Christmas morning I went to mass at the National Cathedral. My Uncle Sammy (who is my Mom’s brother and like a brother/dad/godfather and best friend to me), recommended I make the cathedral the focal point of the trip to Washington, DC. He told me there is such a feeling of sanctity and history in the Cathedral that I would not leave without feeling uplifted.
He is right. Not only did I feel uplifted, I was inspired. The choir had the voices of angels. The clergy, laymen and lay women at the service conveyed such dignity and joy. I also felt the good will during the exchange of peace at the service. Episcopalians, and Catholics too, exchange a sign of peace before the Eucharist is given. In Brooklyn, it is a very anemic exchange. People wave to each other while some make a peace sign and nod in your direction. I’ve noticed in my parish most people only shake hands with those they know. At the National Cathedral on Christmas Day not only did I shake hands with all those near me, I had a few people hug me, too. The warmth was very tangible. I felt as if I’d received an energy transfusion.
At 1:30 p.m. there was a recital given on the grand pipe organ in the cathedral. The selection ranged from The Nutcracker Suite, to modern carols like “Bring a torch, Jeanette Isabella” and culminated in a rousing rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s “Messiah”. Two organists were needed to handle the four keyboards on the cathedral’s grand pipe organ for this last piece. They are both young men in their late 20s-early 30s and so very talented. As I watched the large screens placed throughout the church so we could see the organist I was so taken by passion and joy on their faces. It brought such a feeling of happiness and joy that moved me to tears. Again, other people nearby were responsive and just as moved by the recital as I was. Strangers, we smiled and hugged and wished each other well without any reserve and without any analytical thoughts about who is this person and what are the thinking.
I think this was what I had come looking for: that spontaneity and ability to feel with and for other people. That it happened during the service and recital at the National Cathedral during Christmas day brought home the meaning and significance of this holiday that I haven’t felt for many years. For me 2017 will be not only a New Year, but one with newer way of looking at what the real gifts of Christmas are all about every day of the year.
From my photo album
The National Cathedral, Washington, DC, Christmas Day 2016
Main entrance of The National Cathedral.