December 24, 11:47 PM Eastern
The bishop stood up from his seat beside the altar and looked out at the congregation. The dark suits of security guards, who were standing along the walls and in front of the doors at the back of the chapel, contrasted with the red and green of the Christmas decorations in the chapel’s windows. He had relented on the security guards only after the worshippers told him that, without them, he would be giving Midnight Mass to an empty church.
In the first row of pews, the Speaker of the House and the Chief Justice rose to their feet and looked up to him. The bishop glanced at the missal a young girl was holding up for him, then reached down and closed it. Stepping around the altar, he raised his arms to the congregation.
“My brothers and sisters, I want to close our time together by asking all of you to pray for peace,” he said, “Peace for our world, for our country, and for the people who are suffering pain and grief tonight. The evil of the world is great, but the love of our Father and His Son is greater. Just for a moment, let us turn away from the ugliness of the past few days, and embrace the light descending to our world tonight.”
The bishop raised his hands higher.
“The Lord be with you!” he intoned.
“And with your spirit,” the congregation responded.
“Let us pray,” the bishop sang as the congregation bowed their heads, “Heavenly Father, we gather together to celebrate the birth of Your Son, and we ask for a rebirth of our spirit in this dark time. You once sent a spark to kindle the flame of our faith, and tonight we attempt to rekindle His message of forgiveness and love.”
“Father, watch over those who watch over us,” he continued, “cherish those who have returned to You, and hold those who suffer and mourn them in the cup of Your hand.”
He paused for a moment and looked out on the people, his people.
The bishop raised his right hand in benediction over his flock, and sang, “May almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
The congregation, made up of the powerful men and women of Washington, crossed themselves and replied “Amen,” then looked up at him.
“Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” the bishop called out.
“Praise be to God,” the congregation recited as they reached down for their coats and purses.
“Yes, praise be to God,” the bishop said quietly as the organist started in with the first few bars of “Joy to the World”.