I just wanted to take a few minutes to give my thoughts on Midnight Mass this year at St. Teresa's. There were 3, but I went to the one at 8pm. We got in through the side door around 7pm. There were few people there, but when they opened the doors, people swarmed in like it was a boxing day sale!
It was great to see so many people around, many of whom only show up to Mass once or twice a year. Fr. Tony at the beginning explained that since Advent of this year, we've been using a new translation for the Mass and people should look at the cue cards provided to say the right things. Most people were caught off guard when we read the new translations. There was also a fair bit of confusion over when to kneel and at one point my family and I were the only only people in our "area" doing so.
The Mass had some very nice music, and was celebrated well by Fr. Bidgood. (Wow, that's weird, just as I'm typing this I heard what sounded to be church music coming from my computer, but I cannot ascertain the source and it's gone now. Anyway, back to the blog post). We actually read out the entire Nicene Creed, which is a little unusual at our parish. I then proceeded to take up the collection from a corner of the church. It was extraordinary how much money people gave. My basket was overflowing and people were dropping in twenties all over the place. It was great.
I did, though, have some criticisms. First of all, several times during Mass people applauded. A couple of times it was for the performances by the choir, another time was when the priest specifically recognized certain people or groups. This violates the intention of the Mass. The Mass is not about a "performance" and our focus should not be on the choir no matter how good they are. Yes, they add to the celebration of the Eucharist, but they are not the focal point of it.
As Cardinal Ratzinger said:
"Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. " (Spirit of the Liturgy p. 198)
I think part of the blame lies with the parishioners who decide to clap, especially weekly churchgoers. They should know the difference. But a lot of the responsibility lies with how the Mass is set up. It's hard not to expect applause if a solo piece is performed, after which there is a period of silence. You can rest assured that in that circumstance, applause will break out.
Another issue I had was the choir director invited children to sit in the sanctuary during the Mass to sing a Christmas song. Again, we are taking the focus away from Christ and his sacrifice and placing it on children singing a song. I have no problem with children singing, but there is a proper time and place for everything. People may think I am being a big scrooge, but they wouldn't say that if they understood the Mass. If someone said they didn't want a special children's choir singing at a funeral, would they be a scrooge? The focus of the Mass should always be on Jesus Christ and his sacrifice.
I guess these things were my main concern. The priest also plays into these ideas when, at the end of the Mass, he specifically points out the efforts of the choir and asks everyone to thank them. This is before the Mass is officially ended. An analogy I thought of to describe this is to imagine being at the crucifixion of Christ and then instead of focusing on Christ and the great sacrifice he is making, people are asked to focus on someone playing a musical instrument in the background.
I finished the preceding sentence after I wrote what was before that. In between those two times, I heard someone, I think on Catholic Answers Live, making a similar analogy. He asked if you would clap at the crucifixion of Christ. He asked how people reacted to Jesus, once they knew he was the Son of God. He said they would fall on their face or kneel before him. It was not a party, especially at the crucifixion.
Even Christmas Eve Mass is about Christ's sacrifice on the cross to save humanity from our sins so that we can be with God in the next life. Every day has a different feast, but they are all the sacrifice of the Mass.
Overall there were many great things about this Mass, but I think we sometimes need to remember that Mass is not a form of entertainment, but a very solemn and holy time to focus on Jesus.