From the Pastor: What To Expect For Christmas
No, this is not about toys under the tree or coal left in stockings. This is about what to expect here at Epiphany this Christmas. Let me begin with the big questions on the minds of all of the new parishioners. “Why is the church not yet decked out for Christmas? Why is the Nativity set in the rear of the church rather than in front of the altar?” And, from the parishioners who have been here longer, “Where is the inflatable dinosaur with the Christmas present in his mouth? Where are the 3000 lights and mixture of all sorts of plastic, rubber, and wicker statues, figurines, and animals which used to be out front?” As for the answers, the Church is decked out for Advent, not Christmas, since this is Advent Season. Believe it or not, Christmas did not really start 3 weeks before Halloween or the day after Thanksgiving. We are now preparing for the Christ Child to show Himself at His Nativity, not celebrating it as a done deal. As for the Nativity set, there is only one place forbidden to put it in the church building according to church liturgical documents: in the sanctuary. But, since almost nobody celebrates Mass from in front of the altar anymore, that space is considered “wasted space” which needs to be filled with something. So during Lent it often contains a desert scene with a cactus, sand, perhaps a cow skull, and either a tumbleweed or a coiled, dead grapevine. Easter usually has the space filled with lilies and sometimes baskets of colorful eggs. Autumn brings cornucopia horns of plenty, with pumpkins and other squash, and colorful leaves scattered in front of the altar. Advent, of course, fills that space with the forbidden manger scene and dozens of poinsettias and flowers. After all, modern sanctuaries are mostly devoid of anything beautiful, so kitschy items try to make up for the lack of artistic and religious content. The infamous dinosaur out front, along with the many various mismatched objects and multitude of lights, all went away with the St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission when it became its own parish. I haven’t been by their new church to see it recently but I assume that they have it all decked out in all its splendid gaudiness as always. Years ago we had come to an agreement that their community got to decorate the outside however and whenever they chose and our community took care of the inside. That was necessary because they were used to decorating the sanctuary and entire front of the church in such a way that it was impossible for a Latin Mass to be celebrated, with trees and flowers and statues and blinking lights and other objects not only causing distraction but also taking up the spaces where the priest and altar boys needed to stand, sit, and move. Our compromise worked well enough, and I have heard a few people nostalgic for the missing waterfall out front pouring over the plastic tarps draped around their Nativity set.
Anyway, last Christmas was our first with the two communities split from each other but because of the covid stuff nothing was “normal” anyway and we struggled to get into a Christmas pattern. This year we are basically starting over and trying to figure out what to do and when to do it. There are no flowers allowed in the church during Advent (except Gaudete Sunday), so we have limited the “decorations” to plain green wreaths and some greenery where flowers normally are found. The social hall will be decorated later this week. Our “flower lady” had to step aside due to family issues so we are looking for someone to step forward and take on the monumentally prayerful task of making flower arrangements for the altar and statues. Any takers?
As for the Mass schedule, on Christmas Eve, Friday, December 24 we will have a Novus Ordo Mass at 5:00 pm. Midnight Mass will start at midnight and will be lit by candles. It will be an absolutely beautiful high Mass. Christmas morning we will follow the Sunday schedule of low Mass at 7:30 and hIgh Mass at 10:30, although there will be no confessions following either Mass. The normal Saturday morning Adult Catechism Class has been canceled that day, too. Fr. Tuoc will celebrate a Novus Ordo Vigil Mass at 5:00 pm on Christmas day which will be an anticipated Sunday Mass for the Feast of the Holy Family. But if you know anyone who somehow missed Christmas Mass, they can technically attend that Mass and it will “count” for either Christmas or the Sunday after Christmas (but not both). The Sunday Mass and confession schedule will be as normal on December 26. Of the normal group meetings that take place on Sundays, none have asked us to take them off the schedule, so they remain on the calendar as of this writing. Will they really be meeting that morning? I doubt it but you never know. Just because I will be barely functioning doesn’t mean that everyone else is in the same boat. Monday, December 27, is the Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, and there is a special blessing of wine after Masses that day.
January 1 is not a Holy Day of Obligation this year since it falls on a Saturday. We will have the normal 8:00 am Mass but will also add an extra 10:30 high Mass for those who need a little extra time to get moving that day. The office will be closed from December 24 through January 3, so plan accordingly.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka