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Together we sing “take comfort, my people” in the processional hymn each Sunday of Advent. Over many Advents I’ve come to love this hymn, especially when the instruments pause and the congregation stirringly sings a capella. Our time of waiting is almost over, the light is nigh! Awake from our slumber, prepare our hearts, make straight our crooked paths, and cast aside all fear! Advent is the time to prepare because the Prince of Peace and the Light of the World will be with us very soon.
Preparing for the Birth of our Lord this year involves a few extra steps and more deliberate attention. Knowing we’re a large and diverse congregation that also welcomes many guests from near and far this time of year, we are planning and working hard to provide as much safety and peace of mind as possible.
We’ve updated our Mass times, especially on Christmas Eve, to allow more time for sanitizing and guest seating between liturgies. Our bi-polar air ionization system, provided by The Basilica Landmark early in the pandemic, continually immobilizes and filters air particulates in all three levels of the church building. We strongly encourage all guests to wear face coverings over your nose and mouth in all Basilica buildings, in an effort to protect children not eligible to be fully vaccinated and others with medical concerns and prevent COVID-19 spread.
Additionally, we will sanitize pews and surfaces and clean common areas between the Christmas liturgies. Ample hand sanitizer is available throughout the building, and worship aides will be available either on paper or digitally via your electronic device. The lower level (Teresa of Calcutta Hall) will be open for in-person livestream Mass viewing and communion. Four Masses will also be livestreamed for viewing via our website or on our Facebook page.
The Basilica is attentive to outdoor safety on our campus. Security will continue to patrol the campus and extra outdoor lighting will be added to increase evening visibility on campus.
Our full Advent and Christmas liturgy schedule is at mary.org/christmas, and the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day liturgy schedule is as follows:
Friday, December 24
2:00pm*, 5:00pm*, 7:30pm, and Midnight*
Saturday, December 25
7:30am, 9:30am* with Archbishop Bernard Hebda, 11:30am and 5:00pm
Advent and Christmas at The Basilica is truly an exceptional experience. For me, Christmas isn’t really Christmas until I’ve been to one of the sublime Masses at The Basilica. You are invited to The Basilica to be strengthened, nourished and healed in our liturgies. You are invited to Come Home this Christmas to your Basilica.
One of my favorite movies is a 1983 film entitled Tender Mercies. The movie stars Robert Duvall as Mac Sledge, an alcoholic country music singer/songwriter who, after going on a bender, finds himself in a small town in rural Texas. There he slowly turns his life around as he develops a relationship with a young widow and her son.
I like the movie for several reasons. One reason in particular, though, is that it reminds me that sometimes “redemption” is a process. Now, let me be absolutely clear about this. We believe that Jesus, suffered died and rose again to redeem us, once for all. Our redemption has already been accomplished. It is certain and sure. There is absolutely no question about that. Sometimes, though, it takes us a while to realize and accept the redemption that has been won for us, and that is freely offered to us.
In the film Mac does not change his ways immediately. It takes him a while to accept that he has been saved. His understanding is a gradual process and takes place over a period of time, as he fluctuates back and forth between his old life and drinking days, and the new life he was beginning to live. It takes him a while to let his new way of living become his new life.
And so I think it is with us sometimes.
Sometimes we find it difficult to accept truths that are simple, real and at the same time, profound. For many people I suspect the redemption Jesus won for us is one of those truths. We are so used to making our own way—to working hard to earn or merit the things we have accomplished. It is hard for us to realize that there are some things we can’t earn, we don’t merit, and we can’t work to accomplish. Very specifically I believe our redemption is one of those things we don’t earn, merit or work to accomplish. Our redemption by Jesus Christ is a freely offered gift. And as we all know, we don’t earn gifts, we simply accept them.
For us, as humans, understanding that our redemption is a gift and then accepting that gift, is often a process. We don’t have to worry, though; it is not a process for God. Christ has redeemed once for all. Sometimes it just takes a while for that message to get through to us.