I am very happy to report that it was as beautiful as I had long expected it to be. Although I am not Catholic, nonetheless I came away from the experience feeling that God had ministered to my spirit in a way that I have needed Him to these past few days especially.
That, and it was a pleasure to celebrate the birth of Christ with my Catholic brethren. Turns out that just about all the Christmas hymns were those that I had already grown up with :-)
Here's a photo I shot just before the Eucharist tonight at St. Veronica's...
The church was packed solid! We had to sit in one of these three adjoining hallways that had been furnished with extra chairs. St. Veronica's has, I think four Christmas Eve services in order to accommodate everyone.
And then there's what happened later, which at least one person described as the "most thrilling Mass ever!"
As the Eucharist was nearing its end (this one little kid gave me a REALLY crazy look when he saw that I was still sitting down and not getting up at all to take part in the Eucharist)... that is when the fire alarms went on all over the church!! So the priests had to administer the Host to the last few parishioners with loud noise and flashing lights all over the sanctuary. The alarm could be delayed for a few seconds before going full-blast again, so some poor deacon was in the back of the building frantically deactivating the fire alarm every few seconds, trying hard to not miss a beat.
A group of parishioners were coming back to where we were sitting after having the Eucharist. And... I tried, Lord knows I tried to hold back folks, but I just couldn't help myself...
I blurted out "It wasn't us Protestants, honest!"
Turns out that in the narthex at the entrance of the church, where some of the overflow crowd was sitting, a baby accidentally pulled a fire alarm lever.
So this is how my first Christmas Eve Mass at a Roman Catholic Church ended: with two fire engines arriving at the scene...
Not quite how I always envisioned a Christmas Eve Mass to wind down, but exciting all the same :-)