Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

So the Christmas thing at school was last night.

The bad news is that I have seen better organized riots. The good news is that NOS did his bit to much acclaim.

Keep in mind this school is not just "Catholic" but Catholic. With nuns in full habit, Latin everywhere, and all that sort of thing. Therefore, the Christmas pageant thing can't just be singing and dancing in a hall with a stage. So, what Sr. I. did is have a Rosary that was punctuated with pageant-ish stuff.

Now, for those who are not fully Papist-conversant -- the rest of you may go off and have a soothing beverage -- the way the Rosary works is that you think about ("meditate upon") a particular bit of the Bible (called "a Mystery;" for example when St. Gabriel the Archangel shows up and tells Mary she's going to give birth to Jesus) and as you do so you pray an Our Father and ten Hail Marys, and a few other ancillary prayers, then you think about the next bit (Mary goes to visit St. Elizabeth, etc.) while praying the next batch of prayers, etc.

Before this kicks off, the school choir -- an institution that celebrates diversity, not only in matters of race and ethnicity but also in matters of ability and enthusiasm and choice of key -- starts things with a selection that culminates in "O Come, O Come Emanuel." NOS forgot he had been given a dispensation since he was narrating and sang from the lectern, drowning out the un-amplified choir for 3 and a half bars. Sister D. was not pleased.

Once a semblance of order had been restored (it's murderously hard to keep +/- 1000 children plus parents from chattering loudly, you kind of see Herod's point of view) NOS announced the first bit of the Bible, read the appropriate passage and then kids assemble in a sort of living, pantomime, tableau.

Here is where things got a bit touch-and-go. The child cast as St. Gabriel the Archangel, for reasons which were not listed in the Playbill, failed to materialize. At the last picosecond, an understudy had to be located and pressed into service; this entailed, most pointedly, placing the new kid in the costume. From memory, the original child cast in this role was a slip of a girl with luxuriant blonde tresses. The understudy was, um, a cheerful looking lad possibly four years older, with what I surmise to be an overexcited pituitary and of a robust build. A healthy blond boy with not so much luxuriant tresses as a Marine Corps flattop buzzcut. What he lacked in rehearsed polish, he made up in sheer joyful enthusiasm. As he gesticulated animatedly to the startled girl playing Mary, he made sure to put all the knowledge acquired during a childhood spent assiduously playing charades into practice.

He pointed eagerly at Heaven, stood on tippy-toe and spread wide his arms to indicate to Mary the magnitude of the Lord and then, to the hyper-thunderous acclaim of all the audience who were neither nuns, priests or parents, made a spherical sort of motion in the general vicinity of his midsection to inform a now-very startled Mary that she would conceive and bear a child.

After the audience recovered its wind, other children would file up to the microphone, unburden their vocal chords of the Our Father, etc. which they had been assigned, and shuffle off to give the next kid his shot at the limelight.

At some point, an artistic decision had to be made: "Do we cast the Junior High kids who can say things clearly and without congealing in a dopamine-fueled terror but who are, let's face it, not the most adorable of sights...or do we go with the little tykes who might interject the contents of their Christmas wish list throughout their assigned prayers but are SO ADORABLE?"

You guessed right, Internet. They went with the cuties. For sheer entertainment value, the choice was genius. Your average 5 year old has the attention span of a crazed rodent (even less if they were anything like I was) and is always staving off near-terminal levels of boredom. Which is precisely what you want to see in a Christmas verité sort of production. Even more interesting is when the one conscientious child starts chiding his or her fellows near an open microphone, his (or her) piping child voice reverberating throughout the place.

The second Bible passage that NOS had to read concerns Mary visiting her cousin St. Elizabeth, herself carrying St. John the Baptist. The girl playing Mary was obviously relieved to have playing opposite her a seasoned expert in the role of Elizabeth. What they didn't count on was that Elizabeth, who has to fall to her knees, would get nervous and emphasize the falling bit a bit too hard for her poor knees. She was a trouper, though, and gamely stayed knelt even though she probably wanted to have a good sob in the corner along with a healthy bag of ice. She gets my award for bravery, whichever son of mine doesn't have otherwise made nuptial arrangements would do well to hitch his wagon to her.

The third bit was the Nativity scene, and that went pretty incident-free, except for the shepherds shoving each other a bit and the real baby (as opposed to a doll) playing Baby Jesus decided to loosen a couple of lungfuls of air at 165dB, apparently never getting the instruction that "the little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes." Even offstage the baby's wails could be heard, and you would have thought as a surprise encore they were doing the Slaughter of the Innocents from the sounds of it. Maintaining an amazing sang-froid was St. Joseph who yawned throughout.

The following section was the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, when Simeon prophesies. Interestingly, Simeon looked an AWFUL LOT like St. Gabriel the Archangel and not so much like the skinny Haitian kid I'd seen at rehearsal. Sure, the felt/cotton beard was similar, but the gesticulating pantomime gave it away. I must hand it to the child in question, because once he had discovered what worked best for him as an actor, he latched on to it like a lamprey, or possibly a moray. Maybe it was a limpet. No matter, this kid had worked out his system and got a chokehold around it.

The last section, of Jesus staying behind at the Temple discussing with the elders and scribes, went exactly as planned. Not much drama here.

There was much singing afterwards, both religious and secular and jingling of jingle bells and towards the end, Father D. went and sprinkled Holy Water on all the Baby Jesus figurines the kids had brought.

The End

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