Midnight Mass at Fire-Damaged Cathedral

Fire damage remains evident inside the cathedral.
Fire damage remains evident inside the cathedral.

The fire and repair work at Savannah's Cathedral of St. John the Baptist complicated efforts for this year's midnight mass. But crews finished it all just in the nick of time, and people from all around celebrated the real meaning of Christmas Day.

"Traditionally, we believe that Christ was born during the night, so we commemorate that event," explained Monsignor William O'Neill. "That's why we hold the mass at the beginning, which is right after midnight."

It's a day Christians believe God became flesh and came to earth. It was also a day that started the act of gift giving. "Since Christ was God's gift to the world, it developed into giving gifts at Christmastime," said the monsignor.

But what some don't realize is that this day is only symbolic of the birth of Christ, because in actuality, no one really knows the exact day Jesus was born. "It wasn't on the 25th, it probably wasn't," said O'Neill. "We don't know, but the church set aside a certain day to commemorate his birth. That is why we back up nine months to the 25th of March is when we have the Feast of Annunciation, when the angel came to Mary to announce to her that she was going to be the mother of God. So the church has picked out that day."

So on this night, with standing room only, a community gathered together to remember the true meaning of Christmas and to show their gratitude for God's greatest gift of all.

Repairing the fire damage has cost close to half a million dollars so far, and they haven't even cleaned the pipe organ yet. They'll start that project next month.

Reported by: Nicole Teigen, nteigen@wtoc.com