It was around 2:00am on Christmas morning when Midnight Mass ended (see photopost here). It was an orchestra Mass featuring C.P.E. Bach's Magnificat and Mozart's Missa Longa (with two more opportunities to hear the set in the context of holy Mass).
As people strolled out of Church to head home, or over to the school lounge for the traditional post-Midnight Mass feast, a few took notice that something extraordinary was about to take place, no pun intended. People had wondered aloud earlier, why some things weren't decorated as they had been in the past. The answer soon came - a set of simultaneous private Masses in the Extraordinary Form (1962 Missal) were about to take place.
Altar boys began streaming out of the sacristy with sets of candlesticks aglow, placing them on the side altars which have rarely been used for Mass in recent decades, until the past year. During 40 Hours Devotion, the Sacred Heart altar was used. I wasn't there with my camera to capture it, but I did catch what happened, unannounced, after the Midnight Mass to the astonishment of many. If there are many holy angels present during a single Mass, how many more were present in that Church with all of those Masses happening at the same time? The roughly 25 who remained to watch were awe-struck, and not a sound could be heard except the periodic clanging of my camera equipment and snapping of the shutter.
Priests are permitted to celebrate Mass three times on Christmas Day. They are also allowed to do this on the Feast of All Souls. As Father Perrone explained to me after dress rehearsal the previous Wednesday, it was customary in days of old for the priests to celebrate following the Midnight Mass so that all priests could get in their three Masses. While literature found online describes these as "Mass at dawn", I have testimony from older parishioners who say they recall them beginning after Midnight Mass ended. Another parishioner recalls going from parish to parish after the Midnight Mass trying to catch different Masses through the night.
Here are some photos I took. I must admit, considering that I thought the Elevation would take place around the same time at all altars, I decided that if I could only capture one, it would have to be the one at the Blessed Mother's altar. You see the Chalice being elevated in my lead photo at the top. It just so happened, that I was able to capture Elevations at three of the altars. Some of the pictures are darker than others due to lighting. I may try to touch these up a little more.
|Visiting Cistercian, Fr. Aidan Logan, O.C.S.O. celebrates at the high altar|
|Father John Bustamante celebrates at the Blessed Mother's altar.|
|Father Wolfgang Seitz, ORC celebrates at the Sacred Heart altar.|
|Father Eduard Perrone celebrates at the table altar|
Based on feedback and how word spread among the people of the parish on Sunday, I suspect we will see many more people lurking about in the pews next year after Midnight Mass. My only regret was that I could not just kneel down and be still as these Masses took place. If I had, I would not get to extend the witness of them to all of you.
Perhaps other priests will pick up this traditional custom and someday, we will find ourselves hopping from parish to parish to assist at yet one more Mass, even if we can only make a spiritual communion.
Note: Edited on December 29, removing the expression "Shepherd's Masses" which may have been a misapplication of the expression. These typically took place at dawn.
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