Which is fine. I mean it's not the first HDO I've missed...probably won't be the last.
Still, it's too bad. We attended Mass on Saturday morning (for Christmas...natch) and I found it very enjoyable. Even though we got there late, even though we had less-than-ideal seats, even though there was an alarming amount of coughing around us (virus PTSD), and an annoying amount of misbehaving kids, and a fairly pedestrian homily...I found the whole experience a welcome, comforting experience.
Christmas Mass isn't the most important of the year, nor even my favorite...as a Catholic I find Easter to be the "Big One" and greatly enjoy all the stuff of the Lenten season (from Ash Wednesday to the Friday fasts to Holy Week). The Easter season pretty much sums up the reason there is a Catholic church, after all, aI find the reflections during the Easter season the best of my (annual) religious "cycle." But Christmas Mass is still a good one, and one that I cherish doing with my family especially now that I have children. Not because I'm so much into the Christmas story (I'm more a Gospel of John guy) but because it's a chance to get away from the crass commercialism and Santa worship that permeates December and get back to why we're doing the whole dance.
[and, yes, I've explained to the kids...this year particularly...the origin of the holiday in other (pagan) winter festivals, Roman and otherwise, and how it was simply re-purposed by the church and not based on an actual "birth day" of Jesus. They understand there was a marrying of non-Christian tradition with the celebration of our religion's foundational figure to create a delicious stew that STILL can have a very positive, spiritual message...if we keep it in mind]
Also the music is pretty good at the Christmas Mass.
But here's the main thing: Christmas Mass is always well-attended...more so even than Easter (people that only get out to Mass once a year seem to make the Christmas celebration). Always. And being surrounded by so many Catholics, all celebrating the Mass together, is heartening. There is a shared community there...you see all these folks repeating the same rote words, following the same ritual, taking the same Communion, speaking to the same Baptismal vows...and you know that you are part of something large, that you are not alone in your "silly" beliefs.
We didn't have that last year. There was no Christmas celebration to attend in 2020. Despite all the "joy" and "cheer" and (Lord knows) eating, drinking and gift-giving, the whole thing was fairly subdued and depressing. I note that I didn't blog about anything but bugbears and B2 at the end of last December...I'm guessing I was a bit down in the chops at the time.
This year, I got to go to Mass and I was comforted by it. Our priest pointed out that we sing about "tidings of comfort and joy" but don't really think about the reason comfort is needed. If everything's just a big feast and celebration, why the hell do you need tidings of "comfort?" We don't comfort people who are joyfully celebrating. 'Hey, that guy looks like he's having a great time...I better go comfort him.'
No, comfort is for the sad and the downtrodden and the miserable. And there has been a LOT of those folks over the centuries. And there are a lot of those folks now. And the birth of a dude who is going to inspire a far-reaching Way of living and behaving based on kindness...well, that is a joyful thing to celebrate, and it may well have given His followers of the time something to be comforted about. That things were going to get better. That life was going to get better.
I said that a big Mass, full of fellow Catholics celebrating Catholic "stuff," is heartening to me as a Catholic. But Saturday's Christmas service was the first time I was struck by...and comforted by...the full power and strength of the tradition of the Mass. Participating in a ritual that has remained, more or less, the same (at least the important parts) for centuries...stretching far back before the lives and times of my parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, etc. This thing, this celebration of the birth and life this Jesus guy, this sharing of the Eucharist with our fellow believers, is something that has been done for more than a thousand years.
Empires have risen and fallen, governments have been tumbled and created, wars have been fought, plagues and pandemics experienced...and still the celebration of the Eucharist persists. The celebration of the Word persists. The teachings of a man who said "turn the other cheek" and "love your neighbor" persists. And in that stubborn persistence, in that staying power, in that tradition, there is comfort. There is the comfort that things can last; there is the hope that maybe, possibly, humanity as a species can endure, despite all our shortcomings, missteps, and tendencies to fuck everything up.
The Catholic church has made a lot of stupid, bad, and evil choices over the years. It's screwed up a lot. And yet the core of the thing...the Mass, the ritual, the teachings...these things carry on. There is strength in that shared, continued tradition...a foundational rock on which to build, and to rebuild, as and when necessary. If the church is slow to change and adapt to our evolving world...well, sure, I understand that complaint. People want, need, and demand progress. Growth and change and evolution is part of life, and we are part of a living world, not a dead, stagnant one.
But we also need stability and consistency. Life is not always comfortable...should NOT always be comfortable. But comfort...and momentary respites from stress and chaos...are also necessary. We all need "a breather" sometimes. Our minds and souls need occasional rest just as much as our bodies.
I find this rest in my religious traditions. Sure, booze works, too...but the religion's a lot easier on the liver.
[there is an analogy to be drawn here with old edition D&D, but I'll let my readers do that for themselves]
All right. Next post will be about either treasure or The Village of Hommlet or both. Later, folks.
Peace and love.