I hope that you Christmas was Blessed, Happy with much joy and feasting with family and friends, and beautiful and reverent Christmas liturgies in your parish, be they Novus Ordo or Tridentine Latin Mass. Mine surely was, with a good solid feast, a nice quiet night shift at work (time an a half makes up for the time of the shift, 11pm-7am, ugh!), but most of all what started the day was Christmas Day Mass!
On the invite of my serving ally, Robin Cheung of St. Lawrence the Martyr, Scarborough, Ontario (whom you have seen a few times on here), I was asked to help serve the Latin Mass for Christmas at 1pm at their parish. With my addition to the full roster of servers for the EF Mass there (both frequent and weekend + a returnee from University), we had 6 servers in total, enabling us to satisfy all the positions for a Missa Cantata (even a non-necessary, but generous position of a boat bearer!). Further we had one of St. Lawrence's parishioners who frequents the Latin Mass, Margaret G., graciously provide organ music and cantoring for us, enabling for a true Missa Cantata to take place for that Mass! My position for the Mass was thurifer and Robin was one of the acolytes, with others servers filling roles.
Veteran servers Robin Cheung, acolyte, and our Master of Ceremonies, Brian Izzard, with thurible in hand during practice/instruction prior to Christmas Mass.
The entirety of the Mass was done reverently, with Fr. Steven Szakaczki, Latin Mass chaplain of the parish, as the Celebrant. Fr. Steven's vestments were of the appropriate liturgical colour, white with some Marian Blue and Gold trim. Of interest, these vestments are increasingly special on two levels: First, personal. These Marian vestments were donated to the parish by a deceased parishioner and brother in EF serving, James (a.k.a. Jim) Albert Mullen, R.I.P. In the initial beginnings of the Latin Mass program at SLTM, James played a significant role in serving many of the Latin Masses, before succumbing to illness on May 26 of this past year. He nonetheless valiantly marched on and served despite his ailment. Before his passing, he left a few gifts to the parish, among then his serving robes now donned by Robin Cheung, and the beautiful and elegant Marian vestments in the possession of SLTM.
On a second, theological level, the Marian vestments honour another important person in the Nativity: Jesus' earthly, yet Blessed Mother, the Theotokos (God-bearer in Greek), the Virgin Mary, who bore our Lord in a pain-free childbirth. [edited after completed posting on Jan 10, 2013 from theological investigation] For without the Virgin Mary, who graciously accepted the will of God, during the Annunciation at the heraldry of the Angel Gabriel, there would be no Nativity. Further it was only she, by Immaculate Conception, conceived without Original Sin, who could be the vessel for our Lord. For only a sinless vessel, could contain the Word Incarnate, also sinless, in her womb and birth Him.
Pictured here is the Chalice for Mass with white chalice veil, and the Marian Vestments left by Jim to SLTM, used for the Christmas Day Missa Cantata. The interior of the Gothic chausible is made with blue silk, but the exterior which is visible at the top and the upper left and right sides, is white. You may see somewhat what it looks like completely on Fr. Szakaczki below in the group sacristy picture.
As a note, for those who may contest `That vestment is blue! That`s a liturgical violation,` the major part of the vestment`s exterior is white, the proper liturgical colour with blue and gold TRIM, therefore a liturgical violation was NOT committed.
Does it not remind you of the Papal tiara with its towers of `crowns?` In fact this thurible was (unknowingly) an Eastern Rite thurible which initially contained bells on the chains. It has since been de-belled as shown, for the purposes of the Latin Mass. (Don't worry, the bells are in storage.)
Robin Cheung, pictured here with the SLTM Nativity Manger that was blessed with incense in Latin during our Mass. Robin is here at the Manger outside of Mass.
After the Gospel, which was the Last Gospel from the Book of John said at the end of Mass, Fr. Steven gave an excellent homily about the Nativity of our Lord, which actually touched on a number of facets of our society as well. It is these homilies that should be said at Christmas time everywhere in churches. I will recall what I can and how I understood it, though at a future time if he so chooses, Fr. can gladly disperse his homily and I will provide it as I'm certain I misunderstood or am not giving all the proper points here.
What I can recall, is that he opened the sermon by commenting on the situation of our world with regard to its increasing atheism and relativism, which has been increasing in recent times, including attacks on the Christian/Catholic faith during this Advent Season. In this vein, he wanted those in attendance to think what our world would be without Christianity, particularly at this time of year. People would just simply be working and going about themselves with nothing particularly special this time of year. Further, our economy uses Christmas for sales and it wouldn't be as prosperpous (including providing people with seasonal employment who need work), though obviously Fr. is not promoting or encouraging greed. People would simply be working another day, instead of spending time with their families and honouring the nativity of our Lord. (I could not help but think of my colleagues at work, who could not afford time to be with their families due to their work scheduling, or who make the sacrifice for others to be with theirs on these days.)
