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Introductions to Each Season

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THIS Office, which concludes the day, commences by a warning of the dangers of the night: then immediately follows the public Confession of our sins, as a powerful means of propitiating the divine justice, and obtaining God's help, now that we are going to spend so many hours in the unconscious and therefore dangerous state of sleep, which is also such an image of death.

The Lector, addressing the Priest, says to him:

℣. Jube, domne, benedicere.
. Pray, Father, give thy blessing.

The Priest answers:

Noctem quietam et finem perfectum concedat nobis Dominus omnipotens.

℟. Amen.
May the Almighty Lord grant us a quiet night and a perfect end.

℟. Amen.

The Lector then reads these words from the first Epistle of St Peter:

Fratres: Sobrii estote, et vigilate: quia adversarius vester diabolus, tamquam leo rugiens circuit quærens quem devoret: cui resistite fortes in fide. Tu autem, Domine, miserere nobis.
Brethren, be sober and watch: for your adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour: resist him, being strong in faith. But thou, O Lord, have mercy on us.

The Choir answers:

, Deo gratias.
. Thanks be to God.

Then the Priest:

. Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini.
℣. Our help is in the name of the Lord.

The Choir:

. Qui fecit cœlum et terrain.
. Who hath made heaven and earth.

Then the Lord’s Prayer is recited in secret; after which the Priest says the Confiteor; and when he has finished, the Choir says:

Misereatur tui omnipotens Deus, et dimissis peccatis tuis, perducat te ad vitam æternam.
May Almighty God be merciful to thee, and forgiving thy sins, bring thee to everlasting life.

The Priest having answered Amen, the Choir repeats the Confiteor, thus:

Confiteor Deo Omnipotenti, beatæ Mariæ semper Virgini, beato Michaeli Archangelo, beato Joanni Baptistæ, sanct.s Apostolis Petro et Paulo, omnibus sanctis, et tibi Pater: quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo et opere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Ideo precor beatam Mariam semper Virginem, beatum Michaelem Archangelum, beatum Joannem Baptistam, sanctos Apostolos Petrum et Paulum, omnes sanctos, et te, Pater, orare pro me ad Dominum Deum nostrum.
I confess to Almighty God, to Blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the saints, and to thee, Father, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech the Blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, and thee, Father, to pray to our Lord God for me.

The Priest then says:

Misereatur vestri omnipotens Deus, et dimissis peccatis vestris, perducat vos ad vitam æternam.

. Amen.
May Almighty God be merciful to you, and, forgiving your sins, bring you to everlasting life.

. Amen.

Indulgentiam, absolutionem, ct remissionem peccatorum nostrorum, tribuat nobis omnipotens et misericors Dominus.

℟. Amen.
May the Almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon, absolution, and remission of our sins.

℟. Amen.

 

℣. Converte nos, Deus, Salutaris noster.
. Et averte iram tuam a nobis.

℣. Deus, in adjutorium meum intende.
℟. Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.

Gloria Patri, etc.

Ant. Miserere.
℣. Convert us, O God our Saviour.
℟. And turn away thy anger from us.

℣. Incline unto my aid, O God.
℟. O Lord, make haste to help me.

Glory, etc.

Ant. Have mercy.

The first psalm expresses the confidence with which the just man sleeps in peace; but the wicked know not what calm rest is. It also speaks of the eternal Word, the Light of the Father, who is coming to dispel our darkness.

PSALM 4

Cum invocarem exaudivit me Deus justitiæ meæ: * in tribulatione dilatasti mihi.
Miserere mei: * et exaudi orationem meam.
Filii hominum, usquequo gravi corde? * ut quid diligitis vanitatem, et quæritis mendacium?
Et scitote quoniam mirificavit Dominus sanctum suum: * Dominus exaudiet me, cum clamavero ad eum.
Irascimini, et nolite peccare: * quæ dicitis in cordibus vestris, in cubilibus vestris compungimini.
Sacrificate sacrificium justitiæ, et sperate in Domino: * multi dicunt: Quis ostendit nobis bona?
Signatum est super nos lumen vultus tui Domine: * dedisti lætitiam in corde meo.
A fructu frumenti, vini et olei sui: * multiplicati sunt.
In pace in idipsum: * dormiam et requiescam.
Quoniam tu, Domine, singulariter in spe: * constituisti me.
When I called upon him, the God of my justice heard me: when I was in distress, thou hast enlarged me.
Have mercy on me: and hear my prayer.
O ye sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart? why do you love vanity, and seek after lying?
Know ye also that the Lord hath made his Holy One wonderful: the Lord will hear me when I shall cry unto him.
Be ye angry, and sin not: the things you say in your hearts, be sorry for them upon your beds.
Offer up the sacrifice of justice, and trust in the Lord: many say, who showeth us good things?
The Light of thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us: thou hast given gladness in my heart.
By the fruit of their corn, their wine, and oil, they are multiplied.
In peace, in the self same, I will sleep, and I will rest.
For thou, O Lord, singularly hast settled me in hope.

The second psalm gives the motives of the just man’s confidence, even during the dangers of the night. Then we have God Himself speaking, and promising to show us our Saviour.

PSALM 90

Qui habitat in adjutorio Altissimi: * in protectione Dei cœli commorabitur.
Dicet Domino: Susceptor meus es tu, et refugium meum, * Deus meus, sperabo in eum.
Quoniam ipse liberavit me de laqueo venantium: * et a verbo aspero.
Scapulis suis obumbrabit tibi: * et sub pennis ejus sperabis.
Scuto circumdabit te ventas ejus: * non timebis a timore nocturno.
A sagitta volante in die, a negotio perambulante in tenebris: * ab incursu, et dæmonio meridiano.
Cadent a latere tuo mille, et decem millia a dextris tuis: * ad te autem non appropinquabit.
Verumtamen oculis tuis considerabis: * et retributionem peccatorum videbis.
Quoniam tu es, Domine, spes mea: * Altissimum posuisti refugium tuum.
Non accedet ad te malum: * et flagellum non appropinquabit tabernaculo tuo.
Quoniam Angelis suis mandavit de te: * ut custodiant te in omnibus viis tuis.
In manibus portabunt te: * ne forte offendas ad lapidem pedem tuum.
Super aspidem et basiliscum ambulabis: * et conculcabis leonem et draconem.
Quoniam in me speravit, liberabo eum: * protegam eum, quoniam cognovit nomen meum.
Clamabit ad me, et ego exaudiam eum: * cum ipso sum in tribulatione, eripiam eum et glorificabo eum.
Longitudine dierum replebo eum: * et ostendam illi Salutare meum.
He that dwelleth in the aid of the Most High, shall abide under the protection of the God of heaven.
He shall say to the Lord: Thou art my protector and my refuge: my God, in him will I trust.
For he hath delivered me from the snare of the hunters: and from the sharp word.
He will overshadow thee with his shoulders: and under his wings thou shalt trust.
His truth shall compass thee with a shield: thou shalt not be afraid of the terror of the night.
Of the arrow that flieth in the day: of the business that walketh about in the dark: of invasion, or of the noonday devil.
A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand: but it shall not come nigh thee.
But thou shalt consider with thy eyes: and shalt see the reward of the wicked.
Because thou hast said: Thou, O Lord, art my hope: Thou hast made the Most High thy refuge.
There shall no evil come to thee, nor shall the scourge come near thy dwelling.
For he hath given his Angels charge over thee: to keep thee in all thy ways.
In their hands they shall bear thee up: lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Thou shalt walk upon the asp and basilisk: and thou shalt trample under foot the lion and the dragon.
God will say of thee: Because he hoped in me, I will deliver him: I will protect him, because he hath known my name.
He will cry to me, and I will hear him: I am with him in tribulation, I will deliver him, and I will glorify him.
I will fill him with length of days: and I will show him my salvation.

