It was a night of echoing carols and solemn prayer as churches across the city rang in Christmas with the Midnight Mass on Friday.
At Colaba’s Holy Name Cathedral, the heart of the Mumbai Archdiocese, nearly 3,000 devotees gathered to hear the Archbishop Cardinal Oswald Gracias deliver his annual sermon on the birth of Christ.
“The Cardinal’s sermon attracts both Catholics and non-Christians from around the city as he talks about the relevance of Christ’s coming on earth as one of us,” said Father Caesar D’Mello, the rector of the Cathedral. The mass, which began at 10 pm, was conducted in English, Hindi, Marathi as well as Konkani.
Equally popular was the mass at Bandra’s Mount Mary Basilica, which began at midnight with traditional carol singing.
“The celebration of Midnight Mass is a solemn affair, but every year the crowds grow larger and there is never any place to sit,” said Maria D’Souza (60), a resident of Mount Mary Road who still upholds her 34-year tradition of attending mass at the Basilica.
The focus of this year’s sermon was care for creation and the environment, which has been the central theme of most church activities in Mumbai all year.
For most Christians, the ritual of attending Midnight Mass is both a religious and an intimate family affair.
“Whether you live close to the church or far, it’s tradition for the whole family to walk together to the Midnight Mass,” said Walter Murzello, a social activist from Malad who attended mass at Orlem’s Our Lady of Lourdes Church with wife and children.
Like many families, the Murzellos make it a point to visit the church cemetery before the mass to pay their respects to their deceased loved ones.
“During mass, everyone joins in the carol singing and the lively atmosphere along with the chill of winter creates the thrilling hair-raising feeling of Christmas,” said Murzello.