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From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The Mystery which the Church honours in this Third Mass is the eternal generation or Birth of the Son of God in the Bosom of his Father. At midnight she celebrated the God-Man, born in the Stable from the Womb of the glorious Virgin Mary; at the Aurora, this same Divine Infant, born in the souls of the Shepherds; there still remains for her adoration and praise a Birth more wonderful than these other two: a Birth, which dazzles the eye of Angels by its splendour, and bears its eternal witness to the inward fruitfulness of God. The Son of Mary is also the Son of God; and a grand duty of to-day is that we hymn aloud the glory of this his ineffable Generation, which makes him consubstantial to his Father, God of God and Light of Light. Let us, then, raise up our thoughts even to that eternal Word, who was in the beginning with God, and was himself God;[1] for he is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the figure of his substance.[2]

The Church's first Chant in this her Third Mass is an acclamation to the new-born King. She celebrates the kingly power and majesty which he will derive, as Man, from the Cross that is one day to be upon his shoulders; as God, he has been the Almighty King from all eternity, and this too she celebrates. He is also the Angel of the great Counsel; that is, he is the One Sent from heaven to fulfil the sublime Counsel or design of the Most Holy Trinity—to save mankind by the Incarnation and the Redemption. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word, made this Counsel, together with the other Two: his devotedness to his Father's glory, and his love for man, made him take upon himself the execution of the divine Plan.

Introit

Puer natus est nobis, et Filius datus est nobis; cujus imperitum super humerum ejus: et vocabitur nomen ejus magni Consilii Angelus.

Ps. Cantate Domino canticum novum, quia mirabilia fecit, ℣. Gloria Patri. Puer.
A Child is born unto us, and a Son is given to us; and the government is upon his Shoulder: and his name shall be called the Angel of the great Counsel.

Ps. Sing to the Lord a new Canticle, for he hath done wonderful things, ℣. Glory, etc. A Child, etc.

In the Collect, the Church prays that the New Birth, whereby the eternal Son of God deigned to be born in time, may produce its effect in us, and work our deliverance.

Collect

Concede, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem nativitas liberet; quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus tenet. Per eumdem.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we who groan under the old captivity of sin, may be freed therefrom by the new birth of thine OnlyBegotten Son. Through the same, etc.

Epistle

Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Hebræos.

Cap. I.

Multifariam multisque modis olim Deus loquens patribus in Prophetis; novissime diebus istis locutus est nobis in Filio, quem constituit hæredem universorum, per quem fecit et sæcula. Qui cum sit splendor gloriæ, et figura substantiae ejus, portansque omnia verbo virtutis suæ, purgationem peccatorum faciens, sedet ad dexteram Majestatis in excelsis: tanto melior Angelis effectus, quanto differentius præ illis nomen hæreditavit. Cui enim dixit aliquando Angelorum: Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te? Et rursura: Ego ero illi in Patrem, et ipse erit mihi in Filium. Et cum iterum introducit Primogenitum in orbem terræ, dicit: Et adorent eum omnes Angeli Dei. Et ad Angelos quidem dicit: Qui facit Angelos suos Spiritus, et ministros suos flammam ignis. Ad Filium autem: Thronus tuus, Deus, in sæculum sæculi: virga æquitatis, virga regni tui. Dilexisti justitiam, et odisti iniquitatem: propterea unxit te Deus, Deus tuus, oleo exsultationis præ participibus tuis. Et: Tu in principio, Domine, terram fundasti; et opera manuum tuarum sunt cœli. Ipsi peribunt, tu autem permanebis; et omnes ut vestimentum veterascent, et velut amictum mutabis eos, et mutabuntur: tu autem idem ipse es, et anni tui non deficient.
Lesson of the Epistle of St Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews.

Ch. I.

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past to the Fathers by the Prophets; last of all in these days hath spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world. Who being the brightness of his glory, and the figure of his substance, and holding all things by the word of his power, making purgation of sins, sitteth on the right hand of the Majesty on high: being made so much better than the Angels, as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the Angels hath he said at any time: Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee? And again: I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the First-Begotten into the world, he saith: And let all the Angels of God adore him.And to the Angels, indeed, he saith: He that maketh his Angels Spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But to the Son: Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of justice is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved justice, and hated iniquity: therefore God, thy God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And: Thou in the beginning, O Lord, didst found the earth, and the works of thy hands are the heavens. They shall perish, but thou shalt continue; and they shall all grow old as a garment, and as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the self-same, and thy years shall not fail.

