Most of our friends and visitors heeded the warnings for severe weather and didn’t venture out. The Evening Mass, the First Mass for Christmas, celebrated at 8:30 PM on Monday was an intimate celebration with about a dozen guests. Our notable guest was Madeline MacNeil who braved the elements–with a little help from her friends–to offer thirty minutes of caroling before the Mass began. She has been singing at the Abbey’s Christmas Eve celebrations since 1977 and she would have been very upset with herself had she broken that continuity. During communion she sang William Blake’s The Lamb to her own musical setting: Little Lamb who made thee?…Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee…he is called by thy name, For he calls himself a lamb. As Madeline told me a few days before Christmas, the melody came to her from the music of Blake’s poetry and seemed to write itself.
The Christmas Day Mass was another intimate gathering, though we welcomed twice as many guests; luckily no one had trouble starting their cars and we trust that all our guests returned home safely.
In a mixed season of holiday expectations and senseless violence, of political struggles and international tension, we also had the hope offered us by revelation and examples of gratuitous goodness. Shortly before the holidays we were alerted that the brother of one of our former employees, now living in California, was missing somewhere in San Francisco. We were asked for the support of our prayers. The missing man is epilectic and was probably disoriented; once this situation was made known through the San Francisco Chronicle, countless people responded to the story and photo of the lost man allowing him to be found, brought to the emergency room and be re-united with his family who have taken him into their care. This drove home how readily our human concern and goodness can be stoked and be effective. May we actively seek to be this responsive in the coming year.