With all 2,400 seats filled, hundreds more stood inside the historic cathedral that continues to stun Christmas visitors after more than 140 years.
“As soon as you walk in, it does lift you,” said Vivian Conneely.
Given the amazement, it was only appropriate that Timothy Cardinal Dolan encouraged celebrating the unexpected moments of Christmas.
“Christmas is a day of surprise,” Dolan said.
From neighbors treating each other with renewed kindness, to people finding help in hard times.
“Neighbors who rarely speak, smile and greet one another. People on our streets who are usually hungry or eating out of garbage cans, dine this day on china and silverware at a regal meal up at the POTS shelter in the Bronx,” said Dolan.
While guests at the cathedral celebrate Christmas, they also prayed for those may not have had much to celebrate over the last year.
“I needed to light a lot of candles because there’s just so many bad things going on in the world, especially the wars. We pray for all the people around the world who are sick and suffering,” said Beverly Carlton.
“Immigrant families, at times scorned and feared, find blankets and coats and gloves outside their door at the shelter. We have a God who loves to surprise us,” said Dolan.
The Christmas services draw people from all over the world – and all walks of life.
“I go to most Irish Catholic, whatever country I go to. But this one’s iconic. Around the world, it’s iconic,” said Conneely.
“God loves everyone. Whether they are gay, straight, Muslim, doesn’t make a difference. We’re all one,” said Thomas Troisi.
They found joy in Christmas surprises, including the surprising story of Jesus Christ’s birth and life.
“As he changes ordinary bread and wine into his very body and blood, surprise. A blessed Christmas, everybody,” said Dolan.
Nine Christmas Masses were scheduled from midnight through early evening.
The tradition of Midnight Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral dates back to 1879, when the cathedral first opened.
Angelic voices resonated throughout the beautifully adorned cathedral.
“Why Midnight Mass? I’ve got to admit, I was ready for the sack two hours ago,” Dolan said.
With humor, Dolan explained the significance of Midnight Mass with two pivotal qualities – silence, and darkness.
“it’s almost as if we’re so excited about the feast at hand that we can’t sleep anyway,” Dolan said. “We’re like kids who can’t fall asleep tonight, listening for Santa.”
There were blessings before the altar with incense, and closing with the Holy Eucharist.
Parishioners even lined up for Christmas Eve Mass the night before, some even considering it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.