He also discussed the impact that Christianity has had on our world to further emphasize the importance of the birth of the Christ child. For starters, Christianity has given the world many different accomplishments in the areas of the arts, but especially the sciences. Generally, the Church and Catholics have not shied away from the sciences. Specifically, with our modern scientific advances in genetic counselling and scientific/molecular research, where would we be without Gregory Mendel, the famous Augustinian monk who discovered the initial principles of genetics, with his crossing of different strains of pea plants? In addition, Christianity has led to the betterment of the condition of humanity. Due to Christianity, the first schools of higher learning came about, and this is the basis for the modern day university system for post-secondary education. Further, schools for children and youth were also brought about in the missionary work of orders of priests and religious (including nuns), and another institution also emerged from their efforts: The hospital system.
Tying the veins of family, the importance of the Christian Faith, and Jesus' nativity, Fr. also commented on the situation of Christianity's impact on the family and modern man. For starters in the time before Christ, while yes there was the Jewish religion, the majority of the world still did not exactly have the most moral mindset with regard to families and women, particularly if you were not of the elite classes in society (including the Romans). Christianity had a significant impact in bring that moral compass to those areas of human social conduct and justice, increasing the role of the family and respect of woman in society at all levels (not just in the ruling elite or wealthy). Both back then, as well as for those today, who are Christian but especially more so Catholic, it is those who practice the faith that are less likely to engage in immoral conduct and crime, and orient themselves to be more productive members of society and charitable to their fellow man and woman. Those who are of a practising religion, but especially Catholicism, generally have a more positive and altruistic outlook on life and are more satisfied externally and internally. Statistically, it is those families who are practising Christians, especially Roman Catholic, whose families bear children and are the least likely to divorce/separate.
It was at this point in the homily, when Father began to delve into the theological aspect of the homily, it was my duty as thurifer to prepare another heated coal for the thurible as it would be in use again at the offertory, and had to return to the sacristy (after genuflecting to the tabernacle and altar). Even altar serving guides say once a significant portion of the homily (1/3 to 1/2) has passed, to go and prepare a new coal. Thus I was not able to hear the 2nd half of the homily. I will provide it in future in full if it is released, but regardless, what I and the rest of the people heard was exceptional and invigorating to us as Catholics on this Nativity. All those outcomes in 2000+ years of this world's existence, from a lowly babe in a manger ... who later revealed Himself to us as not just a lowly human, but the Word Made Flesh and our Salvation.
Regardless the rest of the Mass proceeded accordingly and smoothly, and a wonderful liturgy befitting of the Lord took place in that lovely parish in the East End of our archdiocese. In attendance was a sizeable crowd for the Latin Mass, a good 100-130 people by visual estimate (40-65 people per side x 2) for the 1pm Christmas Mass. This congregation contained people of varying ages, old, young, some children, and even some young adults!
If you did attend, be that you a regular SLTM or Latin Mass-goer at another parish, or decided on something different for such a special (and obligatory) holy day, thank you. If this was your first Latin Mass, I do hope that it was reverent and brought you to the Lord, and that you will re-consider the Latin Mass again in future, be it Low, High, Solemn, with a parish or a lay-organization, etc. Just do consider re-attending and partaking in a diocesan, valid AND licit, Mass of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
Pax Tibi Christi, and a Joyous and Blessed Happy New Year/*Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Julian.
EDIT NOVEMBER 29, 2012, 1118 EST
I have made a couple of punctuation additions/corrections and added a couple of pieces of text.
Also, after the Mass in the sacristy (post dismissal prayer for the servers from Fr.,) we had a picture taken of the inferior and superior ministers courtesy of Robin`s phone and another parishioner (Thank you!). It's blurry from motion (sorry) but nonetheless it`s the full team of SLTM servers + I (that pasty faced, shiny black haired fellow to the right) and our celebrant, Fr. Szakaczki. One can now see the Marian Gothic chausible worn by Fr. S. when not laid out. It was such a joyous occasion that I left with such Christmas warmth from. God Bless!
* P.S. You must go to a Mass either on the Eve or the actual day of January 1, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Canada. This is a day of obligation as dictated in Canada for all Catholics. You can do this either in the Ordinary Form or the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, or in another canonically valid and licit rite of the Church (e.g. Byzantine/Ukranian Rite).
UPDATE Jan 2, 2012
Robin provided me with the name of our Cantor/organist for the Mass, Margaret G. I finally caught that in one of my e-mails the past few days. Thank you!