I am about ready to make my Christmas card for this year, as the Christmas season begins tomorrow, so I thought I would head for a parish I visit often for daily Mass and, between Masses, take a picture of the stained-glass window depicting the birth of Jesus to use on the cover of the card. Unfortunately for me, a potted, red plant was placed in front of the window for Christmas, which would have ruined the photograph. "Ah, but you could just go ask the priest or deacon if you could move it for a moment to take the picture. They would be flattered that you liked their window that much!" say members of the audience. Yes, of course-- I always do things like that-- anything to start a conversation; sure, why not? Well, anyone who actually thinks I did that is welcome to purchase the Brooklyn Bridge at a substantial after-Christmas discount at a sale Tuesday. Maybe next year I'll get that picture; this year, I'll have to get another idea. Fortunately, I still have two weeks.
After that, I headed for my uncle's parish not too far away and made it in time for the 10:30 AM Mass. The church bears a 1983 cornerstone and isn't too bad for that era. It is rectangular and constructed of dark brown brick both inside and out, which makes the interior very dark as well, especially since it has only a few stained-glass windows with mostly abstract designs. A large, circular window over the sanctuary appears to depict the Sacred Heart of Jesus pierced by the Cross. Underneath that is a white wall with a raised sculpture of Jesus being held by the Virgin Mary after being taken from the Cross. The ambo is at the left, further back than the altar. A small niche is at the left (I forget what was there), while a larger niche at the right (part of a small chapel) holds the square, metal tabernacle. The celebrant's chair is at the rear and to the right; the cantor also serves from a music stand at the right near the white, marble baptismal font. The altar servers sit in the front row of pews at the left.
The sanctuary itself projects into the wooden pews, which are arranged such that four sections directly face the sanctuary, and four more sections, two at each side, are at right angles to the sanctuary. Racks in the pews hold copies of OCP's Today's Missal and Music Issue in the usual blue, plastic cover. A noteworthy feature of this church is the section for the choir. It is at the rear left, but it is almost at ground level. I don't think I've seen anything like this anywhere else. If it's in the rear, it's a loft, and it's probably pre-1970; if it's post-1970, it's probably in the front. The main doors open into a large vestibule that can double as a cry room, as it has glass windows facing the inside.
I arrived just in time for the Mass and excused myself into the center of a mostly empty pew that looked appealing as it would be safe later in the Mass if things got a bit rough. (One reason I like to arrive early is that I can sit at the center of a pew without stepping over anyone.) A sign language interpreter was at the right, near the cantor, and interpreted the entire Mass. The cantor went to the music stand and announced the opening hymn, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." Three servers, a deacon, and the priest (who I recognized immediately as he used to serve in my current parish) formed the opening procession through the center aisle. (I don't recall if the lay ministers were in the procession.) The priest and deacon were in blue vestments, matching the Advent colors in the sanctuary. The priest started by asking if anyone had a birthday, anniversary, or other event today; it took about five minutes to finish going around the congregation and applauding each event. Then came the opening sign of the cross. The deacon led the invocations of Form C of the penitential rite.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading. The cantor led the psalm for the day from the music stand (after reading the response once before singing it), and the reader gave the second reading from the ambo. After the sung Alleluia and verse before the Gospel, while the deacon proclaimed the Gospel from the ambo, two servers stood on either side of the ambo and held candles. Then the deacon preached the homily. I think he read it from a sheet of paper; unfortunately, not too much of it stuck to me.
The Creed was recited, and I noticed that the priest seemed to have bowed his head at the appropriate time. The deacon led the intentions of the Prayer of the Faithful, which was followed by a collection taken using long-handled wicker baskets. The offertory hymn was "Hail Mary: Gentle Woman." The chalice and ciboriums were of metal.
The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei were sung to a familiar setting that I am not able to identify. The priest offered the third Eucharistic Prayer. At the Our Father, I saw no ostentatious hand-holding, but people were close enough together that some discreetly-joined hands may have been possible. A less-than-optimum event was the entrance of about six lay ministers into the sanctuary during the Our Father; perhaps when they get around to reading the new GIRM they will realize that they should wait until after the Agnus Dei to approach the altar.
At Holy Communion, the dual-station method was in place at the center aisle, and I think the side sections in the front used the single-station method. The chalice was not offered. The Communion hymn was the same Maranatha (I) used at last week's parish.
After Communion, the priest took a few moments to tell everyone that when he said last week that every Catholic home should have a creche, some folks did not know what a creche was and thus did not raise their hands when he asked who had one. He explained that a creche could also be called a manger and pointed to the one in the church as an example of what a creche was; now, many more people would be able to affirm that they did in fact have a creche. The priest then offered the closing prayer and imparted a simple blessing. The closing hymn was "People, Look East." The priest, deacon, and servers left via the center aisle. More than three-fourths of the congregation had disappeared before all four verses were complete.
Now folks, please say a very brief prayer (it really isn't worth much more than that, actually) for me. In the morning, I shall attend Christmas Mass at my own parish with my parents, and I shall be subjected to the usual silliness that begins Sunday Mass there. Perhaps with a short prayer or two from those in the audience, it won't be too crowded (I suspect most folks attend Mass on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas morning anyway; we have four Masses Christmas Eve and midnight Mass) and maybe I can escape unscathed.