Day twenty-two of a daily meditation, a practice of free writing on words of Advent this season...
We crowd into the cathedral, every entrance and every doorway, overflowing with bodies. From the high ceiling in the center of the room, a star dangles down and women in white robes sing angelic, carry glowing stars in their hands.
See the Bridegroom, the Christ, is coming;
be ye ready then.
I move against the wall and crane my neck to see through bodies to the stars, the voices. Choirs of angelic singers punctuate each corner of the room, from the balcony to my right and from places hidden from my view. I close my eyes and lean back.
It's less than an hour until midnight, until Christmas day. And there is something here, in this Catholic cathedral, I've never sensed in all my years of attending services on Christmas Eve.
It builds through the hour. From "O come, O come Emmanuel" to "Angels we have heard on high"; from a carol of "The seven joys of Mary" to "Away in a manger." We sing of "tidings of comfort and joy" and of "the world in solemn stillness" laying low "to hear the angels sing."
We wait, and we press in to see.
I wonder, in my spot against the wall, if this is how it was when Jesus lived here and taught in the temple. People crowding in, some to see a production and others hungry only for a glimpse of him, most of them unable to get up close.
The hunger growing in me all this season, all this building anticipation, streams down my face and I ache to see him, wish to be like this man, Zacchaeus, who climbed a tree to get a glimpse of him in the crowds. And though I cannot see, I feel the glory - of God pulling back his robe and making himself visible here - and I am transfixed, caught up in a moment of longing fulfilled. And then, it's gone. Gone in the push of bodies, in the flash of video cameras and smart phones held high to capture the sacred production.
But I hold it in my heart, a moment of hunger satisfied; the hope of total fulfillment one day in his presence where I won't need to hold my breath so the glory doesn't pass by.
Midnight approaches fast and a priest stands high on the podium in white and red, chanting a Christmas proclamation - the eternal Word made flesh, the birth of Christ remembered and experienced, again.
This is the best gift of the season, and I return home in the wee hours of Christmas morning, a light of wonder flickering in my heart.
O come, let us adore him.