Christians in Gujarat will join the customary annual midnight Christmas mass online this year amid the Covid-19 pandemic and night curfew. Across the state, churches have planned virtual liturgical celebrations, along with a symbolic physical church service in the evening, before the night curfew comes into effect.
St Xavier’s church in Ahmedabad has sent out an invitation to its parishioners to “register” for the physical service as the open ground, which is known for the biggest midnight Christmas gathering in Gujarat with a capacity of 500 persons, will allow only 150 registered participants — to adhere to the government protocol.
“All those who have registered are given a number. The sitting area is divided into zones and the seat number is stuck on the benches and chairs. The person will be allowed to only sit on the seat that’s allotted. Those who have not registered, will not be allowed to come in,” said Father Vinayak Jadhav, spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Church in Gujarat.
A message sent by the Parish Priest to the parishioners of St Xavier’s church states that wearing masks is mandatory and the temperature of all participants will be screened at the entrance.
Although the physical celebrations are held at midnight, the church has not sought any special permissions for the same owing to the night curfew in place.
Jadhav said, “We have not asked for any permissions for the midnight mass. The mass will be held at 6:30 pm on the eve of Christmas and a morning mass at 9 pm on Christmas Day in most churches across the state.”
In Vadodara, Don Bosco church, which has been streaming live liturgical celebrations every day, will also hold a symbolic physical mass with minimum registered participants and a virtual midnight mass.
The church also released a Christmas album titled “Let Earth Be Glad” on YouTube of responsorial psalms.
A release from Don Bosco said, “Over the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown period, members of the parish choir were engaged in the Responsorial Psalm Music Composition Project. We have put together 19 responsorial psalms with original tunes composed by members across our choirs. These responsorial psalms are for use at the Liturgy during the entire Christmas season beginning from Christmas midnight and ending with the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus Christ.”
Roman Catholic churches, which distribute the mandatory holy communion during the physical prayer service, have not been able to distribute the sacrament since the lockdown.
Jadhav said, “Since the distribution of the holy communion (host) is the most important part of the entire eucharist, a prayer has been drafted for the whole world, which is called the prayer of the spiritual communion. While the priest is raising the communion in the virtual mass, the believers recite the prayer which essentially means that although we cannot receive our Lord physically — as the host signifies the body and blood of Jesus Christ– we are uniting with the host in spirit.”
The church will also, similarly, hold the New Year Service virtually.
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