To me, there is so much beauty in religion: people striving to connect with God. I think it is interesting that once we find a religion that we cherish and love, we are more apt to close out the others. I think mostly we just get comfortable. But how sad that is to miss out on so much goodness! Lately I’ve just felt a pull to reach out a little more and to explore the beauty of how different religions reach Up.
This year as we were studying Advent in morning devotionals and learning different names for Jesus leading up to Christmas Day I had this desire to search out some Advent services in our area. Growing up we didn’t do this as part of our cultural religious tradition but we started including it in our family Christmas traditions last year and I love the idea of preparing spiritually for the arrival of Jesus Christ in this way and wanted to explore it more. So I asked my Catholic friend if she knew of any services she would recommend and she directed us to this beautiful basilica downtown I hadn’t been to before. It turned out there was a service the very day I looked it up. Dave and Lucy were in Wisconsin and Grace had just arrived home from college and we were giddy to spend a day together, just the three of us.
Those girls weren’t overjoyed with my idea to head to another church service that evening with our precious time (we had already gone that morning, after all, and they were thinking more along the lines of face masks and nail painting, ha!), but they appeased me and joined in on my idea.
They started feeling the beauty of it all when we reached this beautiful building:
…and I think they felt it in their bones, like I did, as they listened to this heavenly choir:
I loved sitting snuggled on that church pew with those beauty-girls of mine, the sermons and the music, and being gathered in that place with so many others preparing their hearts for the arrival of that Christ-child.
I loved it so much that I got the idea that perhaps I might be able to get my act together enough to attend the Christmas midnight mass service there that was coming up. By the time Christmas Eve arrived I was pretty determined that I was going to make it to my first midnight mass since we got permission to go during my mission in Romania all those years ago. I didn’t finish quite all the wrapping by the time we needed to leave, but Max and Abby were totally down with my idea and wanted to join me, and my compulsive heart decided I was going to make it happen. I loved that special little date driving deep into the night to get there.
We were all so overwhelmed with the beauty when they started lighting candles in that gorgeous, packed, dimly-lit basilica, light passing along each pew as strangers lit each other’s candles, faces glowing from their warmth. The formal procession of the priests to lay baby Jesus in the huge nativity happened to be right behind us, and all of us were standing singing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” from deep inside our souls and I was trying to hold back tears, the spirit was so thick and beautiful. I had such incredibly deep gratitude that I was right in that very spot in that very moment with those two children I love so much, and all those strangers who believe in the same Christ I do.
It was one of those nights to tuck away in my golden memory bank, reaching Up together.
O Come All Ye Faithful seems to always be the processional song for Christmas Eve, and it gets me. Every. Single. Time!
I am Catholic and though I have issues with my church I am still proud to read comments like yours about our tradition. We can trace our heritage and roots back to St. Peter, all other Christian churches stem from our church. Not necessarily bragging rights but something to ponder and hold dear. I appreciate your interest in other faith traditions. I, too, am a seeker of interfaith spirituality. And midnight mass is the best. We go every year. The music, the rituals and traditions, the pomp and circumstance- we look forward to it all year. It’s celebrating the birth of a baby who is light and love. I’m unsure why every Christian religion does not attend services during this time?
Glad you enjoyed mass at the basilica. It’s a glorious place!
Thank you for sharing your experiences. It’s neat to see my faith traitor through someone else’s eyes. It parish does a Lessons & Carols service and my family loves it–glad you did too! Happy New Year!
I’m not sure we talked about our wonderful experience at an Advent Service on December 1st at St. Mark’s Episcopal church. Our friend was in the choir and it was a delightful and moving experience. Than of course we all adored the Christmas Carol Service at the Cathedral of the Madeline with Saydi’s family and some friends which is always such a highlight of our Christmas season! The choir and organ create a searing impression of the glory of the birth od Christ. We loved singing the hymns with the congregation and seeing new words to some of our own familiar hymns. The greatest joy was watching our darling Zara become a delightful Angel along with several of her friends at the live nativity on Christmas Eve at Eli and Julie’s neighborhood Catholic Church in New York City. We felt such a divine spirit and felt so welcome in that 50 year tradition of welcoming people of all faiths to join this joyful worship service. I will never forget those angels flying down the long center aisle to the stage and the bleating of so many little lambs in the arms of the delighted shepherds! It helped us remember that we are only a tiny drop of worldwide worshipers of the Savior Jesus Christ at Christmastime! I’m so glad you did this! Loved this post!
I grew up Protestant but became Catholic in my early twenties. I cherish my faith, so it was lovely to read that you attended and enjoyed Advent Lessons & Carols and midnight Mass on Christmas. The opening procession with the Infant Jesus carried to the manger moves me to tears every time. 🙂
Loved this post! I always want to attend a service like this at Christmas time (let every heart prepare Him room), but the season often gets too hurried. I’m inspired to make room next season! Thanks Shawni!
I was raised Catholic, though not actively practising now. However, my 3 boys are all baptised. We have an amazing outdoor service, on Christmas Eve – it is known as the family mass. It is so beautiful to be amongst the gum trees, people bring their dogs, the children sing the carols – and the priest wears an akubra hat with his all his robes! I love how you are so interested in other religions – I am too – ever since we studied them at my Catholic Secondary college!!
I’m so impressed that you’re open to experiencing & talking about different types of faith! Thank you for sharing. Does your church believe that people of other faiths will go to heaven? (Not trying to stir up any conflict so don’t answer if it will. I’m honestly just curious.)
I’ve enjoyed following your blog for years! Catholic in WI, but always awe inspired by the goodness of my dear Mormon friends. I’m glad that our faith could add a smidge of the hope and joy that I see in my own Mormon friends.