The third psalm invites the servants of God to persevere with fervour, in the prayers they offer during the night. The faithful should say this psalm in a spirit of gratitude to God, for raising up in the Church adorers of His holy name, whose grand vocation is to lift up their hands, day and night, for the safety of Israel. On such prayers depend the happiness and the destinies of the world.

PSALM 133

Ecce nunc benedicite Dominum: * omnes servi Domini.
Qui statis in domo Domini: * in atriis domus Dei nostri.
In noctibus extollite manus vestras in sancta: * et benedicite Dominum.
Benedicat te Dominus ex Sion: * qui fecit coelum et terram.

Ant. Miserere mei, Domine, et exaudi orationem meam.
Behold now bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord.
Who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God.
In the nights lift up your hands to the holy places, and bless ye the Lord.
Say to Israel: May the Lord out of Sion bless thee, he that made heaven and earth.

Ant. Have mercy on me, O Lord, and hear my prayer.

Hymn[1]

Te lucis ante terminum,
Rerum Creator, poscimus,
Ut pro tua dementia
Sis præsul et custodia.

Procul recedant somnia,
Et noctium phantasmata;
Hostemque nostrum comprime,
Ne polluantur corpora.

Præsta, Pater piissime,
Patrique compar Unice,
Cum Spiritu Paraclito
Regnans per omne sæculum.

Amen.
Before the closing of the light,
we beseech thee, Creator of all things!
that, in thy clemency,
thou be our protector and our guard.

May the dreams and phantoms of night
depart far from us;
and do thou repress our enemy,
lest our bodies be profaned.

Most merciful Father!
and thou, his Only-Begotten Son, co-equal with him!
reigning for ever with the Holy Paraclete!
grant this our prayer.

Amen.

(This last Stanza is varied for Christmas Day, etc., and for the Epiphany. See p. 106.)


Capitulum and Responsory[1]
(Jeremias xiv)

Tu autem in nobis es, Domine, et nomen sanctum tuum invocatum est super nos; ne derelinquas nos, Domine Deus noster.
℣. Deo gratias.

℟. In manus tuas, Domine: * Commendo spiritum meum. In manus.
℣. Redemisti nos, Domine Deus veritatis. * Commendo.
Gloria. In manus tuas.

℣. Custodi nos, Domine, ut pupillam oculi.
. Sub umbra alarum tuarum protege nos.
But thou art in us, O Lord, and thy holy name has been invoked upon us: forsake us not, O Lord our God.
℣. Thanks be to God.

. Into thy hands, O Lord: * I commend my spirit. Into thy hands.
℣. Thou hast redeemed us, O Lord God of truth. * I commend.
Glory. Into thy hands.

℣. Preserve us, O Lord, as the apple of thine eye.
. Protect us under the shadow of thy wings.

The canticle of the venerable Simeon—who, while holding the divine Infant in his arms, proclaimed Him to be the light of the Gentiles, and then slept the sleep of the just—admirably expresses the rest which a good Christian, whose heart is united to God, enjoys in Jesus; for, as the apostle says, whether we wake or sleep, we live together with Him who died for us.[2]

Canticle Of Simeon
(St Luke ii)

Nunc dimittis servum tuum. Domine: * secundum verbum tuum in pace.
Quia viderunt oculi mei: * Salutare tuum.
Quod parasti: * ante faciem omnium populorum.
Lumen ad revelationem Gentium: * et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel.
Gloria Patri et Filio, etc.
Ant. Salva nos, Domine, vigilantes: custodi nos dormientes, ut vigilemus cum Christo, et requiescamus in pace.
Now dost thou dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace.
Because my eyes have seen thy salvation.
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples.
A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. Glory.
Ant. Save us, O Lord, whilst awake, and watch us as we sleep; that we may watch with Christ, and rest in peace.

Prayers

 

Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison.
Pater noster.

℣. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.
℟. Sed libera nos a malo.
℣. Credo in Deum, &c.
℣. Carnis resurrectionem.
℟. Vitam æternam. Amen.
℣. Benedictus es, Domine Deus patrum nostrorum.
℟. Et laudabilis et gloriosus in sæcula.
℣. Benedicamus Patrem, et Filium, cum sancto Spiritu.
℟. Laudemus, et superexaltemus eum in sæcula.
℣. Benedictus es, Domine, in firmamento  cœli.
℟. Et laudabilis, et gloriosus, et superexaltatus in sæcula.
℣. Benedicat et custodiat nos omnipotens et misericors Dominus. R. Amen.
℣. Dignare, Domine, nocte ista.
℟. Sine peccato nos custodire.
℣. Miserere nostri, Domino.
℟. Miserere nostri.
℣. Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos.
℟. Quemadmodum speravimus in te.
℣. Domine, exaudi orationem meam.
℟. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Our Father.
℣. And lead us not into temptation.
℟. But deliver us from evil.
℣. I believe in God, &c.
℣. The resurrection of the body.
℟. And life everlasting. Amen.
℣. Blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers.
℟. And praiseworthy and glorious for ever.
℣. Let us bless the Father, and the Son, with the Holy Ghost.
℟. Let us praise and magnify him for ever.
℣. Thou art blessed, O Lord, in the firmament of heaven.
℟. And praiseworthy, and glorious, and magnified for ever.
℣. May the almighty and merciful Lord bless us and keep us. R. Amen.
℣. Vouchsafe, O Lord, this night.
℟. To keep us without sin.
℣. Have mercy on us, O Lord.
℟. Have mercy on us.
℣. Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us.
℟. As we have hoped in thee.
℣. O Lord, hear my prayer.
℟. And let my cry come unto thee.

After these prayers (which are omitted if the Office be of a double rite), the priest says:

℣. Dominus vobiscum.
. Et cum spiritu tuo.

Oremus

Visita, quæsumus Domine, habitationem istam, et omnes insidias inimici ab ea longe repelle: Angeli tui sancti habitent in ea, qui nos in pace custodiant: et benedictio tua sit super nos semper. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
℣. The Lord be with you.
. And with thy spirit.

