Christmas 8:00 am Mass-Deacon Barclay

December 25th, 2016  8 am  Deacon Blaine Barclay


First of all, may the God who embraced the vulnerability of human flesh in the Incarnation of Jesus bless you and your family’s this Christmas season.

The gospel I have just read goes right to the heart of Christian faith, pulls no punches when it tells us who this baby Jesus is. ’’In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and lived among us’’.  This is the Nicene Creed in its germination. ’’God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, Consubstantial with the Father….  Was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man’’.  These well known, later statements of the early Church are already present in the prologue of John’s gospel.  But to render this Christmas homily more concrete I want to talk about the familiar story of the shepherds and their response to the birth of Jesus.  The story of the shepherds asks us to ponder our response to the disruption of the Christ child into our midst, of the Word made flesh.  Its context is the message of an angel given to a group of shepherds just outside of Bethlehem.  They are given the good news of the birth of the long-expected Messiah, Saviour, and Lord.  Good news, not just for them, or for the Jewish people, but for all of humanity.  This message of Messianic hope is accompanied by a spectacular light show and a Choir of angels. ’Take it away angels…’ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of goodwill.’’ I want to focus on the response of the shepherds to this overwhelmingly good news, and not just their response, but the response of others to their testimony, and finally, the response of Mary to this phenomenal event.  Each of these responses is instructive for us and can help open our own hearts and lives to the same event, the birth of the Christ bursting upon the scene, entering our horizons and our world.’’ The Word made flesh.’’

First of all, the shepherds, who were they, and why are they important in the Christmas story?  Being a shepherd was often a lonely task, but these shepherds were clustered in a group, keeping vigil, taking turns watching the sheep given to their care.  In all probability, given their location just outside Bethlehem, and their importance in the Christmas story, they were Levitical shepherds, watching over with special care the spotless lambs destined for sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem.  To be sure, they lived out in the open, slept in the fields and caves that surrounded Bethlehem.  They were people of the land, the anawim, representing God’s little ones everywhere.  What is their response to hearing the good news announced to them? ’’The shepherds said to one another, ‘let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us’….So, they went with haste….’’ These shepherds don’t fool around, they don’t want to miss out on what has taken place, and neither should we.  Let us also go with haste to witness this event that has been made known to us; the Word made flesh, God emptied into the vulnerability of human flesh, lying in a manger, a feeding trough for animals, a grain bin.  Or, as one poet puts it, ’infinity dwindled into infancy’.  Think about it for a moment.  Is there anything more vulnerable, more given over to absolute dependence, than a newborn child?  And yet, Emmanuel, God is with us, precisely in the poverty of this child lying in the manger. May we learn from the haste of the shepherds response, and welcome the excess of this gift of the Word made flesh.  May we also learn from the boldness of their proclamation, for; ’’they made known what had been told them of this child.’’

Next, we can learn from the response of those who listened to the testimony of the shepherds.  We don’t know who they were, other shepherds, the village people from Bethlehem, family and friends, the temple priests when they brought them the spotless lambs and told them of the Lamb of God they found lying in a manger.  We don’t know the details of who these others were.  We are only told of their response to the good news. ’’All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them’’.  May we also be amazed at the testimony of the shepherds, at the proclamation of the good news of the Word made flesh.

Last, but not least, let us pay attention to the response of Mary to these events, for Christian faith is essentially Marian in its response to the outpouring of God’s tenderness and love in Jesus.  So, what is Mary’s response to the good news of the birth of her Son, to the testimony of the shepherds, the message of yet another angel, accompanied by a dynamite backup choir? ’’But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.’’ We are called to imitate the response, the faith of Mary.  It is only by treasuring, by keeping, the word of testimony, the word of God which is always an event, and pondering it in our hearts, literally, ’tossing it around, throwing it together’ in our hearts, that we can imitate the faith of Mary, welcoming this Christmas

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.