As we conclude our Advent Season, this year we are confronted with a unique situation in that we almost immediately launch into Christmas Eve/Day the same Sunday evening as the 4th Sunday of Advent. For a priest and for parishes, this presents a special challenge. How do we transition from Advent into Christmas in such a short time, both spiritually and liturgically with all our celebrations? At first I thought to host only one Mass for the 4th Sunday of Advent, on the Saturday evening (December 23rd) at the Church of St. Paul at 4:30 PM. I wanted to do this for two reasons: 1) Because our parish musicians and choirs, decorators, custodial staff, and volunteers need time to practice, change our environment, and set up chairs, etc. for Christmas, and I wanted to give the time they needed to do these things without interfering with their own family Christmas celebrations at home. 2) Because of my own concern that people might attend a Sunday morning Mass before Christmas and feel no need to attend Christmas Eve or Day, which would take away from the importance we place on our Savior’s birth. I wanted us to put more of our energies into Christmas Eve/Day instead. This said, after some careful thought and consideration, I recently decided that for those who actually cannot make the Saturday evening Mass on December 23rd at St. Paul, and so that these people will still be able to fulfill their “Sunday Obligation”, we will offer an additional Mass for the 4th Sunday of Advent on Sunday morning (December 24th) at 8:30 AM at the Church of St. Peter. This Mass will be very a simple liturgy with none of the fan-fare of a huge celebration so as not to take away from Christmas. I hope this will help those who have any conflicts. Thank you for your understanding.
Finally, I would like to offer just a short meditation from Pope Francis as we continue this holiday season: “No one can demand that religion should be regulated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society. An authentic faith-which is never comfortable or completely personal-always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, and to leave this earth somehow better than when we found it.” (Pope Francis) I would like to personally add the fact that our own Blessed Virgin Mary (although she had a deep personal relationship with God in her humble home at Nazareth) made a profound and very public impact on the world by her consenting to and delivering on the birth of God’s own Son. On occasion, she traveled with our Lord on some of his public missionary journeys. What a world of difference she made by allowing the Holy Spirit truly show forth in her life!
Words to live by: “Doing good turns won’t make you dizzy.”