silent night, holy night

for as long as i can remember, i have had my own special way of welcoming Christmas...
something i do on Christmas Eve night. my offering to God.
it's important to me, and so i honor it each year.
i shared the story here in a past blog post.

last year, i managed to attend a church candlelight carol service,
trying to find some semblance of peace and meaning in the midst of a very dark time in my life.
it wasn't quite what i was looking for, but that's ok.

tonight, my parents and i went to a carol service that preceded a midnight mass
not just in a beautiful church, but in the historic chapel of
Mission Basillica San Juan Capistrano in southern California.

it wasn't quite what i was looking for, either...
i wanted candlelight. luminarias. the congregants singing along with a choir,
praise echoing off of old stone walls and arches.
nope. nada.
but God, in that amazing way that He has,
made it more than i could have hoped for...

we left before the mass began.
not only because we are not Catholic, 
but because there were SO many people trying to fit into that tiny chapel
that we didn't want to be taking up seats for parishoners. 
it was more important to let them have them.

because we left exactly when we did,
a moment became a memory that i will treasure forever:

as we walked out of the chapel and into the courtyard at midnight,
the sound of bells began to ring out from the carillon in the mission tower.
the music, haunting and regal, rose into the clear starry night sky
and echoed off of the old stone walls of the Mission that have stood for centuries.

in the darkness, the stars shone and a fountain bubbled in the bell court nearby
(the bells that rang out at midnight were not the historic old Mission bells...
those ring only on St. Joseph's Day  - March 19, the day when the swallows return to Capistrano)

standing there among the old buildings,
 i could almost imagine a stable nearby
with a father and a mother and a baby in a manger,
and angels whose song rang out through the Heavens above
just as the bells did...

my heart rejoiced at this thought,
ever thankful for the gift of life and love that IS the reason for Christmas.

throughout my life,
i have always found the Misison to be a place of peace and serenity
and tonight, though it brought tears of both joy and sorrow
as i stood and listened to bells ring and remembered Christmases past,
it was the perfect place for me to welcome Christmas this year...
because it really is just me now.
me, alone, standing in the presence of God wherever i find Him.
standing alone once more on a dark night, with a few shining stars twinkling above.
standing in the shelter of history, listening to the sound of celebration around me.
and letting it pour out of my soul in tears, and spirit, and song...

silent night
holy night
all is calm
all is bright

may the peace of Christmas fill your hearts... every day


Alice said...

I've been in that lovely chapel a couple times, not for a service, but as as tourist, and both times it moved me. I'm so happy you found what you were looking for this night.

Blessings to you this Christmas day, and wishes for a happy new year.

Dori said...

Merry Christmas, Deb. May the gifts of peace and joy be yours this day and in the New Year.