December 24, 2007

The (now) traditional Christmas Eve post

From Christmas 2004:

My most powerful and clear memory of Christmas as a child is from a year that I cannot place: I might have been eleven or twelve, probably no more than thirteen. The year doesn't matter.

That Christmas was my first as an altar boy that I was old enough to be the crucifer, to lead the procession into the church. Christmas Vigil mass was always the best one of the year to attend at, as the red cassocks were broken out for that one occasion. There was always something about the stained glass windows too---they were shining brightly to the outside world, but inside they were oddly black, which always seemed fitting and appropriate at Holy Thursday as well as when walking Stations of the Cross, but seemed out of place for Christmas Eve. We would always line up in the vestibule next to the sacristy, and I can remember how dark it was in that hallway, the smell of the incense swirling, the heat of the candles behind me, the door in front of me with the mass schedule tacked to it. There were probably seven of us in line, plus the pastor. He would wait for us to stop fidgeting, and then would say, "Okay, boys, He's waiting" and the door would open.

I remember the door opening that night stepping off from the darkness of the hallway into the light of the church. The smell of the fir and the incense combined with the heat of the breath of the people smashing into the sound.

I have never felt anything in my life before or since like the feeling of stepping into that sound:

Adeste fidelis
Laeti triumphantes
Venite, venite in Bethlehem
Natum videte
regem angelorum
Venite adoremus
Venite adoremus
Venite adoremus Dominum.

The feeling when that first Adeste hit me sent a wave through me, a feeling that became hardwired into me whenever I now hear those opening notes of Oh Come All Ye Faithful. The rest is a blur, of that day, and of Christmases growing up. But that one moment will be with me as long as I live.

Years later, after he retired, I asked our pastor about what he would always say, "Okay, boys, He's waiting." I'd had some semeters of theology in college and wanted to talk about the idea of the Incarnation and all. He looked at me and laughed, not realizing the joke was on him.

"Steve, I was refering to Mr. Mostoway, the organist. He'd always get impatient and start playing faster if we didn't start on time."

Merry Christmas, everybody.

Of course, the joke was on me and Father Shields knew what he was talking about.

Merry Christmas to all. Merry Christmas to you and yours, and Merry Christmas indeed to all the denizens of Orgle Manor. Thank you, Robbo, for being crazy enough to agree to join in on this partnership 4 years ago. It means so very much to me.

LMC---God bless you and your brave colleagues in Mother Army. Thank you for standing watch while foppish wretches like me go about my selfish, insular lives.

Chai-Rista---Merry Saturnalia, or whatever Festivus-esque thing The Big Heat's got cooked up for the week, in particular. Enjoy a fine week of world class BBQ, bottlerockets shot off the front porch, gallons of homebrew cough syrup, and may Santa leave you Kurt Russell, naked and scruffy, in your stocking!

Posted by Steve-O at December 24, 2007 10:59 AM | TrackBack

Merry Christmas, Steve-O. I love this post when you do it each year; God bless you and your family this Christmas season.

I've been hard on you of late, but I really do love you, man, like the teary guy in the beer commercial.

You, sir, are the pirate.

Posted by: The Abbot at December 24, 2007 04:43 PM