On Christmas Eve we went to midnight mass (at 10 PM) at Mount Calvary Church in downtown Baltimore. The choir was in excellent form. They sang Tomas Luis de Victoria’s mass O Magnum Mysterium. Their enunciation and timing was excellent; I could follow the Latin words with no difficulty.
Mount Calvary Church
At the beginning of mass there was a procession around the church. The servers went to the altar, where the image of the Infant was lying. A small girl carried him in the procession and laid him in the manger. The priest blessed the creche and we sang Silent Night.
This explained what had happened before mass. The same girl had gone over to the creche. She had been studying ballet, and did a plié and a pirouette before the creche; those who noticed it were in danger of dying of cuteness prostration. I thought of the story about the Jongleur of Notre Dame, and the (fortunately vain) attempts of the Catalan bishops in the Counter-Reformation to stop dancing in church. The Spanish still have the dance of the altar boys. And David danced before the Ark.
We roused ourselves to go to the ten o’clock mass at the Cathedral. Outside we were greeted by some of our Protestant friends with a sign THE POPE IS ANTICHRIST and by a bullhorn which allowed them to inform everyone within a mile that they had detected some theological errors in the Catholic Church.
Thomas Day wrote a book Why Catholics Can’t Sing. One would think that Christmas might be an exception, as everyone has heard the standards carols approximately 15,832 times (at least). The program even had the traditional words of the carols. But the cantor helpfully informed everyone that the carols were also in the hymnal. and the words in the hymnal had been made gender neutral, and therefore differed from the words in the program. Confusion, as usual, reigned.
The World’s Only Art Moderne Cathedral
And today, December 27, is the Feast of St. John the Beloved Disciple. I drink to you in the love of St. John.
There is a beautiful Catholic custom for St. John’s feast day – the blessing of wine. It is in honor of his remaining unharmed after drinking a poisoned cup of wine over which he made the Sign of the Cross. The father of the family can read Psalm 22 and then recite this prayer: ” Lord Jesus Christ, Thou didst call Thyself the vine and Thy holy apostles the branches; and out of all those who love Thee, Thou didst desire to make a good vineyard. Bless this wine and pour into it the might of Thy benediction so that everyone who drinks or takes of it, may through the intercession of Thy beloved disciple the holy apostle and evangelist John, be freed from every disease or attack of illness and obtain health of body and soul. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.”
A toast to the love of St. John is then pledged by all the family. The father touches his glass of wine to his wife and says: “I drink to you the love of St. John” and she in turn touches the children’s (watered-down wine) goblets and says “I drink to you the love of St. John.”