Midnight Mass 2020

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

The Nativity figurine closeup photography
We had wanted to go to a midnight mass.  My husband was usually working on Christmas eve and Christmas day, so we never went.  Actually, we tried once when my youngest child was still a baby. She started to cry, as babies do, and we left, so as not to disturb anyone.  That was about fifteen years ago.  

Did I mention, that I married into a Catholic family?  Yes, my husband is a "cradle Catholic," as they say.  Early on, after we met, we went to a few Masses.  Then we lived around his family, who were all cradle Catholics.  For a time we lived with his Grandmother, who taught me a lot about Catholicism. 

Soon, my husband and I were married and began a family of our own. Things happened that challenged my husbands faith and between that and my husbands crazy work schedule, we just never had the time to go to Midnight Mass.

In December 2020 everything fell into place and we found ourselves outside our local Cathedral, just before midnight.  As we neared the entrance of the Cathedral, my husband asked, "Are you sure this is a Catholic Church?"  I nodded to the affirmative and added, "This is the place I took your mother to when she visited and wanted to light a candle on your brothers death anniversary."  He seemed reassured and we entered the Cathedral.  

As we walked in, there was the sound of harp music playing.  There were many people, including lots of families.  Some were already knelt down and praying at their pews.  We took in the space around us and found a place to sit.  As we sat, my husband was pointing to different things in the Church and explaining to our daughter what they were.  I was half listening as I took in this gorgeous atmosphere and noticed a warm comforting feeling coming over me.  A feeling of comfort is something I had not had in a very long time.

I hadn't felt connected to God, in a very long time. 

While I believed in a general sense of 'divinity,' I also felt unsure of who or what that might be.  All I had known of the divine for the past few years was that wherever this divinity was, I had not the ability to reach 'it.'  

There is a relativism within the pagan, new age, wiccan concepts of spirituality: Anything is ok as long as you want it to be. Anything is real as long as you decide it is. Many are loosely based on folklore from different cultures and mythology.  Many, especially nowadays, have become a sort of DIY religion. You want a god who approves of all you want to do? You can likely find one from some mythological tale if you look. I had been there done that.

Alternatively, you can devote yourself to a pantheistic belief in everything being divine.  This one is handy when you don't want to upset or offend anyone. It allows self professed awkward humans like myself this absurd ability to never have to 'pick a side.'  It grants you a false sense of security, where you never have to take responsibility for your actions. You get to be in this nebulous 'middle' where you don't have to commit to anything. This is where I had been for the last ten years and it was getting old.  Probably because after thirty five years of practicing all of these things, it was slowly dawning on me, that none of it was true.   However, I didn't want to accept that fact.  Who wants to realize they wasted thirty five years of their life?  Not me.

Tonight, however, during this beautiful Mass, all the lies I had wrapped myself up in, began to fall away.  At first I didn't realize this is what was happening.  My husband and daughter and I had gotten into just following along with the rest of the Church.  There was a lady who welcomed us all.  There were people reading scripture.  There was a man singing scripture. There was a Priest leading us all in prayers that I only knew one of by heart, thanks to spending three years in a private christian school as a child.  We sat, we stood, we knelt.  The more this very early morning went on, the more I realized the God I had been seeking, in all the wrong ways, was right here.

He was here in this church, in this faith and in these people.  

This knowledge came over me during one of the times we were kneeling.  I actually thought the words, "Oh, you're here."  A feeling of love wrapped around me as if God was saying, "Finally!  You see me!"  and finally, I believed. There in that moment, all my doubts and skepticism left me. I truly did believe in, "God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth..." I knew this was true as much as I know I am sitting at my desk typing this all out on April 6th, 2021.

As I continued kneeling there, a flood of thoughts poured into my head.  The side of my brain that thinks of itself as rational, tried to argue against what I now believed.  All the old arguments I had known against Christianity tried to 'reason' with me.  It was no use.  Those arguments now seemed silly to me.  How did I ever believe them in the first place?  What had seemed just another 'mythological tale' amongst many had planted itself, firmly in my heart, as the truth that it is:  God is real, Jesus was born of the virgin Mary and Christ died for us.  

I had gotten to a point in my life where I was so unsure of so much and it made me a little sad much of the time. To be blessed with this type of certainty after feeling so lost for so long was more than I deserved.  Yet, as the rest of the Mass continued,  the loving feeling I knew as God just became stronger. I just kept thinking, "I want this, I want all of this." I was so wrapped up in his love and I never wanted it to end.  I was fully surrendered to God and to this Faith.

My family and I continued following along with everyone else.  Eventually the mass came to an end and we departed the Cathedral and headed to our house.  

Everything was different now.  

This Mass was only supposed to be this fun thing to do for Christmas.  It was supposed to be nothing more than a distraction from life's worries and the stresses of the holiday season.  Thank God it was so much more than that.

This Mass brought me home.

By Laurie O’Driscoll
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