Let us Pray

Visit, we beseech thee, O Lord, this house and family, and drive from it all snares of the enemy: let thy holy. Angels dwell herein, who may keep us in peace, and may thy blessing be always upon us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

. Dominus vobiscum.
℟. Et cum spiritu tuo.

℣. Benedicamus Domino.
℟. Deo gratias.

Benedicat et custodiat nos omnipotens et misericors Dominus, Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus.
. Amen.
℣. The Lord be with you.
. And with thy spirit.

℣. Let us bless the Lord.
℟. Thanks be to God.

May the almighty and merciful Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, bless and preserve us.
℟. Amen.

Anthem to the Blessed Virgin

 

Alma Redemptoris mater, quæ pervia cœli
Porta manes, et stella maris, succurre cadenti,
Surgere qui curat populo.
Tu quæ genuisti,
Natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem,
Virgo prius ac posterius,
Gabrielis ab ore
Sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.

℣. Post partum, Virgo, inviolata permansisti.
℟. Dei Genitrix, intercede pro nobis.

Oremus

Gratiam tuam quaesumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde, ut qui, angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui Incarnationem cognovimus, per Passionem ejus et crucem ad Resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum
℟. Amen.

℣. Divinum auxilium maneat super nobiscum.
℟. Amen.[3]
Sweet Mother of our Redeemer,
Gate whereby we enter heaven, and Star of the sea, help us, we fall;
yet do we long to rise.
Nature looked upon thee with admiration,
when thou didst give birth to thy divine Creator,
thyself remaining, before and after it, a pure Virgin.
Gabriel spoke his Hail to thee;
we sinners crave thy pity.

℣. After child-birth thou didst remain most, pure, O Virgin.
℟. O Mother of God! make intercession for us.

Let us Pray

Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts; that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by his Passion and cross be brought to the glory of his Resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord.
. Amen.

℣. May the divine assistance remain always with us.
℟. Amen.

 

 

 

 


Then in secret, Pater, Ave and Credo.


 

 

[1] According to the Monastic Rite, as follows: Te lucis ante terminum, Rerum Creator, poscimus, Ut solita dementia Sis præsul ad custodiam. Procul recedant somnia, Et noctium phantasmata; Hostemque nostrum comprime, Ne polluantur corpora. Præsta Pater omnipotens, Per Jesum Christum Dominum, Qui tecum in perpetuum Regnat cum Sancto Spiritu.
[2] 1 Thess. v 10.
[3] In the Monastic Rite this Response is as follows: ℟. Et cum fratribus nostris absentibus. Amen. ℟. And with our absent Brethren. Amen.

 

We apply the name of Christmas to the forty days which begin with the Nativity of our Lord, December 25, and end with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2. It is a period which forms a distinct portion of the Liturgical Year, as distinct, by its own special spirit, from every other, as are Advent, Lent, Easter, or Pentecost. One same Mystery is celebrated and kept in view during the whole forty days. Neither the Feasts of the Saints, which so abound during this Season; nor the time of Septuagesima, with its mournful Purple, which often begins before Christmastide is over, seem able to distract our Holy Mother the Church from the immense joy of which she received the good tidings from the Angels[1] on that glorious Night for which the world had been longing four thousand years. The Faithful will remember that the Liturgy commemorates this long expectation by the four penitential weeks of Advent.

The custom of celebrating the Solemnity of our Saviour's Nativity by a feast or commemoration of forty days’ duration is founded on the holy Gospel itself; for it tells us that the Blessed Virgin Mary, after spending forty days in the contemplation of the Divine Fruit of her glorious Maternity, went to the Temple, there to fulfil, in most perfect humility, the ceremonies which the Law demanded of the daughters of Israel, when they became mothers.

The Feast of Mary’s Purification is, therefore, part of that of Jesus’ Birth; and the custom of keeping this holy and glorious period of forty days as one continued Festival has every appearance of being a very ancient one, at least in the Roman Church. And firstly, with regard to our Saviour's Birth on December 25, we have St John Chrysostom telling us, in his Homily for this Feast, that the Western Churches had, from the very commencement of Christianity, kept it on this day. He is not satisfied with merely mentioning the tradition; he undertakes to show that it is well founded, inasmuch as the Church of Rome had every means of knowing the true day of our Saviour’s Birth, since the acts of the Enrolment, taken in Judea by command of Augustus, were kept in the public archives of Rome. The holy Doctor adduces a second argument, which he founds upon the Gospel of St Luke, and he reasons thus: we know from the sacred Scriptures that it must have been in the fast of the seventh month[2] that the Priest Zachary had the vision in the Temple; after which Elizabeth, his wife, conceived St John the Baptist: hence it follows that the Blessed Virgin Mary having, as the Evangelist St Luke relates, received the Angel Gabriel's visit, and conceived the Saviour of the world in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, that is to say, in March, the Birth of Jesus must have taken place in the month of December.

But it was not till the fourth century that the Churches of the East began to keep the Feast of our Saviour's Birth in the month of December. Up to that period they had kept it at one time on the sixth of January, thus uniting it, under the generic term of Epiphany, with the Manifestation of our Saviour made to the Magi, and in them to the Gentiles; at another time, as Clement of Alexandria tells us, they kept it on the 25th of the month Pachon (May 15), or on the 25th of the month Pharmuth (April 20). St John Chrysostom, in the Homily we have just cited, which he gave in 386, tells us that the Roman custom of celebrating the Birth of our Saviour on December 25 had then only been observed ten years in the Church of Antioch. It is probable that this change had been introduced in obedience to the wishes of the Apostolic See, wishes which received additional weight by the edict of the Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian, which appeared towards the close of the fourth century, and decreed that the Nativity and Epiphany of our Lord should be made two distinct Festivals. The only Church that has maintained the custom of celebrating the two mysteries on January 6 is that of Armenia; owing, no doubt, to the circumstance of that country not being under the authority of the Emperors; as also because it was withdrawn at an early period from the influence of Rome by schism and heresy.

The Feast of our Lady's Purification, with which the forty days of Christmas close, is, in the Latin Church, of very great antiquity; so ancient, indeed, as to preclude the possibility of our fixing the date of its institution. According to the unanimous opinion of Litur gists, it is the most ancient of all the Feasts of the Holy Mother of God; and as her Purification is related in the Gospel itself, they rightly infer that its anniversary was solemnized at the very commencement of Christianity. Of course, this is only to be understood of the Roman Church; for as regards the Oriental Church, we find that this Feast was not definitely fixed to February 2 until the reign of the Emperor Justinian, in the sixth century. It is true that the Eastern Christians had previously to that time a sort of commemoration of this Mystery, but it was far from being a universal custom, and it was kept a few days after the Feast of our Lord's Nativity, and not on the day itself of Mary's going up to the Temple.

