Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Midnight mass in Bethlehem

Some coverage of this year's Catholic services in Bethlehem … with about a three-second clip in the Associated Press story of a response from the Celtic Mass by Fintan O'Carroll & Christopher Walker, the same service music we sang back at St. Joe's when I was in the choir at Springfield College in Illinois -- how cool is that!

Thousands Gather for Mass in Bethlehem. By Associated Press. "A packed house at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem Tuesday night as Archbishop Fouad Twal led the midnight mass …" The Celtic Alleluia is about 0:09 seconds in.

According to AP reporter Mohammed Daraghmeh, Palestinian Authority dignitaries greeted Twal at the entrance to Bethlehem, probably the same checkpoint we went through on the way to Jerusalem. "His motorcade crawled through the town's narrow streets as he stopped to shake hands and greet the throngs of visitors," Daraghmeh said. "It took him nearly 90 minutes to make the short trip to celebrate Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity compound."

Hundreds of people packed the Church of the Nativity compound for the service in St. Catherine's, the 19th-century Catholic church adjacent to the sixth-century Greek Orthodox basilica. Among them: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. Daraghmeh quoted at length from the homily:

"The message of Christmas is a message of peace, love and brotherhood. We have to be brothers with each other," said Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, as he arrived in town.

And this ...

In his homily, Twal addressed Abbas, telling the president he prays for a "just and equitable solution" for the Palestinians. Twal, himself a Palestinian, also expressed sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians, particularly families with relatives imprisoned by Israel or those who have suffered as a result of the conflict with Israel.

"The world is living through a long night of wars, destruction, fear, hate, racism and, at the present time, cold and snow," he said. Lamenting strife in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, he also urged worshippers "not to forget our own problems here: the prisoners and their families who hope for their release, the poor who have lost their land and their homes demolished, families waiting to be reunited, those out of work and all who suffer from the economic crisis."

Yet Twal called on people not to despair. "We are invited to be optimistic and to renew our faith that this land, home of the three monotheistic religions, will one day become a haven of peace for all people," he said.

"Oh Holy Child, God of goodness and mercy, look with kindness on the Holy Land and on our people who live in Palestine, in Israel, in Jordan and all the Middle East. Grant them the gift of reconciliation so that they may all be brothers — sons of one God," he said.

Christmas midnight mass in Bethlehem 2013: Gloria. Longer video posted today by the Magnificat Institute, School of Music, Monastery of Saint Saviour, New Gate, Old City, P.O.Box 186, Jerusalem 91001. It was established in 1995 by decision of the Chapter of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Published on Dec 25, 2013 Featuring: H. E. Fouad Twal, Patriarch of Latins, Mr. Mahmud Abbas, Palestinian President, Magnificat Custody and Yasmeen Choir, Mrs. Hania Sabbara, director, Fr. Armando Pierucci, organist and composer.


zamyrabyrd said...

With more than 6 million displaced and 100,000 killed in Syria, Christians being especially singled out for abuse in other Arab countries as well, the Palestinians can still drone on about their oppression under Israel, the same stale sermons repeated ad nauseam year after year in Bethlehem's Midnight Mass. Every TV clip features the politicians who often don't stay until the end but put in a cameo appearance like party or bar hopping.
The Holy Land is less about Jesus and his message than racking up a multi-million dollar tourist business. As an example there has been so much hype and money poured into the Magnificat Institute that provides the choir for services. The result as evidenced in the video clip is bad music and worse singing. The idea is to be perpetually in need so as to attract pity and money.
The despicable part is that millions are shivering in tents in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon and the only thing these stuffed shirts can go on about is to divert attention to their spoiled selves.

Peter Ellertsen said...

It sounds like we could have a very interesting conversation about geopolitics in the Middle East, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, their music school in Jerusalem and tourism in the West Bank -- and I know I could learn much from it. But my purpose in posting the videos from Bethlehem was rather more limited --

When I visited the Church of the Nativity last year, I was profoundly moved by the sense I had that pilgrims have been worshiping there for more than 1,500 years. And when I heard the same "Celtic Alleluia" during the midnight mass that I have sung at a small college halfway around the world, I felt connected again in ways I can't really explain, even though the sound quality in the AP clip was execrable. I'm not familiar with the Gloria that was sung in the other video, and I wouldn't presume to evaluate it without hearing more. So I'll defer to your esthetic judgment, but I do like O'Carroll and Walker's Celtic Mass.