MASS ON CHRISTMAS EVE 1907
Slowly the heavy bell tolls, thundering through the almost deserted streets its message of the speedy approach of Christmas, and announcing the immediate commencement of the ceremony which in every Catholic church celebrates the dawn of Christ's natal day. With many others, most, no doubt, genuine followers of the " True Church," we step through the gloomy porch into the great building itself and, heeding not the holy water, seat ourselves beneath the star-painted dome rising high above. At the far end, draped in white, stands the sacred altar. On it are placed many tall candles, and overhead two incense-bearing censers hang. Except the occasional clink of money scarce a sound is heard.
Suddenly, so suddenly that many taken unawares start surprisedly, an organ peals forth in a loud triumphant, almost blaring strain. Then changing to a gentler, soothing key the music slowly dies away. All again is silent.
Now the priests appear, and when the candles are lighted, take their stand round the altar. One steps up by himself, and in a loud, clear, voice exclaims, Dominus vobiscum ; et cum spiritu tuo sing back the choir in answer. The priest continues intoning the mass in a monotonous sing-song and, having no breviary, I find myself unable to follow. At peculiarly sacred passages the whole assembly kneels in prayer for a few minutes, while the priests wave censers above the altar, and the sweet, heavy smell of incense steals over the church.
First mass concluded, a young priest, preceded by two candle bearers, carries a golden crucifix round the altar. Behind him follow the acolytes and novices, ranging from four to six feet. Three priests (two short and fat, one tall and ascetic), clad in yellow brown robes, walking with religiously downcast eyes, bring the procession to a close.
Twice the whole ceremony is repeated, with only one interval when the tall priest makes a short Christmas address, mainly a plea for the poor. The choir then sings an Agnus Dei, slowly we file out into the cold night air, wish each other a " Merry Xmas," and hasten homeward.
from The Goldberry (Kilmarnock Academy School Magazine) March 1908.