But what is the characteristic of Christmas in the Latin Liturgy? It is twofold: it is joy, which the whole Church feels at the coming of the divine Word in the Flesh; and it is admiration of that glorious Virgin, who was made the Mother of God. There is scarcely a prayer, or a rite, in the Liturgy of this glad Season, which does not imply these two grand Mysteries: an Infant-God, and a Virgin-Mother.

For example, on all Sundays and Feasts which are not Doubles, the Church, throughout these forty days, makes a commemoration of the fruitful virginity[3] of the Mother of God, by three special Prayers in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. She begs the suffrage of Mary by proclaiming her quality of Mother of God and her inviolate purity,[4] which remained in her even after she had given birth to her Son. And again the magnificent Anthem, Alma Redemptoris, composed by the Monk Herman Contractus, continues, up to the very day of the Purification, to be the termination of each Canonical Hour. It is by such manifestations of her love and veneration that the Church, honouring the Son in the Mother, testifies her holy joy during this season of the Liturgical Year, which we call Christmas.

Our readers are aware that, when Easter Sunday falls at its latest—that is, in April—the Ecclesiastical Calendar counts as many as six Sundays after the Epiphany. Christmastide (that is, the forty days between Christmas Day and the Purification) includes sometimes four out of these six Sundays; frequently only two; and sometimes only one, as in the case when Easter comes so early as to necessitate keeping Septuagesima, and even Sexagesima Sunday, in January. Still, nothing is changed, as we have already said, in the ritual observances of this joyous season, excepting only that on those two Sundays, the fore-runners of Lent, the Vestments are purple, and the Gloria in excelsis is omitted.

Although our holy Mother the Church honours with especial devotion the Mystery of the Divine Infancy during the whole season of Christmas; yet, she is obliged to introduce into the Liturgy of this same season passages from the holy Gospels which seem premature, inasmuch as they relate to the active life of Jesus. This is owing to there being less than six months allotted by the Calendar for the celebration of the entire work of our Redemption: in other words, Christmas and Easter are so near each other, even when Easter is as late as it can be, that Mysteries must of necessity be crowded into the interval; and this entails anticipation. And yet the Liturgy never loses sight of the Divine Babe and his incomparable Mother, and never tires in their praises, during the whole period from the Nativity to the day when Mary comes to the Temple to present her Jesus.

The Greeks, too, make frequent commemorations of the Maternity of Mary in their Offices of this Season: but they have a special veneration for the twelve days between Christmas Day and the Epiphany, which, in their Liturgy, are called the Dodecameron. During this time they observe no days of Abstinence from flesh-meat; and the Emperors of the East had, out of respect for the great Mystery, decreed that no servile work should be done, and that the Courts of Law should be closed, until after January 6.

From this outline of the history of the holy season, we can understand what is the characteristic of this second portion of the Liturgical Year, which we call Christmas, and which has ever been a season most dear to the Christian world. What are theMysteries embodied in its Liturgy will be shown in the following chapter.


[1] St Luke ii 10.
[2] Lev. xxiii 24 and following verses. The seventh month (or Tisri) corresponded to the end of our September and beginning of our October.—Tr.
[3] The Collect, Deus qui salutis æternæ beatæ Mariæ Virginitate fæcunda humano generi, etc.
[4] ℣. Post partum, Virgo, inviolata permansisti. ℟. Dei Genitrix, intercede pro nobis.

Everything is Mystery in this holy season. The Word of God, whose generation is before the day-star,[1] is born in time—a Child is God—a Virgin becomes a Mother, and remains a Virgin—things divine are commingled with those that are human—and the sublime, the ineffable antithesis, expressed by the Beloved Disciple in those words of his Gospel, The Word was made flesh, is repeated in a thousand different ways in all the prayers of the Church;—and rightly, for it admirably embodies the whole of the great portent which unites in one Person the nature of Man and the nature of God.

The splendour of this Mystery dazzles the understanding, but it inundates the heart with joy. It is the consummation of the designs of God in time. It is the endless subject of admiration and wonder to the Angels and Saints; nay, is the source and cause of their beatitude. Let us see how the Church offers this Mystery to her children, veiled under the symbolism of her Liturgy.

The four weeks of our preparation are over—they were the image of the four thousand years which preceded the great coming—and we have reached the twenty-fifth day of the month of December, as a longdesired place of sweetest rest. But why is it that the celebration of our Saviour's Birth should be the perpetual privilege of this one fixed day; whilst the whole liturgical Cycle has, every year, to be changed and remodelled, in order to yield that ever-varying day which is to be the feast of his Resurrection—Easter Sunday?

The question is a very natural one, and we find it proposed and answered, even so far back as the fourth century; and that, too, by St Augustine, in his celebrated Epistle to Januarius. The holy Doctor offers this explanation: We solemnize the day of our Saviour’s Birth, in order that we may honour that Birth, which was for our salvation; but the precise day of the week, on which he was born, is void of any mystical signification. Sunday, on the contrary, the day of our Lord’s Resurrection, is the day marked, in the Creator's designs, to express a mystery which was to be commemorated for all ages. St Isidore of Seville, and the ancient Interpreter of Sacred Rites who, for a long time, was supposed to be the learned Alcuin, have also adopted this explanation of the Bishop of Hippo; and our readers may see their words interpreted by Durandus, in his Rationale.

These writers, then, observe that as, according to a sacred tradition, the creation of man took place on a Friday, and our Saviour suffered death also on a Friday for the redemption of man; that as, moreover, the Resurrection of our Lord was on the third day after his death, that is, on a Sunday, which is the day on which the Light was created, as we learn from the Book of Genesis—‘the two Solemnities of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection,’ says St Augustine, ‘do not only remind us of those divine facts; but they moreover represent and signify some other mysterious and holy thing.’[2]

And yet we are not to suppose that because the Feast of Jesus’ Birth is not fixed to any particular day of the week, there is no mystery expressed by its being always on the twenty-fifth of December. For firstly we may observe, with the old Liturgists, that the Feast of Christmas is kept by turns on each of the days of the week, that thus its holiness may cleanse and rid them of the curse which Adam’s sin had put upon them. But secondly, the great mystery of the twenty-fifth of December, being the Feast of our Saviour’s Birth, has reference, not to the division of time marked out by God himself, which is called the Week; but to the course of that great Luminary which gives life to the world, because it gives it light and warmth. Jesus, our Saviour, the Light of the World,[3] was born when the night of idolatry and crime was at its darkest; and the day of his Birth, the twenty-fifth of December, is that on which the material Sun begins to gain his ascendency over the reign of gloomy night, and show to the world his triumph of brightness.

In our ‘Advent’ we showed, after the Holy Fathers, that the diminution of the physical light may be considered as emblematic of those dismal times which preceded the Incarnation. We joined our prayers with those of the people of the Old Testament; and, with our holy Mother the Church, we cried out to the Divine Orient, the Sun of Justice, that he would deign to come and deliver us from the twofold death of body and soul. God has heard our prayers; and it is on the day of the Winter Solstice—which the Pagans of old made so much of by their fears and rejoicings—that he gives us both the increase of the natural light, and him who is the Light of our souls.

