Midnight Mass

24:00 hours and the Mass begins with a procession around the fully lit Béguinage church: every side aisle has a lit chandelier giving a warm and open atmosphere. With the price of electricity these chandeliers are rarely lit! Adeste Fideles is sung to the kribbe with a little girl carrying the baby Jesus, dressed of course in lace bordered swaddling clothes. The Babe has arrived and is laid in the manger. The church is a 3/4 full with an occasional tourist and the faithful; these are truly the faithful, the remnant of the once totally devout and Catholic country of Belgium. There are no Christmas and Easter Christians; there is no need here, being told once in all seriousness by what I considered an open minded, educated  person, “We\Belgium is beyond religion and the church.” The faithful were the people and families I saw on Sunday; the service was like family. Our usual organist was at the Cathedral, but the organist from the musical ensemble that plays in the Béguinage every few months came and was accompanied by flute and harp. The Mass was celebratory and delicate befitting the simple birth in a stable.The altar was decked in a new lace bordered altar piece busily finished by the lace making sister in time for the Midnight Mass and ironed to perfection. It was ecru on white linen and also sweet and delicate. After the Mass was a reception in the ancient high ceilinged Beguines entrance hall with coffee and a sweet; immense doors swung open into the warm and starlit night. It was crowded as no one was quite ready to go home in site of it being 1:20 am. Belgians  stand at high tables; no chairs, for coffedrinken. The whole feel of Christmas is different here in Belgium; it is a family day  and religious if you are religious. Commercialism seems restrained though the Christmas market in the square with small, brightly colored stalls visited by primarily Europeans who arrived for a week end or a few days to stroll the streets, window shop, and patronize the market. Christmas has come to Bruges and the Béguinage.


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