Christmas at St George’s basilica is one of the great annual appointments for those who wish to celebrate this Christian liturgy with the solemnity and inspiration that it conveys.
Yesterday, was the last day of the Christmas Novena. For the last nine days scores of children have been filling up St George’s basilica for the traditional Christmas Novena. From the first day, children accompanied by parents and grannies, have flocked to the church for the Mass, this year said by Archpriest Mgr Joseph Curmi, the caroling, the boy’s Alma and sacramental benediction. Yesterday there was all the dramatic presentation of the Gospel text led by Antonella Zammit.
The children, for their very years inevitably give St George’s basilica an atmosphere of freshness and uncomplicated joy that is infectious. It is no wonder that during these days many adults choose this Mass for their daily visit in the church. It is in fact a joy to see the delight on the faces of the children as they sing the tunes of Christmas, their excitement as they clap their hands in rhythm with the strains of the guitar.
Everything is focused on the Midnight Mass. The Christmas night congregation is already gathered in the church by 11.00pm, when the liturgy of the Word begins. The altar boy delivers the traditional priedka tal-Mlied (that is, the proclamation and explanation of the birth of Jesus), the Gloria is intoned in Latin and then the Gregorian chant rises solemnly and the caroling rousing. The joyful notes of the bell towers peal out, clear and unhesitant, the basilica floods up with light, the atmospheric gold and inspiring iconography, the silver ornamental chandeliers with their devotional flames, the great floral arrangements, the precious embroidered vestments, the heraldic notes of the organ, and the cheerful voices of the choir – all and everything merges into an emotion of thrill and spiritual joy.
The promise of Christmas is indeed one of joy. But it is more than a promise; it is a gift to be celebrated. Thus, at Christmas time, the Church celebrates the gift of Jesus with joy, sharing and renewal. St George’s basilica offers its best in aid of both, not less through its special services and decorations.
photos: Sam Cefai