These words, spoken by Msgr. Guido Marini, the papal master of ceremonies, were given to the seminarians who were practicing for the Christmas Vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. In the awe of standing under Bernini’s massive baldachinno above the high altar, and staring down the expanse that is St. Peter’s central nave, it’s not too hard to get carried away in the moment. Thankfully, everything in St. Peter’s points to the altar, even some of the massive marble statues of saints that adorn the columns that support the leaping Romanesque arches.
The privilege of serving the Christmas Vigil Mass was something that will remain with me for a lifetime. I am so glad to have had the advice of Msgr. Marini. Many of the graces of serving the universal church in the person of the Holy Father have yet to be fully unpacked, but through prayer, I hope to allow the Holy Spirit to draw them out for me, so that I can gain an even greater understanding and appreciation of what it means to be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. One can’t help but be moved by the sheer immensity of St. Peter’s Basilica, and the architects certainly had that in mind when they were constructing it. It’s not an immensity of a massive warehouse however, but an immensity that says, “Let your heart be moved by what you see.” The majesty of St. Peter’s pales in comparison to the beauty and majesty of the one who allowed such a fitting place of worship to be built. Beauty definitely moves the heart, and as I was processing in with the other seminarians, that is one thing that I was experiencing.
Another thing that struck me about the Mass was observing the cardinals ascending the steps to the altar to receive holy Communion. These men have given their entire lives in service to the church. Some of them have even experienced persecution in their own countries, and yet they were all united in their love of the Holy Father and were present to celebrate one of the greatest of all mysteries, the Incarnation. The cardinals, all older men, wear the traditional color of red, and as often as they don that color, the pope has called upon them to be the first in their willingness to witness to the victory of Christ’s love, even to the point of shedding their blood for him. It’s a sobering reality, that many of their brothers in various parts of the world, have had to do just that. The upcoming feast of the Holy Innocents reminds us that love is not always welcome.
Love is what propels the church forward, and this love is animated by the Holy Spirit. It gives us strength whenever we as Catholics get to celebrate the great feasts that mark our church calendar. What a joy it is, indeed, to celebrate the birth of Christ in the heart of the church, above the tomb of St. Peter, with our current pope, Benedict XVI.
I want to close with a few words from the homily given by the Holy Father at the Mass. “At this hour, let us ask him to touch our hearts with the holy curiosity and the holy joy of the shepherds, and thus let us go over joyfully to Bethlehem, to the Lord who today once more comes to meet us. Amen”