Christmas '07 began with the Clemens family preparing for midnight mass with four exuberant kids and one pajama clad baby. Henry appeared to be sleepy before we entered the church, but perked up completely once inside..visiting with parishioners in pews in front of us and in back. "Hi,hi, hi", he slurred. We all perked up. The church was beautifully decorated, the music..a mix of Mozart and traditional hymns stirred up memories of Christmas past. The Christmas trees sparkled while the congregation sat in anticipation of the Incarnation. I closed my eyes and soaked it all in. After all, Christmas only comes once a year.
One of the best things about being Catholic is midnight mass. How many other denominations actually expect their congregations to come out at midnight during the busiest time of the year? Not many. But you can be sure the Catholics are there. My Jewish neighbors think were are an odd group. "How can you get all five of your kids dressed for a midnight mass?" they asked me on Christmas Eve. I laughed and agreed that it's not for the weak. But in my mind I thought, what better way to impart the importance of Christmas to your child than by dragging them out of their pajamas and hoofing it though the night chill to await Christ's coming. It's a big deal which deserves extra effort.
Midnight mass had a big impact on me as a young child,although I did not recognize it at the time. Looking back, I knew it was different than any other Mass simply because of the time. It's quiet, still and filled with anticipation. Yea, I wanted my presents and the big Christmas dinner, but I knew that Jesus and His Mass came first. As I got older, Midnight Mass was the place where I could count on meeting up with my long-lost siblings after months of busy college classes or work schedules. We all found ourselves at home on Christmas Eve getting dressed for Midnight Mass. No one questioned it. We just knew Midnight Mass was part of our lives. It was our tradition.
I hope to impart the Midnight Mass tradition with my children. It not only connects us to Christ in an extra special way, it connects us with our familial past. Oh, Holy Night.
(Henry is appearing to look sleepy. No luck. He was awake for most of the Mass.)