The great Apostle, in this magnificent opening of his Epistle to his former brethren of the Synagogue, lays great stress on the Eternal Generation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whilst our eyes are fixed on the sweet Infant in his Crib, St Paul bids us raise our thoughts up to that infinite Light, from the midst of which the Eternal Father thus speaks to this Child of Mary: Thou art my Son; to-day have I begotten thee: this to-day is the Day of eternity, a Day which has neither morning nor evening, neither rising nor setting. If the Human Nature which he has vouchsafed to assume places him below the Angels; he is infinitely above them by his own essence, whereby he is the Son of God. He is God, he is Lord, and no change can come upon him. He may be wrapped in swathing-bands or nailed to a Cross, or put to a most ignominious death; all this is only in his human nature: in his Divinity he remains impassible and immortal, for he was born of the Father from all eternity.

Gradual

Viderunt omnes fines terræ Salutare Dei nostri: jubilate Deo omnis terra.

℣. Notum fecit Dominus Salutare suum: ante conspectum gentium revelavit justitiam suam.

Alleluia, alleluia.

℣. Dies sanctificatus illuxit nobis: Venite, gentes, et adorate Dominum; quia hodie descendit lux magna super terram. Alleluia.
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God: sing joyfully to the Lord, all thou earth.

℣. The Lord hath made known his salvation: he hath revealed his justice in the sight of the Gentiles.

Alleluia, alleluia.

℣. A sanctified day hath shone upon us: Come, ye Gentiles, and adore the Lord; for this day a great Light is come down upon the earth. Alleluia.

Gospel

Initium sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.

Cap. I.

In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum. Omnia per ipsum facta sunt, et sine ipso factum est nihil, quod factum est. In ipso vita erat; et vita erat lux hominum; et lux in tenebris lucet, et tenebræ eam non comprehenderunt. Fuit homo missus a Deo, cui nomen erat Joannes. Hic venit in testimonium, ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine, ut omnes crederent per ilium. Non erat ille lux, sed ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine. Erat lux vera quæ illuminat omnem hominem venientem in hunc mundum. In mundo erat, et mundus per ipsum factus est; et mundus eum non cognovit. In propria venit, et sui eum non receperunt. Quotquot autem receperunt eum, dedit eis potestatem filios Dei fieri: his qui credunt in nomine ejus; qui non ex sanguinibus, neque ex voluntate carnis, neque ex voluntate viri, sed ex Deo nati sunt. Et Verbum CARO FACTUM EST, et habitavit in nobis: et vidimus gloriam ejus, gloriam quasi Unigeniti a Patre, plenum gratiæ et veritatis.
The beginning of the holy Gospel according to John.

Ch. I.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life; and the life was the Light of men; and the Light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the Light, that all men might believe through him. He was not the Light, but was to give testimony of the Light. That was the true Light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him; and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them he gave power to be made the sons of God: to them that believe in his name, who are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us: and we saw his glory, as it were the glory of the Only-Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

O Eternal Son of God! in presence of the Crib, where for the love of us thou vouchsafest this day to show thyself to thy creatures, we confess thy eternity, thy omnipotence, thy divinity, and most profoundly do we adore thee. Thou wast in the beginning; thou wast in God; and thyself wast God. Everything was made by thee, and we are the work of thy hands. O Light, infinite and eternal! O Sun of Justice! enlighten us, for we are but darkness. Too long have we loved our darkness, and thee we have not comprehended: forgive us our blindness and our errors. Thou hast been long knocking at the door of our hearts, and we have refused to let thee in. To-day, thanks to the wonderful ways of thy love, we have received thee: for who could refuse to receive thee, sweet gentle Infant Jesus! but leave us not; abide with us, and perfect the New Birth which thou hast begun in us. We wish henceforth to be neither of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God, by thee and in thee. Thou hast been made Flesh, O Word Eternal! in order that we may become sons of God. We beseech thee, support our weak human nature, and fit us for this our sublime destiny. Thou art born of God thy Father; thou art born of Mary; thou art born in our hearts; thrice glorified be thou for this thy triple Birth, O Jesus! so merciful in thy Divinity, and so divine in thy self-sought humiliations!

At the Offertory, the Church sings praise to her Emmanuel for the work of his hands, the universe; for it was he who made all things. The sacred gifts are offered up in the midst of a cloud of incense. The Church cannot lose sight of the Infant Jesus and the Crib; but she is unceasingly praising the power and majesty of the Incarnate God.

Offertory

Tui sunt cœli, et tua est terra; orbem terrarum et plenitudinem ejus tu fundasti: justitia et judicium præparatio sedis tuæ.
Thine are the heavens, and thine is the earth; the world and the fulness thereof thou hast founded: justice and judgement are the preparation of thy throne.

Secret

Oblata, Domine, munera nova Unigeniti tui nativitate sanctifica: nosque a peccatorum nostrorum maculis emunda. Per eumdem.
Sanctify, O Lord, our offerings, by the new Birth of thine Only-Begotten Son: and cleanse us from the stains of our sins. Through the same, etc.

During the Communion, the choir sings the happiness of this earth of ours, which has to-day seen its Saviour by the mercy of the Divine Word, made visible in the flesh, yet so as that he loses nothing of his own infinite glory. Then, in the Postcommunion, she prays by the mouth of the Priest, that her children who have eaten of the spotless Lamb may partake of the immortality of this same Jesus: for, by vouchsafing to be born by a human Birth in Bethlehem, he has this Day given them the pledge of their receiving a divine life.

Communion

Viderunt omnes fines terræ Salutare Dei nostri.
The whole earth hath seen the salvation of our God.

Postcommunion

Præsta, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut natus hodie Salvator mundi, sicut divinæ nobis generationis est auctor; ita et immortalitatis sit ipse largitor. Qui tecum.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that as the Saviour of the world, who was born this day, procured for us a divine birth, he may also bestow on us immortality. Who liveth, etc.

Last Gospel

After the Blessing, the following Last Gospel is read.

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum.

Cap. II.

Cum natus esset Jesus in Bethlehem Juda, in diebus Herodis regis, ecce Magi ab Oriente venerunt Jerosolymam, dicentes: Ubi est, qui natus est Rex Judæorum? vidimus enim stellam ejus in Oriente, et venimus adorare eum. Audiens autem Herodes rex, turbatus est, et omnis Jerosolyma cum illo. Et congregans omnes principes sacerdotum, et scribas populi, sciscitabatur ab eis ubi Christus nasceretur. At illi dixerunt ei: In Bethlehem Judæ: sic enim scriptum est per Prophetam: Et tu, Bethlehem, terra Juda, nequaquam minima es in principibus Juda: ex te enim exiet dux qui regat populum meum Israel. Tunc Herodes, clam vocatis Magis, diligenter didicit ab eis tempus stellæ, quæ apparuit eis: et mittens illos in Bethlehem, dixit: Ite, et interrogate diligenter de puero: et cum inveneritis, renuntiate mihi, ut et ego veniens adorem eum. Qui cum audissent regem, abierunt. Et ecce stella quam viderant in Oriente antecedebat eos, usque dum veniens staret supra ubi erat puer. Videntes autem stellam, gavisi sunt gaudio magno valde. Et intrantes domum, invenerunt puerum cum Maria matre ejus, (here all kneel) et procidentes adoraverunt eum. Et apertis thesauris suis, obtulerunt ei munera; aurum, thus et myrrham. Et responso accepto in somnis ne redirent ad Herodem, per aliam viam reversi sunt in regionem suam.

. Deo gratias.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.

Ch. II.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold there came Wise Men from the East to Jerusalem, saying: Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the East, and are come to adore him. And Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief Priests and the Scribes of the people, he enquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him: in Bethlehem of Juda: for so it is written by the Prophet: And thou, Bethlehem, the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel. Then, Herod, privately calling the Wise Men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them: and sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go, and diligently enquire after the Child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore. Who having heard the king, went their way. And behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was. And seeing the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the Child with Mary his Mother, (here all kneel) and falling down they adored him. And opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their own country.

. Thanks be to God.

SECOND VESPERS

The Evensong of God's praise is about to close this beautiful Day: let us go and unite in it. The material sun is fast sinking in the west: but our Sun of Justice shall never set for us, who have received him into our hearts. Yes, let us go join our Mother the Church, and chant, in the songs of the Royal Prophet, the happiness of our earth, that has yielded its divine Fruit; the glories of this new-born Saviour; and the mercies which he has brought us. God forbid that our hearts should have lost, since morning, aught of their earnest fervour! has not Christ been born within us? Therefore, let our psalmody proclaim his praises, and ascend to him with all that beauty and loveliness and merit which the divine Liturgy always adds to our own individual fervour.

℣. Deus, in adjutorium meum intende.

. Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritili Sancto:

Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen. Alleluia.
℣. Incline unto my aid, O God.

. O Lord, make haste to help me.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Alleluia.

The first Psalm of Second Vespers for Christmas Day is that which always begins the Evening Office on Sundays and Feasts. It celebrates the Eternal Generation of the Word, and prophesies his Sufferings and his Triumph.

Ant. Tecum principium in die virtutis tuæ, in splendoribus Sanctorum: ex utero ante luciferum genui te.
Ant. With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength, in the brightness of the Saints; for the Father has said to thee: From the womb, before the day-star, I begot thee.


Psalm 109

Dixit Dominus Domino meo: * Sede a dextris meis.
Donec ponam inimicos tuos: * scabellum pedum tuorum.
Virgam virtutis tuæ emittet Dominus ex Sion: * dominare in medio inimicorum tuorum.
Tecum principium in die virtutis tuæ, in splendoribus Sanctorum: * ex utero ante luciferum genui te.
Juravit Dominus, et non poenitebit eum: * Tu es sacerdos in æternum, secundum ordinem Melchisedech.
Dominus a dextris tuis: * confregit in die iræ suæ reges.
Judicabit in nationibus, implebit ruinas: * conquassabit capita in terra multorum.
De torrente in via bibet; * propterea exaltabit caput.

Ant. Tecum principium in die virtutis tuæ, in splendoribus Sanctorum: ex utero ante luciferum genui te.
The Lord said to my Lord, his Son: Sit thou at my right hand, and reign with me.
Until, on the day of thy last coming, I make thy enemies thy footstool.
O Christ! the Lord, thy Father, will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion: from thence rule thou in the midst of thy enemies.
With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength, in the brightness of the Saints: for the Father hath said to thee: From the womb, before the day-star, I begot thee.
The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: he hath said, speaking of thee, the GodMan: Thou art a Priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech.
Therefore, O Father! the Lord thy Son is at thy right hand: he hath broken kings in the day of his wrath.
He shall also judge among nations; he shall fill the ruins of the world: he shall crush the heads in the land of many.
He cometh now in humility; he shall drink in the way of the torrent of sufferings: therefore shall he lift up the head.

Ant. With thee is the principality in' the day of thy strength, in the brightness of the Saints; for the Father has said to thee: From the womb, before the day-star, I begot thee.

The second Psalm praises our Lord for the Covenant he has made with his people, and for the Redemption he has this day sent us. The human race was sunk into the depth of misery: the God of mercy, faithful to his promises, gives us, in Bethlehem, him who is the Bread of life—the heavenly food that preserves from death.

Ant. Redemptionem misit Dominus populo suo, mandavit in æternum testamentum suum.
Ant. He hath sent Redemption to his people; he hath commanded his covenant for ever.


Psalm 110

Confitebor tibi, Domine, in toto corde meo: * in concilio justorum et congregatione.
Magna opera Domini: * exquisita in omnes voluncates ejus.
Confessio et magnificentia opus ejus: * et justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.
Memoriam fecit mirabilium suorum, misericors et miserator Dominus: * escam dedit timentibus se.
Memor erit in sæculum testamenti sui: * virtutem operum suorum annuntiabit populo suo.
Ut det illis hæreditatem gentium: * opera manuum ejus veritas et judicium.
Fidelia omnia mandata ejus, confirmata in sæculum sæculi: * facta in veritate et æquitate.
Redemptionem misit populo suo: * mandavit in æternum testamentum suum.
Sanctum et terribile nomen ejus: * initium sapientiæ timor Domini.
Intellectus bonus omnibus facientibus eum: * laudario ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.

Ant. Redemptionem misit Dominus populo suo, mandavit in æternum testamentum suum.
I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart: in the council of the just, and in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord: sought out according to all his wills.
His work is praise and magnificence: and his justice continued for ever and ever.
He hath made a remembrance of his wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord: and being the Bread of life, he hath given food to them that fear him.He will be mindful for ever of his covenant with men: he will come and will show forth to his people the power of his works.
That he may give them, his Church, the inheritance of the Gentiles: the works of his hand are truth and judgement.
All his commandments are faithful, confirmed for ever and ever: made in truth and equity.
He hath sent Redemption to his people: he hath thereby commanded his covenant for ever.
Holy and terrible is his name: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
A good understanding to all that do it: his praise continueth for ever and ever.

Ant. He hath sent Redemption to his people; he hath commanded his covenant for ever.

The third Psalm tells the happiness and hopes of the just man, on the day of Jesus’ Birth. In the very midst of darkness, there has suddenly risen up the bright and lovely Light, that is, our Emmanuel, our merciful God. The upright of heart are enlightened by him: but woe to the sinner that will not receive him!

Ant. Exortum est in tenebris lumen recris corde: misericors et miserator, et justus Dominus.
Ant. To the upright of heart a Light has risen up in darkness; the merciful and compassionate and just Lord.

Psalm 111

Beatus vir, qui timet Dominum: * in mandatis ejus volet nimis.
Potens in terra erit semen ejus: * generatio rectorum benedicetur.
Gloria et divitiæ in domo ejus: * et justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi.
Exortum est in tenebris lumen rectis: * misericors et miserator et justus.
Jucundus homo qui miseretur et commodat, disponet sermones suos in judicio: * quia in æternum non commovebitur.
In memoria æterna erit justus: * ab auditione mala non timebit.
Paratum cor ejus sperare in Domino, confirmatum est cor ejus: * non commovebitur dionec despiciat inimicos suos.
Dispersit, dedit pauperibus, justitia ejus manet in sæculum sæculi: * cornu ejus exaltabitur in gloria.
Peccator videbit et irascetur, dentibus suis fremet et tabescet: * desiderium peccatorum peribit.

Ant. Exortum est in tenebris lumen rectis corde: misericors et miserator et justus Dominus.
Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord: he shall delight exceedingly in his commandments.
His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the righteous shall be blessed.
Glory and wealth shall be in his house: and his justice remaineth for ever and ever.
To the righteous a Light is risen up in darkness: he is merciful and compassionate and just, and is born among men to-day.
Acceptable, on this day, is the man that showeth mercy and lendeth; he shall order his words with judgement: because he shall not be moved for ever.
The just shall be in everlasting remembrance: he shall not fear the evil hearing.
His heart is ready to hope in the Lord; his heart is strengthened: he shall not be moved, until he look over his enemies.
He hath distributed, he hath given to the poor; his justice remaineth for ever and ever: his horn shall be exalted in glory.
The wicked shall see, and shall be angry; he shall gnash with his teeth, and pine away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.

Ant. To the upright of heart a Light is risen up in darkness; the merciful and compassionate and just Lord.

The fourth Psalm expresses the cry of distress sent forth to its Deliverer by the human race, when in the depth of its misery and degradation. But this cry was also one of hope; for God had promised to come to its deliverance. At length the Lord, whose mercy is infinite, has vouchsafed to descend upon the earth, and our Redemption begins this very day.

Ant. Apud Dominum misericordia, et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
Ant. With the Lord there is merciful forgiveness; and with him plentiful Redemption.

Psalm 129

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine: * Domine, exaudi vocem meam.
Fiant aures tuæ intendentes: * in vocem deprecationis meæ.
Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine: * Domine, quis sustinebit?
Quia apud te propitiatio est: * et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Domine.
Sustinuit anima mea in verbo ejus: * speravit anima mea in Domino.
A custodia matutina usque ad noctem: * speret Israel in Domino.
Quia apud Dominum misericordia: * et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
Et ipse redimet Israel: * ex omnibus iniquitatibus ejus.

Ant. Apud Dominum misericordia, et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
From the depths have I, thy people, cried to thee, O Lord: Lord hear my voice.
Let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
If thou wilt observe iniquities, O Lord, Lord, who shall endure it?
For with thee there is merciful forgiveness; and by reason of thy law I have waited all these long ages for thee, O Lord.
My soul hath relied on his word; my soul hath hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord.
Because with the Lord there is mercy, and with him plentiful redemption.
This day he hath been born among us, and he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Ant. With the Lord there is merciful forgiveness; and with him plentiful Redemption.

The fifth Psalm celebrates the Ark of the Lord which rested in Ephrata. Mary was the true Ark, of which that of old was but a type: in her did our Lord take up his dwelling; in her did he place the throne of his Majesty. Let our God, then, arise and take possession of his Church, which begins to-day in Bethlehem; let him arise, and, together with Mary, the Queen of mercy, govern us. Henceforth he is to dwell among us—console us in all our tribulations—satisfy us poor ones with the Bread of eternal life—invest the new Priesthood with singular powers—shine in his Church as the Lamp of immutable truth—triumph over all his enemies—in a word, whilst the crowns of other kings shall fall off, the one which sits on the brow of our divine King, our sweet Babe of Bethlehem, shall flourish for everlasting ages.

Ant. De fructu ventris tui ponam super sedem tuam.
Ant. I will set upon thy throne, O David, one of the fruit of thy womb.

