Wednesday, December 24, 2003

sacred and holy night

When I was a freshman in college, a friend dragged me to her church's midnight mass. This would have been in 1973, and the parish was St. Alban's in Waco.

My people didn't go out into the middle of the night to celebrate Christmas, so it was something of a new experience, less than shocking, but a profound one, nevertheless.

The church was dark, with only a few candles lit. The parish choir sang a series of anthems, and then the readings began, linking old and new testaments to the story of Christ's birth. By the end of the mass, I was deeply moved. Years later, thinking back on the experience, I think the choir probably sounded like many small parish choirs. But at the time, for me, it was a heavenly host.

I never worshipped at St. Alban's on a regular basis, and in fact, did not become an Episcopalian until I moved years later to Austin.

But on Christmas Eve I still look forward to the unusual experience of going to church late at night, in the cold, beginning the service in darkness, and ending in celebration and light. It certainly makes for a better sense of the words of Silent Night, often sung during the mass.

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