St Gregory of Nyssa, St Ambrose, St Maximus of Turin, St Leo, St Bernard, and the principal Liturgists, dwell with complacency on this profound mystery, which the Creator of the universe has willed should mark both the natural and the supernatural world. We shall find the Church also making continual allusion to it during this season of Christmas, as she did in that of Advent.

‘On this the Day which the Lord hath made,' says St Gregory of Nyssa, ‘darkness decreases, light increases, and Night is driven back again. No, brethren, it is not by chance, nor by any created will, that this natural change begins on the day when he shows himself in the brightness of his coming, which is the spiritual Life of the world. It is Nature revealing, under this symbol, a secret to them whose eye is quick enough to see it; to them, I mean, who are able to appreciate this circumstance of our Saviour's coming. Nature seems to me to say: Know, O Man! that under the things which I show thee Mysteries lie concealed. Hast thou not seen the night, that had grown so long, suddenly checked? Learn hence, that the black night of Sin, which had reached its height by the accumulation of every guilty device, is this day stopped in its course. Yes, from this day forward its duration shall be shortened, until at length there shall be naught but Light. Look, I pray thee, on the Sun; and see how his rays are stronger, and his position higher in the heavens: learn from that how the other Light, the Light of the Gospel, is now shedding itself over the whole earth.’[4]

‘Let us, my Brethren, rejoice,’ cries out St Augustine:[5] ‘this day is sacred, not because of the visible sun, but because of the Birth of him who is the invisible Creator of the sun.... He chose this day whereon to be born, as he chose the Mother of whom to be born, and he made both the day and the Mother. The day he chose was that on which the light begins to increase, and it typifies the work of Christ, who renews our interior man day by day. For the eternal Creator having willed to be born in time, his Birthday would necessarily be in harmony with the rest of his creation.’

The same holy Father, in another sermon for the same Feast, gives us the interpretation of a mysterious expression of St John Baptist, which admirably confirms the tradition of the Church. The great Precursor said on one occasion, when speaking of Christ: He must increase, but I must decrease.[6] These prophetic words signify, in their literal sense, that the Baptist's mission was at its close, because Jesus was entering upon his. But they convey, as St Augustine assures us, a second meaning: ‘John came into this world at the season of the year when the length of the day decreases; Jesus was born in the season when the length of the day increases.’[7] Thus, there is mystery both in the rising of that glorious Star, the Baptist, at the summer solstice; and in the rising of our Divine Sun in the dark season of winter.[8]

There have been men who dared to scoff at Christianity as a superstition, because they discovered that the ancient Pagans used to keep a feast of the sun on the winter solstice! In their shallow erudition they concluded that a Religion could not be divinely instituted, which had certain rites or customs originating in an analogy to certain phenomena of this world: in other words, these writers denied what Revelation asserts, namely, that God only created this world for the sake of his Christ and his Church. The very facts which these enemies of our holy Religion brought forward as objections to the true Faith are, to us Catholics, additional proof of its being worthy of our most devoted love.

Thus, then, have we explained the fundamental Mystery of these Forty Days of Christmas, by having shown the grand secret hidden in the choice made by God's eternal decree, that the twenty-fifth day of December should be the Birthday of God upon this earth. Let us now respectfully study another mystery: that which is involved in the place where this Birth happened.

This place is Bethlehem. Out of Bethlehem, says the Prophet, shall he come forth that is to he the Ruler in Israel.[9] The Jewish Priests are well aware of the prophecy, and a few days hence will tell it to Herod.[10] But why was this insignificant town chosen in preference to every other to be the birth-place of Jesus? Be attentive, Christians, to the mystery! The name of this City of David signifies the House of Bread: therefore did he, who is the living Bread come down from heaven,[11] choose it for his first visible home. Our Fathers did eat manna in the desert and are dead;[12] but lo! here is the Saviour of the world, come to give life to his creature Man by means of his own divine Flesh, which is meat indeed.[13] Up to this time the Creator and the creature had been separated from each other; henceforth they shall abide together in closest union. The Ark of the Covenant, containing the manna which fed but the body, is now replaced by the Ark of a New Covenant, purer and more incorruptible than the other: the incomparable Virgin Mary, who gives us Jesus, the Bread of Angels, the nourishment which will give us a divine transformation; for this Jesus himself has said: He that eateth my flesh abideth in me, and I in him.[14]

It is for this divine transformation that the world was in expectation for four thousand years, and for which the Church prepared herself by the four weeks of Advent. It has come at last, and Jesus is about to enter within us, if we will but receive him.[15] He asks to be united to each one of us in particular, just as he is united by his Incarnation to the whole human race; and for this end he wishes to become our Bread, our spiritual nourishment. His coming into the souls of men at this mystic season has no other aim than this union. He comes not to judge the world, hut that the world may he saved by him,[16] and that all may have life, and may have it more abundantly.[17] This divine Lover of our souls will not be satisfied, therefore, until he have substituted himself in our place, so that we may live not we ourselves, but he in us; and in order that this mystery may be effected in a sweeter way, it is under the form of an Infant that this Beautiful Fruit of Bethlehem wishes first to enter into us, there to growafterwards in wisdom and age before God and men.[18]

And when, having thus visited us by his grace and nourished us in his love, he shall have changed us into himself, there shall be accomplished in us a still further mystery. Having become one in spirit and heart with Jesus, the Son of the heavenly Father, weshall also become sons of this same God our Father. The Beloved Disciple, speaking of this our dignity, cries out: Behold! what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and should be the Sons of God![19] We will not now stay to consider this immense happiness of the Christian soul, as we shall have a more fitting occasion, further on, to speak of it, and show by what means it is to be maintained and increased.

There is another subject, too, which we regret being obliged to notice only in a passing way. It is, that, from the day itself of our Saviour's Birth even to the day of our Lady's Purification, there is, in the Calendar, an extraordinary richness of Saints’ Feasts, doing homage to the master feast of Bethlehem, and clustering in adoring love round the Crib of the Infant-God. To say nothing of the four great Stars which shine so brightly near our Divine Sun, from whom they borrow all their own grand beauty—St Stephen, St John the Evangelist, the Holy Innocents, and our own St Thomas of Canterbury: what other portion of the Liturgical Year is there that can show within the same number of days so brilliant a constellation? The Apostolic College contributes its two grand luminaries, St Peter and St Paul: the first in his Chair of Rome; the second in the miracle of his Conversion. The Martyr-host sends us the splendid champions of Christ, Timothy, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Vincent, and Sebastian. The radiant line of Roman Pontiffs lends us four of its glorious links, named Sylvester, Telesphorus, Hyginus and Marcellus. The sublime school of holy Doctors offers us Hilary, John Chrysostom, and Ildephonsus; and in their company stands a fourth Bishop—the amiable Francis de Sales. The Confessor-kingdom is represented by Paul the Hermit, Anthony the conqueror of Satan, Maurus the Apostle of the Cloister, Peter Nolasco the deliverer of captives, and Raymond of Pennafort, the oracle of Canon Law and guide of the consciences of men. The army of defenders of the Church deputes the pious King Canute, who died in defence of our Holy Mother, and Charlemagne, who loved to sign himself ‘the humble champion of the Church.' The choir of holy Virgins gives us the sweet Agnes, the generous Emerentiana, the invincible Martina. And lastly, from the saintly ranks which stand below the Virgins—the holy Widows—we have Paula, the enthusiastic lover of Jesus' Crib. Truly, our Christmastide is a glorious festive season! What magnificence in its Calendar! What a banquet for us in its Liturgy!

