After enjoying our neighbours' hospitality at the 'Big House' - an event which is fast becoming a Christmas Eve tradition - I think it was curiousity more than anything that took me to our little church across the fields for Midnight Mass. It's the stuff that rural idylls are made of; a beautiful place to gather at midnight on Christmas eve. The small squat building sits on a lonely hillside amongst huge yews and was now bedecked inside for this most special of seasons. Through the rood screen's tracery we saw ivy, fir and red-berried holly arranged behind the altar lit by flickering candles. The congregation wedged themselves into pews of polished pine under venerable beams. Beneath our feet ancient flags, some indicating their former use as memorials to long-dead parishoners. (Beautiful and naive calligraphy incidently.)
The church was full and we late-comers stumbled in out of the darkness to take our seats at the back. The curtains were drawn across the door against the night and the service began.
But I'm afraid my scepticism remains and interior decor aside my visit left me unmoved - no that's not entirely true - left me sad that this was not a more uplifting occasion.
The liturgy was dreary - where was the poetry, the majesty of the words? The vicar could have been reading out a supermarket receipt - the facts were there alright but the awe, the passion.....the celebration? Is it sufficient to preach to the converted - who no doubt were satisfied with this offering? The unconverted were unlikely to be moved by this dull, dry offering. Except in the direction of the nearest door.
And the carols? Oh dear. Dire.
So it was a long hour on a bench until we spilled out into the night - the communicants feeling spiritually uplifted presumably. Next year I'll stay home.