A little after 6:00 am, the azan floated into my bedroom and into my consciousness. I decided to heed its call, and hasten to my salvation. Not, of course, to acknowledge the "Last Prophet," but to worship the Triune God, to celebrate the Octave of the Feast of the Incarnation of His Son, and to honor His mother, Mary most holy, ever-Virgin, the God Bearer.
So, I got ready in time for the 7:00 am instead of the 8:00 am Mass. Of course, by the time I made a cup of masala chai (trust me, caffeine in the morning is not a luxury! Especially if I have to drive!) and checked my email, it was already 6:40, so I forwent taking a shower in order to get to church on time. The 'rents were aghast - "You're going to pray unbathed?" It's an expectation of ritual purity that seems to be pretty common across many religious traditions. "Aa Hindu puja nathi," I replied. This isn't a Hindu puja.
As I head out onto the largely deserted roads, past bicyclists bundled up against the (to me) pleasant mid-60 temperatures, the first streaks of grey and pink are breaking through the light morning fog.
There were about 30 or 40 people scattered throughout the church (the number doubles by the time it comes to Communion), and, it seems, about half-a-dozen or so mosquitos assigned to each congregant. Mass was low-key, over in about 35 minutes. My prayers centered on strength for our family. I really did zone out during the brief homily though, more because I was still sleepy. One would have thought that at such an early morning Mass, we'd have been spared the keyboard. But no, it was there, with a lone cantor who bravely tried to sing for the entire congregation, accompanied by a spectacularly off-key older gentleman, who also felt that he needed to say the responses loud enough for the entire church to hear.
After Mass, a line formed to venerate baby Jesus in the manger scene at the altar, garlanded by flashing electric lights. I joined in, paid my respects, and then prayed in front of the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Happy New Year y'all! May this one bring us closer to that salvation we all so deeply long for, when there will be no more pain, and every tear will be wiped away.