A word upon the symbolism of the colours used by the Church during this season. White is her Christmas Vestment; and she employs this colour at every service from Christmas Day to the Octave of the Epiphany. To honour her two Martyrs, Stephen and Thomas of Canterbury, she vests in red; and to condole with Rachel wailing her murdered Innocents, she puts on purple: but these are the only exceptions. On every other day of the twenty she expresses, by her white Robes, the gladness to which the Angels invited the world, the beauty of our Divine Sun that has risen in Bethlehem, the spotless purity of the Virgin-Mother, and the cleanheartedness which they should have who come to worship at the mystic Crib.

During the remaining twenty days, the Church vests in accordance with the Feast she keeps; she varies the colour so as to harmonize either with the red Roses which wreathe a Martyr, or with the white Amaranths which grace her Bishops and her Confessors, or again, with the spotless Lilies which crown her Virgins. On the Sundays which come during this time—unless there occur a Feast requiring red or white or, unless Septuagesima has begun its three mournful weeks of preparation for Lent—the colour of the Vestments is green. This, say the interpreters of the Liturgy, is to teach us that in the Birth of Jesus, who is the flower of the fields,[20] we first received the hope of salvation, and that after the bleak winter of heathendom and the Synagogue, there opened the verdant spring-time of grace.

With this we must close our mystical interpretation of those rites which belong to Christmas in general. Our readers will have observed that there are many other sacred and symbolical usages, to which we have not even alluded; but as the mysteries to which they belong are peculiar to certain days, and are not, so to speak, common to this portion of the Liturgical Year, we intend to treat fully of them all, as we meet with them on their proper Feasts.


[1] Ps. cix 3.
[2] Epist. ad Januarium.
[3] St John viii 12.
[4] Homily On the Nativity.
[5] Sermon On the Nativity of our Lord, iii.
[6] St John iii 30.
[7] Sermon In Natali Domini, xi.
[8] It is almost unnecessary to add that this doctrine of the Holy Fathers which is embodied in the Christmas Liturgy is not in any degree falsified by the fact that there are some parts of God’s earth where Christmas falls in a season the very opposite of Winter. Our Lord selected, for the place of his Birth, one which made it Winter when he came upon earth; and by that selection he stamped the Mystery taught in the text on the season of darkness and cold. Our brethren in Australia, for example, will have the Mystery without the Winter, when they are keeping Christmas; or, more correctly, their faith and the Holy Liturgy will unite them with us, both in the Winter and the Mystery of the great Birth in Bethlehem.—Translator's Note.
[9] Mich, v 2.
[10] St Matt, ii 5.
[11] St John vi 41.
[12] Ibid. vi 49.
[13] Ibid. vi. 56.
[14] Ibid. vi 57.
[15] Ibid. i 12.
[16] Ibid. iii 17.
[17] Ibid. x 10.
[18] St Luke ii 40, 52.
[19] 1 St John iii 1.
[20] Cant, i 1.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

THE time has now come for the faithful soul to reap the fruit of the efforts she made during the penitential weeks of Advent to prepare a dwelling-place for the Son of God, who desires to be born within her. The Nuptials of the Lamb are come, and his Spouse hath prepared herself.[1] Now the Spouse is the Church; the Spouse is also every faithful soul. Our Lord gives his whole self to the whole flock, and to each sheep of the flock with as much love as though he loved but that one. What garments shall we put on, to go and meet the Bridegroom? Where shall we find the pearls and jewels wherewith to deck our soul for this happy meeting? Our holy Mother the Church will tell us all this in her Liturgy. Our best plan for spending Christmas is, undoubtedly, to keep close to her, and do what she does; for she is most dear to God, and being our Mother, we ought to obey all her injunctions.

But, before we speak of the mystic Coming of the Incarnate Word into our souls; before we tell the secrets of that sublime familiarity between the Creator and the Creature; let us, first, learn from the Church the duties which human nature and each of our souls owes to the Divine Infant, whom the Heavens have at length given to us as the refreshing Dew we asked them to rain down upon our earth. During Advent, we united with the Saints of the Old Law, in praying for the coming of the Messias, our Redeemer; now that he is come, let us consider what is the homage we must pay him.

The Church offers to the Infant-God, during this holy season, the tribute of her profound adoration, the enthusiasm of her exceeding joy, the return of her unbounded gratitude, and the fondness of her intense love. These four offerings, adoration, joy, gratitude, and love, must be also those of every Christian to his Jesus, his Emmanuel, the Babe of Bethlehem. The prayers of the Liturgy will express all four sentiments in a way that no other Devotions could do. But, the better to appropriate to ourselves these admirable formulas of the Church, let us understand thoroughly the nature of each of these four sentiments.

The first of our duties at our Saviour's Crib is Adoration, Adoration is Religion's first act; but there is something in the Mystery of our Lord’s Birth which seems to make this duty doubly necessary. In heaven the Angels veil their faces, and prostrate themselves before the throne of Jehovah; the Four-and-Twenty Elders are for ever casting their crowns before the throne[2] of the Lamb; what, then, shall we do—we who are sinners, and unworthy members of the Tribe of the Redeemer—now that this same great God shows himself to us, humbled for our sakes, and stript of all his glory? now that the duties of the creature to his Creator are fulfilled by the Creator himself? now that the eternal God bows down not only before the Sovereign Majesty of the Godhead, but even before sinful man, his creature?

Let us endeavour to make, by our profound adorations, some return to the God who thus humbles himself for us; let us thus give him back some little of that whereof he has deprived himself out of love for us, and in obedience to the will of his Father. It is incumbent on us to emulate, as far as possible, the sentiments of the Angels in heaven, and never to approach the Divine Infant without bringing with us the incense of our soul’s adoration, the protestation of our own extreme unworthiness, and lastly, the homage of our whole being. All this is due to the infinite Majesty of the Babe of Bethlehem, who is the more worthy of every tribute we can pay him, because he has made himself thus little for our sakes. Unhappy we, if the apparent weakness of the Divine Child, or the familiarity wherewith he is ready to caress us, should make us negligent in this our first duty, or forget what he is, and what we are!

The example of his Blessed Mother will teach us to be thus humble. Mary was humble in the presence of her God, even before she became his Mother; but, once his Mother, she comported herself before him who was her God and her Child with greater humility than ever. We too, poor sinners, sinners so long and so often, we must adore with all the power of our soul him who has come down so low: we must study to find out how by our self-humiliation to make him amends for this Crib, these swathing-bands, this eclipse of his glory. And yet all our humiliations will never bring us so low as that we shall be on a level with his lowliness. No; only God could reach the humiliations of God.

But our Mother, the Church, does not only offer to the Infant God the tribute of her profound adoration. The mystery of Emmanuel, that is, of God with us, is to her a source of singular joy. Look at her sublime Canticles for this holy Season, and you will find the two sentiments admirably blended—her deep reverence for her God, and her glad joy at his Birth. Joy! did not the very Angels come down and urge her to it? She therefore studies to imitate the blithe Shepherds, who ran for joy to Bethlehem,[3]and the glad Magi, who were well-nigh out of themselves with delight when, on quitting Jerusalem, the star again appeared and led them to the Cave where the Child was.[4] Joy at Christmas is a Christian instinct, which originated those many Carols, which, like so many other beautiful traditions of the ages of Faith, are unfortunately dying out amongst us; but which Rome still encourages, gladly welcoming each year those rude musicians, the Pifferari, who come down from the Apennines, and make the streets of the Eternal City re-echo with their shrill melodies.

Come, then, faithful Children of the Church, let us take our share in her joy! This is not the season for sighing or for weeping. For unto us a Child is born![5] He for whom we have been so long waiting is come; and he is come to dwell among us.[6] Great, indeed, and long was our suspense; so much the more let us love our possessing him. The day will too soon come when this Child, now born to us, will be the Man of Sorrows,[7] and then we will compassionate him; but at present we must rejoice and be glad at his coming and sing round his Crib with the Angels. Heaven sends us a present of its own joy: we need joy, and forty days are not too many for us to get it well into our hearts. The Scripture tells us that a secure mind is like a continual feast,[8] and a secure mind can only be where there is peace; now it is Peace which these blessed days bring to the earth; Peace, say the Angels, to men of good will!

Intimately and inseparably united with this exquisite mystic joy is the sentiment of gratitude. Gratitude is indeed due to him who, neither deterred by our unworthiness nor restrained by the infinite respect which becomes his sovereign Majesty, deigned to be born of his own creature, and have a stable for his birth-place. Oh! how vehemently must he not have desired to advance the work of our salvation, to remove everything which could make us afraid of approaching him, and to encourage us, by his own example, to return, by the path of humility, to the heaven we had strayed from by pride!

Gratefully, therefore, let us receive the precious gift—this Divine Babe, our Deliverer. He is the Only-Begotten Son of the Father, that Father who hath so loved the world as to give his only Son.[9] He, the Son, unreservedly ratifies his Father's will, and comes to offer himself because it is his own will.[10] How, as the Apostle expresses it, hath not the Father with him given us all things?[11] O gift inestimable! How shall we be able to repay it by suitable gratitude, we who are so poor as not to know how to appreciate it? God alone, and the Divine Infant in his Crib, know the value of the mystery of Bethlehem, which is given to us.

Shall our debt, then, never be paid? Not so: we can pay it by love, which, though finite, gives itself without measure, and may grow for ever in intensity. For this reason, the Church, after she has offered her adorations and hymns and gratitude, to her Infant Saviour, gives him also her tenderest Love. She says to him: ‘How beautiful art thou, my Beloved One, and how comely![12] How sweet to me is thy rising, O Divine Sun of Justice! How my heart glows in the warmth of thy beams! Nay, dearest Jesus, the means thou usest for gaining me over to thyself are irresistible—the feebleness and humility of a Child!’ Thus do all her words end in love; and her adoration, praise, and thanksgiving, when she expresses them in her Canticles, are transformed into love.

Christians! let us imitate our Mother, and give our hearts to our Emmanuel. The Shepherds offer him their simple gifts, the Magi bring him their rich presents, and no one must appear before the Divine Infant without something worthy of his acceptance. Know, then, that nothing will please him, but that which he came to seek—our love. It was for this that he came down from heaven. Hard indeed is that heart which can say, He shall not have my love!

These, then, are the duties we owe to our Divine Master in this his first Coming, which, as St Bernard says, is in the flesh and in weakness, and is for the salvation, not for the judgement, of the world.

As regards that other Coming, which is to be in majesty and power on the Last Day, we have meditated upon it during Advent. The fear of the Wrath to come should have roused our souls from their lethargy, and have prepared them, by humility of heart, to receive the visit of Jesus in that secret Coming which he makes to the soul of man. It is the ineffable mystery of this intermediateComing that we are now going to explain.

We have shown elsewhere how the time of Advent belongs to that period of the spiritual life which is called, in Mystic Theology, the Purgative Life, during which the soul cleanses herself from sin and the occasions of sin, by the fear of God’s judgements, and by combating against evil concupiscence. We are taking it for granted that every faithful soul has journeyed through these rugged paths, which must be gone through before she could be admitted to the Feast to which the Church invites all mankind, saying to them, on the Saturday of the Second Week of Advent, these words of the Prophet Isaias: Lo! this is our God: we have waited for him, and he will save us. We have patiently waited for him, and we shall rejoice and be joyful in his Salvation![13] As in the house of our heavenly Father there are many mansions,[14] so likewise, on the grand Solemnity of Christmas, when those words of Isaias are realized, the Church sees, amongst the countless throng who receive the Bread of Life, a great variety of sentiments and dispositions. Some were dead, and the graces given during the holy Season of Advent have restored them to life: others, whose spritual life had long been healthy, have so spent their Advent that its holy exercises have redoubled their love of their Lord, and their entrance into Bethlehem has been to them a renewal of their soul’s life.

Now every soul that has been admitted to Bethlehem, that is to say, into the House of Bread, and has been united with him who is the Light of the World—that soul no longer walks in darkness. The mystery of Christmas is one of Illumination; and the grace it produces in the soul that corresponds with it, places her in the second stage of the Mystic Life, which is called the Illuminative Life. Henceforward, then, we need no longer weary ourselves watching for our Saviour’s arrival; he has come, he has shone upon us, and we are resolved to keep up the light, nay, to cherish its growth within us, in proportion as the Liturgical Year unfolds its successive seasons of mysteries and graces. God grant that we may reflect in our souls the Church's progressive development of this divine Light; and be led by its brightness to that Union which crowns both the year of the Church, and the faithful soul which has spent the year under the Church's guidance!

