Dear Sisters and Brothers –
The Christmas trees arrived in the church yesterday, and I will confess that it was bittersweet. On one hand, it’s one of the few times of the year that our beautiful church is even more awe-inspiring. On the other, I’m keenly aware that we won’t gather together in person this Christmas, enveloped by the scent of pine and carried by the rafter-raising singing of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and celebrate the remarkable Good News of the Nativity.
There are other things that remind us this will be a Christmas like no other. But it will be Christmas nonetheless. Our altered traditions do not diminish the truth that God loves us so much, wants to be with us so much, that he came among us – that he became one of us. So, we have lit the trees and hung the wreaths. The poinsettias are in, and the Crèche has been placed.
The Crèche. The shepherds and the sheep are there, along with the ox and the donkey. The Magi and their camels have arrived, too, with their gifts, so strange for an infant. And Mary and Joseph. All focused on the Baby Jesus in his makeshift crib.
This year, we’re adding a special feature to this traditional, tender tableau: a Crèche Cam. Yep. Even this most beloved Christmas tradition, begun by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223, is entering the COVID-influenced 21st century. Along with trees in the sanctuary (which you can see 24/7 on our YouTube channel), you will be able to visit this place of quiet prayer and contemplation whenever you wish throughout the Christmas season. And I encourage you to do so.
The Magi placed at the manger their gold, frankincense and myrrh, and the Drummer Boy gave the Christ Child his song and his best. Our gifts for the Son of God? Certainly, our goodness and generosity, our hope and compassion, offered for the service of the Kingdom. More importantly (because this is why Jesus came in the first place), we offer our fears and disappointments, our failures and sinfulness. We lay them down at the manger, confident that the Babe’s eyes will look past them and into our eyes, with love and understanding. And if we accept Mary’s offer to hold him, we just might feel his warm, newborn hand tenderly caressing our cheek. “O come, let us adore him.” Indeed. (There is an opinion piece by Kay Collier McLaughlin of the Washington Post that echoes this theme that you might enjoy. You can access it here.)
Though we won’t be together in person, let’s be together in heart and spirit, virtually. Please plan to celebrate with us at Mass on Christmas Eve at 4:00 p.m., at Midnight Mass at 12:00 a.m. or Christmas Day at 10:00 a.m. We look forward to “seeing” you! (Please note that the children of the parish will offer a dramatic recreation of the Nativity story in our digital Christmas Pageant at the 4:00 p.m. Christmas Eve Family Vigil Mass. Don’t miss it!)
Please remember that the office is closed the week of December 28 and will reopen on January 4. If you have an emergency and need a priest during those days, please call 415.422.2188, and you will be connected with one of the Jesuit priests. Also, the daily 9:00 a.m. Mass is suspended from Saturday, December 26, until it resumes again on Monday, January 4. Please note, however, there is a livestreamed Mass on New Year’s Day, the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God (a holy day of obligation), at 10:00 a.m., Friday, January 1.
On behalf of the St. Ignatius Parish staff, a merry Christmas to you and yours! May the graces of this holy season be yours throughout 2021.
Oremus pro invicem,