Psalm 131

Memento, Domine, David: * et omnis mansuetudinis ejus.
Sicut juravit Domino: * votum vovit Deo Jacob.
Si introiero in tabernaculum domus meæ: * si ascendero in lectum strati mei.
Si dedero somnum oculis meis: * et palpebris meis dormitationem.
Et requiem temporibus meis, donec inveniam locum Domino: * tabernaculum Deo Jacob.
Ecce audivimus eam in Ephrata: * invenimus eam in campis silvæ.
Introibimus in tabernaculum ejus: * adorabimus in loco ubi steterunt pedes ejus.
Surge, Domine, in requiem tuam: * tu et arca sanctificationis tuæ.
Sacerdotes tui induantur justitiam: * et Sancti tui exsultent.
Propter David servum tuum: * non avertas faciem Christi tui.
Juravit Dominus David veritatem, et non frustrabitur eam: * De fructu ventris tui ponam super sedem tuam.
Si custodierint filii tui testamentum meum: * et testimonia mea hæc, quæ docebo eos.
Et filii eorum usque in sæculum: * sedebunt super sedem tuam.
Quoniam elegit Dominus Sion: * elegit eam in habitationem sibi.
Hæc requies mea in sæculum sæculi: * hic habitabo, quoniam elegi eam.
Viduam ejus benedicens benedicam: * pauperes ejus saturabo panibus.
Sacerdotes ejus induam salutari: * et Sancti ejus exsultatione exsultabunt.
Illuc producam cornu David: * paravi lucernam Christo meo.
Inimicos ejus induam confusione: * super ipsum autem efflorebit sanctificatio mea.

Ant. De fructu ventris tui ponam super sedem tuam.
O Lord, remember David, and all his meekness.
How he swore to the Lord: he vowed a vow to the God of Jacob.
‘If I shall enter into the tabernacle of my house: if I shall go up into the bed wherein I lie;
‘If I shall give sleep to my eyes: or slumber to my eyelids,
‘Or rest to my temples, until I find out a place for the Lord, a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.’
Behold! we have heard of it that it was in Bethlehem of Ephrata; we found it in the fields of the wood.
We will go into his tabernacle; we will adore in the place where his feet have stood.
Arise, O Lord, into thy resting place; thou and Mary, the Ark which thou hast sanctified.
Let thy priests be clothed with justice: and let thy Saints rejoice.
For thy servant David’s sake, O heavenly Father! turn not away the face of thy Christ.
The Lord hath sworn truth to David, and he will not make it void: ‘Of the fruit of thy womb I will set upon thy throne.
‘If thy children will keep my covenant, and these my testimonies, which I shall teach them;
‘Their children also for evermore shall sit upon thy throne.’
For the Lord hath chosen Sion, his Church: he hath chosen it for his dwelling.
He hath said: 'This is my rest for ever and ever: here will I dwell, for I have chosen it.
‘Blessing, I will bless her widow, by the Birth of my Son; in Bethlehem I will satisfy her poor with Bread.
'I will clothe her priests with salvation: and her Saints shall rejoice with exceeding great joy.
'There, in my Church, will I bring forth the horn, the strength of David: I have prepared a lamp for my Christ.
'His enemies I will clothe with confusion: but upon him shall my sanctification flourish.*

Ant. I will set upon thy throne, O David! one of the fruit of thy womb.

Capitulum
(Heb. I)

Multifariam, multisque modis olim Deus loquens patribus in Prophetis: novissime diebus istis locutus est nobis in Filio, quem constituit hæredem universorum, per quem fecit et sæcula.
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past to the Fathers by the Prophets; last of all in these days hath spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world.

Hymn[3]

Jesu, redemptor omnium,
Quem, lucis ante originem,
Parem paternæ gloriæ
Pater supremus edidit;

Tu lumen et splendor Patris,
Tu spes perennis omnium,
Intende quas fundunt preces
Tui per orbem servuli.

Memento, rerum conditor,
Nostri quod olim corporis,
Sacrata ab alvo Virginis
Nascendo, formam sumpseris.

Testatur hoc praesens dies,
Currens per anni circulum,
Quod solus e sinu Patris
Mundi salus adveneris.

Hunc astra, tellus, æquora,
Hunc omne quod cœlo subest,
Salutis auctorem novæ
Novo salutat cantico.

Et nos, beata quos sacri
Rigavit unda sanguinis,
Natalis ob diem tui,
Hymni tributum solvimus.

Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Qui natus es de Virgine,
Cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
In sempiterna sæcula.

Amen.

℣. Notum fecit Dominus, alleluia.
. Salutare suum, alleluia.
O Jesu! Redeemer of mankind!
born before the light was made,
and born of the Eternal Father,
equal to him in infinite glory;

O thou the light and brightness of the Father!
O thou the everlasting hope of all men!
hear the prayers offered thee
by thy servants throughout the world.

Be mindful, O Creator of all things!
that heretofore thou didst
assume a Body like unto ours,
and wast born from the sacred womb of a Virgin.

This present Day, which the year has brought round
to us, tells us of this mystery—
that thou, the one Saviour of the world,
didst come to us from the Father's Bosom.

The stars and earth and sea,
and all that is under heaven,
greet this the Author of their new salvation
with a new Canticle.

And we, who have been redeemed by the stream
of thy precious Blood,
we too pay thee the tribute of this Hymn,
in honour of thy Birthday.

