for any overflow if needed. There will be a catered meal and so much more going on that day. Remember, the 1:00 pm Mass will not be celebrated that day, as there will be even more noise than normal, making it impossible to have a truly reverent Mass during the festival. The Epiphany Council of Catholic Women is the driving force behind this event, so when I wrote above that “we” would do this work, I actually meant “they”! Thank you, ladies! Merry Christmas, everyone!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka