Steven D. Greydanus has a thoughtful piece on more and more Protestant churches being closed on Christmas Day. Christmas and culture: Closing churches on Christmas?
While this has been a trend in Protestant churches, the trend I notice for Catholics is earlier and earlier Christmas Vigil Masses. While parishes still have Midnight Mass and other Christmas Day Masses I am seeing multiple Vigil Masses and ones as early as 4:30 PM.
Seems to me to be a get Mass out of the way phenomenon. I know I can catch myself in this mentality. The old joke about what time is Midnight Mass isn’t quite as funny anymore. Convenience rules the day and then we see what Catholics in the Middle East are suffering through.
I love Midnight Mass myself. Even when I was an atheist because of the Christmas Carols. So I would put up with the sky fairy thing for being able to sing Christmas Carols. I am not a person who much like crowds and Midnight Masses are often overcrowded. But I arrive early not just to get a seat in a pew, but mostly for the Christmas Carols sung before Mass. There is something about bringing in Christmas Day at Mass in participating with the Angels who brought the message to the shepherds. Plus it is hardly even a Vigil Mass being at midnight. Plus one thing I dearly love is the thunderous Joy to the World pretty much sang at the end of Mass regardless what parish I have attended. It gets me every time.
I have been to many different parishes for Midnight Masses in my diocese. The experience regardless of the normal liturgical fare offered at other times is usually quite excellent. This is when parishes all of a sudden remember that there are hymns written before 1970. Where we tend to have fuller choirs and symphonic accompaniment.
Although one time the choir was so out of tune that it was disconcerting and not just one person. That this included one of the soloists was surprising. I discovered later that this wasn’t just an off night. My mantra to myself was – “They are giving of their time and ”cough“ talent so don’t complain.” Guess I failed at the not complaining part, but it has been a couple of years.
So really looking forward to the 4:30 PM Mass, I mean Midnight Mass.
When my children were younger, we did not attend vigil masses, not for Easter, nor for Christmas. And so, on Easter morning, or Christmas morning, we experienced the phenomenon of having the priest and the cantor and the choir all behaving as though they had been to the most amazing party together the night before; they were sleep-deprived, and feeling a little hung-over, together. Their togetherness did not extend to those of us showing up for the morning after. Not sure how to describe this. The morning mass was reduced to a… second-best party. This sense may be unavoidable in the Novus Ordo when it is produced like musical theater.