Glory be to thee, O Jesus!
who wast born of the Virgin!
and to the Father,
and to the Spirit of love, for everlasting ages.

Amen.

℣. The Lord hath made known, alleluia.
. His Salvation, alleluia.

ANTIPHON OF THE MAGNIFICAT

Hodie Christus natus est: hodie Salvator apparuit; hodie in terra canunt An geli, lætantur Archangeli; hodie exsultant justi, dicentes: Gloria in excelsis Deo, alleluia.
This day Christ is born, this day the Saviour hath appeared; this day the Angels sing on earth; the Archangels rejoice; this day the just exult, saying: Glory be to God in the highest, alleluia.

The Canticle, Magnificat, p. 96.


Oremus

Concede, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus, ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per cameni Nativitas liberet, quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus tenet. Per eumdem.

Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we who groan under the old captivity of sin, may be freed therefrom by the new Birth of thine Only-Begotten Son. Through the same, etc.

Commemoration of St Stephen

Ant. Stephanus autem plenus gratia et fortitudine, faciebat signa magna in populo.

℣. Gloria et honore coronasti eum, Domine.

℟. Et constituisti eum super opera manuum tuarum.

OREMUS

Da nobis, quæsumus, Domine, imitari quod colimus, ut discamus et inimicos diligere: quia ejus natalitia celebramus, qui novit etiam pro persecutoribus exorare Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum. Qui tecum.
Ant. But Stephen, full of grace and fortitude, did great signs among the people.

℣. Thou hast crowned him, O Lord, with glory and honour.

. And hast placed him over the works of thy hands.

Let us pray

Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that we may imitate him whose memory we celebrate, so as to learn to love even our enemies: because we now solemnise his martyrdom, who knew how to pray even for his persecutors to our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son. Who liveth, etc.


For Compline, see p. 98.

The great Day is over, and the night is coming upon us, when sleep will refresh us after the holy fatigues of last night. Before retiring to rest, let us give the holy Martyrs a thought, whose memory is offered to our veneration by the Church in her Martyrology of this December 25. Diocletian and his colleagues in the Empire had recently published the famous edict of persecution, which waged against the Church the fiercest war she has ever sustained. The edict was tom down from the Emperor's palace at Nicomedia by one of the Christians, who paid for this holy daring by a glorious martyrdom. The faithful of the same city were ready for the combat, and feared not to brave the Emperor's power by continuing to frequent their Church, which was condemned to be pulled down. Christmas Day came, and several thousands of them had assembled there, in order to celebrate, for the last time within those walls, the Nativity of our Saviour. Being informed of it, the Emperor became furious, and sent one of the officers of his court to order the Church doors to be fastened, and a fire to be enkindled on each side of the building. This being done, the clang of trumpets was heard, and then a herald's voice proclaiming to the faithful, in the Emperor's name, that they who wished to save their lives would be permitted to leave the Basilica, on the condition of their offering incense on an altar of Jupiter, which had been placed near the door; but that otherwise, all were to be left a prey to the flames. One of the Christians thus answered, in the name of the whole assembly: ‘We are all of us Christians; we honour Christ as the one only God and King; and we are all ready to lay down our lives for him on this Day.’ Whereupon the soldiers were commanded to set fire to the Church. In a very short time, it was one immense mass of flames, whence was offered to the Son of God—who deigned to begin on this same day the human life he had assumed—the generous holocaust of these thousands of lives, laid down as witness to his having come into this world. Thus was glorified, in the year 303, Emmanuel, who had come from heaven to dwell among us. Let us, after the example of the Church herself, join our homage to the Babe of Bethlehem with that offered him by these courageous Christians, whose fame the Liturgy will perpetuate even to the end of time.

Once more let us visit in spirit the dear Cave, where Mary and Joseph are loving and nursing and adoring the Divine Infant. Let us, too, adore him, and ask his blessing. St Bonaventure, with an unction worthy of his seraphic soul, thus expresses the sentiments which a Christian should have on this Day, when admitted to the Crib of Jesus: ‘Do thou also kneel down—thou hast delayed too long. Adore the Lord thy God, and then reverence his Mother, and salute, with much respect, the saintly old man Joseph. After this, kiss the feet of the Infant Jesus, laid as he is on his little bed, and ask our Lady to give him to thee, or permit thee to take him up. Take him into thine arms, press him to thy heart, and look well at his lovely face, and reverently kiss him, and show him confidently the delight thou takest in him. Thou mayest venture on all this, because it is for sinners that he came, that he might save them: it was with sinners that he so humbly conversed, and at last gave himself to sinners, that he might be their food. I say, then, that his gentle love will permit thee to treat him as affectionately as thou pleasest, and will not call it too much freedom, but will set it down to thy love.’[4]

As a conclusion to our Feast, we give two favourite pieces of the Middle Ages, whereby our Fathers expressed their joy on this glorious Solemnity. The first is a Sequence, which is to be found in all the RomanFrench Missals. For a long time it was thought to have been written by St Bernard: but we have seen it in a Manuscript of the eleventh century, and consequently it must have been written earlier than the date usually assigned to it.

