The main Christmas Eucharist (Mass) Church Service is held on Christmas Eve near to Midnight. Members of the public often turn up to church Xmas Day and are amazed to discover what seems to be a normal Sunday service going on.
The Christmas Eve Midnight Service is the first Mass of Christmas. In Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic churches it is usually preceded by a colourful procession of priests, each wearing a fabulous Cope.
This garment was a ceremonial version of an outdoor cloak worn during the latter days of the Roman Empire.
During the eleventh and twelfth centuries it became part of the vestments worn by clergy.
It first had a hood that reached down to the heels, but as that ceased to be functional, reduced to a decorative element on the back of the garment. When ‘set off’ by a matching Mitre a bevvy of Bishops can look really quite impressive.
At the Christmas Eve Mass there is also the Blessing of the Crib, which is symbolic of Jesus as a source of grace and spiritual strength.
There are usually lots of bells and smells going on, as the priest burns incense in a censer – a metal vessel suspended on three chains about two feet long. Attached to its chains are 12 bells symbolic of the apostles of our Lord.
They ring out the Christmas message that celebrating the birth of Christ and being Christian is all about being transformed, through the love of Jesus.