Thousands of Christian believers, many from out-of-state and overseas, flocked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan on Monday to celebrate Christmas Mass and get a look at New York’s most famous house of worship.
Msgr. Robert T. Ritchie told the worshippers they had gathered to celebrate the birth of Christ in a humble manger more than 2,000 years ago and its profound impact on humanity.
“Love is born, love is born,” Ritchie said during his homily Monday morning. “The personification of love is born. Christmas is about love.”
Ritchie said the fact that God sent his son to redeem mankind was proof of his love for humanity.
“Jesus is the reason for the season,” said Ritchie, the principal celebrant of the Mass. “Jesus was born for you and me.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the leader of New York’s Roman Catholics, was scheduled to celebrate the Mass but was sidelined with the flu.
“He’s under the weather like a lot of people right now,” Ritchie said. “We are praying he will get better soon.”
The storied cathedral, opened in 1879, was decorated simply for one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar. Green wreaths with red bows adorned the Gothic structure’s walls. A manger representing Christianity’s humble beginnings stood near the altar where Ritchie and other clergy celebrated Mass. Bright red poinsettias added a splash of color.
The cathedral choir celebrated the holy day by singing such beloved songs as “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
“It is so impressive,” said Irina Adam, an art history student from Paris who is visiting New York with her friend Alex Urdas. “We are not home for Christmas and we don’t have a tree or presents so this was the most Christmas thing to do.”
Security around the cathedral was beefed up in the wake of recent terror attacks in New York City and elsewhere but did not sour the Christmas spirit. NYPD officers in body armor carrying automatic weapons patrolled nearby streets. Ushers checked worshippers bags and purses before allowing them to enter.
“We always come to St. Patrick’s when we are in New York,” said Nancy Maville of Ottawa, who is in the city for the holidays with her husband, Tom. “Attending Mass here really makes you feel like you are part of something special.”