You Descended from the Choir Loft....
Regrettably, as it is written, the rite for the blessing of the Creche is pretty sparse, so the onus of making a memorable moment relies on the imagination of the celebrant and the sensibilities of the community. And, as such things often do, this got me to thinking of the things I've seen at Christmas liturgies which have really amazed me and made the holiday even more resonant and meaningful....
I could go on for days, but here are two of my most-cherished ones. As a primer, I belong to an Italian ethnic parish entrusted to the Augustinian Friars. Now, just in case anyone out there reading this has the misfortune of not knowing any Italians, whenever possible we like: 1. being expressive and 2. doing things up. (Piero Marini, gift of God that he is, isn't one of us for nothing.) As an example, my parish doesn't just do May Processions -- out of fairness, our boys crown Christ the King on that year-end feast, processing the statue around the church. It's just lovely.
Of course, when it comes to the up-doing and expressiveness school, Christmas is the gran enchilada. And the Bambino -- because he is the Bambino, after all -- must enter with some flair, just so He can have no doubt of our warm welcome and return the favor with His favor.
In days past, at the vigil Mass of Christmas, for the post-Communion meditation hymn, the parish choir would begin to intone the old country carol "Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle" -- in case you haven't heard it, the beginning translates as "You came down from the stars, O king of the heavens, and came to a cave in the snowy cold...."
As these beautiful words wafted over a dimmed church, a basket would fly over the heads of the faithful along a rigged zipline from the choir loft to right in front of the creche. Having descended, the Birthday Boy would be placed in the Creche. Just our Italian way of saying that Christmas had come again.
From my days as a choirboy, there was another moment which rings clear in my memory. We would do the 5pm vigil on the Eve at our Cathedral-Basilica here in Philadelphia. As the Gospel for that Mass is the geneaology of Jesus, a device was employed which involved a very expensive set of handbells acquired for the International Eucharistic Congress, which took place here in 1976.
For each of the 42 generations which produced the Prince of Peace, a boy on either side of the ambo would alternate in ringing one of the large, low-toned bells. When the text reached its culmination, "Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah," the rest of us up in the loft, each armed with a bell of varying size, let loose, producing an aurally jubilant carillon effect to the pleasant surprise of the congregation. It was wonderfully memorable.
So what've you all seen or done at Christmas liturgies that remains with you, or that you still get to experience? I'd love to know -- the box is open.