Just before Christmas each year comes the ‘Time of Illumination’ at the Santa Barbara Mission. It is one of the more unique sunrise masses of the year and it begins outside.
With only the sound of ceremonial indigenous and fa miliar religious songs on a flute by artist Emiliano Campobello, about 150 residents came to the Old Mission steps Friday morning. As the sun rises on the first day of winter, with the angle of the Mission, the light shoots through the doorway. The church lights are off and only a few candles are lit. The sun normally lights up the statues of Saint Barbara and then Jesus above the altar through a reflection out of a pool of holy water.
Because of the cloud cover, the event did not occur as planned, but the full mass took place inside the church. Father Larry Gosselin also gave a special blessing to the congregation with incense carried slowly throughout the church.
The ceremony remains very historic to Santa Barbara, and reaches back to the original design of the mission as it faces the ocean from a risen area above the main part of the city below the Riviera. Annually more people attend for the outside pre-mass service on the steps prior to the sunrise and it’s both solemn and deeply bonding.
Still, it feels like one of the best kept secrets prior to Christmas.