I’m sure that at least once in human history, Christmas has fallen on a Monday, but not within my immediate memory. Because I would remember the absolute Mass placement hysteria every single Catholic is experiencing right now. The feast day, which one of Mass obligation, is not waived. And neither is the 4th Sunday of Advent. This means that families accustomed to attending Christmas Eve Mass have some potentially very angry children (or, in my case, 40 year olds) on their hands.
The problem is that we were spoiled last year with Christmas on a Sunday. Advent began at its proper time—the weekend after Thanksgiving– and a full week was awarded for all four candles on the Advent wreath. Sunday Mass was Christmas Mass. It was all quite tidy.
Well, we’re paying for it now. The parking lot for the 4:30 Vigil Mass was full on Saturday night and I’m pretty sure there was more than one non-regular hustling in the side doors. I wanted to embrace each and every one of them: “I’m so sorry. I know you tried. You have to come back.”
The celebrant, who just happened to be the Auxiliary Archbishop, was having none of it. This Saturday evening, the Fourth Week of Advent, was not a Christmas Mass. “Christmas is coming!” he beamed, Pink Cap of Authority towering from the pulpit. “It’s hard to wait, isn’t it?”
You’re almost there. You’re just… not there.
As if the point hadn’t been made by the Vice President of Not Waiving Holy Days, we sang all seven verses of “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” Catholics don’t do that. We roll out verses 1-3, at most. If there’s a particularly slow table-setting server, we maybe stretch it out to 4. The whole thing? That’s Lutheran talk.
This is not a matter, as some have argued, of insisting on technicality in the face of sanity. The point is waiting for each event of life to unfurl in its proper turn. The point is acknowledging each station of life, even if that milestone lasts for 24 hours. First, the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Then, Christmas. First, rebuilding. Then, winning.
I rather enjoyed this particular forced wait. “O Come O Come Emmanuel” only gets its time out of the hymnal for the four weeks of Advent, and stretching it out thus gave it a nice spin in the spotlight. See you when the Bengals are out of the playoffs for 2018, “O Come.”
As I trotting through the Key of David and the Rod of Jesse and the whole family, left yet undone was the wrapping of two tubes of flavored Chapstick; the mixing, cutting, baking, and decoration of an entire herd of gingerbread people; macaroni and cheese prep; the creation of a breakfast casserole; and the writing of this column. Also I had not, at that point in the day, taken a shower. Had I? Maybe. Also possibly a shower.
During his homily, Archbishop Binzer read a child’s poem he found on a classroom wall of a parish he once served.
It’s hard to wait for spring to begin
And for my favorite team to win
It’s hard to wait for the cake to bake
It’s so very hard to wait.
Christians like me tend to forget that after Mary received the startling news from the Angel Gabriel, she had nine months to sit there and be pregnant and unmarried and think about things. We do see her pop in on her cousin to help with her own childbirth, but the Blessed Mother is not seen again until the Romans decide it’s a good idea to count heads and make everybody fill out the long form census to learn how many flushable toilets were on the property. So then she hauls her nine-months-along self onto a donkey to have a baby in a drippy cave right next to the aforementioned donkey. I am confident that other religions– older than Christianity and, assuming the art teacher who taught me World Religions was correct– also know a thing or two about waiting.
And what of this cake the Reds are baking? We have been repeatedly informed that 2018 will perhaps be our last season of waiting, that Actual Winning will begin in 2019, 2020. Are you prepared to wait that long?
Is this actually waiting? What about the people of Cleveland, who have endured such abuse from their NFL franchise that it left for, what, four years? Is that waiting, or Stockholm syndrome?
Zack Cozart, understandably, got tired of waiting. He’s thirty-two years old and he’s taking his family and his donkey to California. Will Tucker Barnhart get tired of waiting? Will–at long last– Votto? Johnny Cueto got tired of waiting, and his well-timed impatience got him a nice piece of jewelry. So did Chapman. Or did we get tired of waiting on them? And by we, I do mean us– not the front office, not the Twitterverse. Those of us who would show up at the yard even if Redzilla were never seen again.
Are you tired of waiting?
What are you planning to do about it?
I’m just going to keep singing, and think about the cookies I’m gonna put in the oven.