A few days before my ninth Christmas, dad announced that I was finally old enough to attend Midnight Mass. I was all excited, and felt so grown up. I didn’t get many chances to stay up late.
Snow had fallen earlier in the day and it crunched beneath our boots as we set out. The air was sharp and crisp, and stars twinkled in the sky like diamonds on navy blue velvet. We drove right by the big church in the city, the church I was used to. I was surprised until dad said we were going several miles further, to the church in the little village where he grew up, “just for old times’ sake”
This would make it even more interesting. We arrived, and St. Leo’s was a picture straight out of Currier and Ives: creamy yellow, with two enormous blue spruces standing sentinel on the front lawn. I could tell already something special was going to happen that night.
Inside it was dark and mysterious. The air was full of the scent of candlewax, incense and evergreens. Candles flickered, the glow shining off every polished surface, mirroring the stars outside. I snuggled in close to dad, feeling safe, warm and expectant. In the front stood a crèche, the manger empty. Where was the Christ Child?
Suddenly a deep blast cut through the hush. I hadn’t seen the organ, and the unexpected chord made the hair stand on the nape of my neck. Somewhere behind me a woman’s choir announced the Savior’s coming to the melody of a traditional French-Canadian carol. Maybe it wasn’t the angel choir Luke’s Gospel spoke about, but this little boy was awestruck. In my nine year old mind, this was the best choir in the world-ever. This was the angels singing,
A solemn processional came into view, bringing with it the Bethlehem Child, who with great reverence was given His proper place in the crèche. The Mass followed, but to me it was anticlimactic. The angel choir had sung, telling one more time of a tiny baby, asleep on a rude bed of straw.