Sequence

Lætabundus Exsultet fidelis chorus. Alleluia.
Regem regum Intactæ profudit torus: Res miranda!
Angelus Consilii Natus est de Virgine, Sol de Stella.
Sol occasum nesciens, Stella semper rutilans, Semper clara.
Sicut sidus radium, Profert Virgo Filium Pari forma.
Neque sidus radio, Neque Virgo Filio Fit corrupta.
Cedrus alta Libani Conformatur hyssopo Valle nostra.
Verbum ens Altissimi Corporari passum est, Carne sumpta.
Esaias cecinit, Synagoga meminit; Numquam tamen desinit Esse cæca.
Si non suis vatibus, Credat vel gentilibus, Sibyllinis versibus Hæc prædicta:
Infelix, propera,
Crede vel vetera:
Cur damnaberis, gens misera?
Quem docet littera Natum considera: Ipsum genuit puerpera.

Amen.
Let the choir of all the faithful exult in their joy. Alleluia!
The Virgin's womb hath given us the King of Kings! O wonderful mystery!
The Angel of the great Counsel is born of the Virgin, the Sun is born of a Star!
The Sun knows no setting; the Star is ever shining, ever bright.
As a star gives forth its ray, so does the Virgin her Child.
The star loses naught of its purity by the ray it yields, so neither does the Virgin by her Child.
The lofty cedar of Libanus comes down into our valley, making itself little as the hyssop.
He that is the Word of the Most High God deigns to take a body unto himself; he assumes our flesh.
Isaias had foretold all this; and the Jews, though they knew the prophecy by heart, see not its accomplishment in this mystery.
If they will not believe their Prophets, let them believe the Sybils, who thus sang:
'Unhappy people, delay not, believe, at least, the ancient oracles! Why wilt thou be cast off, O wretched nation?
‘This is the Child of whom thy books tell thee: he is the Son of a Virgin-Mother.’

Amen.

The second piece is a Sequence in honour of the most Holy Mother of God. It belongs to the fifteenth century. It is one of the many imitations of the Easter Sequence, Victimæ Paschali, which are to be found in many of the Missals of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Sequence

Virgini Mariæ laudes
Intonent Christiani.

Eva tristis abstulit;
Sed Maria protulit
Natum, qui redemit
Peccatores.

Mors et vita modulo
Convenere mirando:
Mariæ Filius
Regnat Deus.

Dic nobis, Maria,
Virgo clemens et pia:
Quomodo facta es genitrix,
Cum tu sis plasma De te nascentis?

Angelus est testis
Ad me missus cœlestis.

Natus est ex me spes mea;
Sed incredula
Manet Judæa.

Virgini Mariæ laudes
Intonent Christiani.

Eva tristis abstulit;
Sed Maria protulit
Natum, qui redemit
Peccatores.

Mors et vita modulo
Convenere mirando:
Mariæ Filius
Regnat Deus.

Dic nobis, Maria,
Virgo clemens et pia:
Quomodo facta es genitrix,
Cum tu sis plasma De te nascentis?

Angelus est testis
Ad me missus cœlestis.

Natus est ex me spes mea;
Sed incredula
Manet Judæa.

Credendum est magis soli Gabrieli forti,
Quam Judæorum
Pravæ cohorti.

Scimus Christum processisse
Ex Maria vere:
Tu nobis nate, Rex! miserere.

Amen
Let the Christian people
hymn their praises to the Virgin Mary.

Unhappy Eve was the cause of our ruin;
but Mary brought forth a Son,
who redeemed us sinners.

Death and life wers
thus strangely reconciled:
there reigns now God,
the Son of Mary.

Tell us, O Mary,
Virgin most merciful and kind!
How thou, the creature of him that was born of thee,
didst become his Mother?

The Angel is witness,
that was sent to me from heaven.

He that is my hope
was born of me his Mother:
but the Jews will not believe.

Faith must be had in Gabriel, the Power of God,
rather than in the
perverse Jewish tribe.

We know that Christ was
in very truth born of Mary:
do thou, her Son! our King! have mercy on us.

Amen.


[1] St John i 1.
[2] Heb. i 3.
[3] For the version as preserved in the Monastic Rite, see p. 116.
[4] Meditations on the Life of Christ, by St Bonaventure.