But, in the mystery of Christmastide, this Light is given to us, so to speak, softened down; our weakness required that it should be so. It is indeed the Divine Word, the Wisdom of the Father, that we are invited to know and imitate; but this Word, this Wisdom, are shown us under the appearance of a Child. Let nothing keep us from approaching him. We might fear were he seated on a throne in his palace; but he is lying on a crib in a stable! Were it the time of his Fatigues, his Bloody Sweat, his Cross, his Burial, or even of his Glory and his Victory, we might say we had not courage enough: but what courage is needed to go near him in Bethlehem, where all is sweetness and silence, and a simple Little Babe! Come to him, says the Psalmist, and he enlightened![15]

Where shall we find an interpreter of the twofold mystery which is wrought at this holy season—the mystery of the Infancy of Jesus in the soul of man, and the mystery of the infancy of man's soul in his Jesus? None of the Holy Fathers has so admirably spoken upon it as St Leo: let us listen to his grand words.

‘Although that Childhood, which the majesty of the Son of God did not disdain to assume, has developed, by growth of age, into the fulness of the perfect man, and, the triumph of his Passion and Resurrection having been achieved, all the humiliations he submitted to for our sakes are passed; nevertheless, the Feast we are now keeping brings back to us the sacred Birth of the Virgin Mary’s Child, Jesus our Lord. So that whilst adoring his Birth, we are, in truth, celebrating our own commencement of life; for the Generation of Christ is the origin of the Christian people, and the Birth Day of him that is our Head is the Birth Day of us that are his Body. It is true, that each Christian has his own rank, and the children of the Church are born each in their respective times; yet the whole mass of the Faithful, once having been regenerated in the font of Baptism, are born, on this Day of Christmas, together with Christ; just as they are crucified together with him in his Passion, and have risen together with his Resurrection, and in hisAscension are placed at the right hand of the Father. For every believer, no matter in what part of the world he may be living, is born again in Christ; his birth according to nature is not taken into account; he becomes a new man by his second birth; neither is he any longer called of the family of his father in the flesh, but of the family of our Redeemer, who unto this was made a Son of Man, that we might become the Sons of God.’[16]

Yes, this is the Mystery achieved in us by the holy Season of Christmas! It is expressed in those words of the passage from St John's Gospel which the Church has chosen for the third Mass of the great Feast: As many as received him, he gave them power to he 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.[17] So that all they who, having purified their souls, freed themselves from the slavery of flesh and blood, and renounced everything which is of man, inasmuch as man means sinner, wish now to open their hearts to the Divine Word, that is, to the Light which shineth in darkness, which darkness did not come prehend,[18] these, I say, are born with Jesus; they are born of God; they begin a new life, as did the Son of God himself in this mystery of his Birth in Bethlehem.

How beautiful are these first beginnings of the Christian Life! How great is the glory of Bethlehem, that is, of our holy Mother the Church, the true House of Bread! for in her midst there is produced, during these days of Christmas, and everywhere throughout the world, a countless number of sons of God. Oh! the unceasing vitality of our mysteries! As the Lamb, who was slain from the beginning of the world,[19] sacrifices himself without ceasing, ever since his real sacrifice; so also, once born of the Holy Virgin his Mother, he makes it a part of his glory to be ceaselessly born in the souls of men. We are not, therefore, to think for a moment that the dignity of Mary's divine Maternity is lessened, or that our souls enjoy the same grand honour which was granted to her: far from that, ‘let us,’ as Venerable Bede says, ‘raise our voice from amid the crowd, as did the woman in the Gospel, and say to our Saviour, with the Catholic Church, of which that woman was the type: Blessed is the Womb that bore thee, and the Breasts that gave thee suck!’[20] Mary's prerogative is indeed incommunicable, and it makes her the Mother of God, and the Mother of men. But we must also remember the answer made by our Saviour to the woman, who spoke those words: Yea rather, said Jesus, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it;[21] ‘hereby declaring,’ continues Venerable Bede, ‘that not only is she blessed, who merited to conceive in the flesh the Word of God, but they also who endeavour to conceive this same Word spiritually, by the hearing of faith, and to give him birth and nourish him by keeping and doing what is good, either in their own or their neighbour's heart. For the Mother of God herself was Blessed in that she was made, for a time, the minister to the wants of the Incarnate Word; but much more Blessed was she, in that she was and ever will be the keeper and doer of the love due to that same her Son.’

Is it not this same truth which our Lord teaches us on that other occasion, where he says: Whosoever shall do the will of my Father that is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother?[22] And why was the Angel sent to Mary in preference to all the rest of the daughters of Israel, but because she had already conceived the Divine Word in her heart by the vehemence of her undivided love, the greatness of her profound humility and the incomparable merit of her virginity? Why again, is this Blessed among women holy above all creatures, but because, having once conceived and brought forth a Son of God, she continues for ever his Mother, by her fidelity in doing the will of the heavenly Father, by her love for the uncreated light of the Divine Word, and by her union as Spouse with the Spirit of sanctification?

But no member of the human race is excluded from the honour of imitating Mary, though at a humble distance, in this her spiritual Maternity: for, by that real birth which she gave him in Bethlehem, which we are now celebrating, and which initiated the world into the mysteries of God, this ever Blessed Mother of Jesus has shown us how we may bear the resemblance of her own grand prerogative. We ought to have prepared the way of the Lord[23] during the weeks of Advent; and if so, our hearts have conceived him: therefore now our good works must bring him forth, that thus our heavenly Father, seeing not us ourselves, but his own Son Jesus now living within us, may say of each of us, in his mercy, what he heretofore said in very truth of the Incarnate Word: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.[24]

Let us give ear to the words of the Seraphic St Bonaventure, who in one of his sermons for Christmas Day thus explains the mystery of the birth of Jesus in the soul of man:

‘This happy birth happens when the soul, prepared by long thought and reflection, passes at length to action; when the flesh being made subject to the spirit, good works are produced in due time: then do interior peace and joy return to the soul. In this birth there is neither travail nor pain nor fear; everything is admiration and delight and glory. If then, O devout soul! thou art desirous for this birth, imagine thyself to be like Mary. Mary signifies bitterness; bitterly bewail thy sins: it signifies illuminatrix, be thou illumined by thy virtues: and lastly, it signifies Mistress; learn how to be mistress and controller of thy evil passions. Then will Christ be born of thee, and oh! with what happiness to thyself! For it is then that the soul tastes and sees how sweet is her Lord Jesus. She experiences this sweetness when, in holy meditation, she nourishes this Divine Infant; when she covers him with her tears; when she clothes him with her holy longings; when she presses him to her heart in the embrace of holy tenderness; when, in a word, she cherishes him in the warmth of her glowing love. O happy Crib of Bethlehem! in thee I find the King of glory: but happier still than thou, the pious soul which holds within itself him whom thou couldst hold but corporally!’

Now that we may pass on from this spiritual conception to the birth of our Lord Jesus; in other words, that we may pass from Advent to Christmas, we must unceasingly keep the eyes of our soul on him who wishes to be born within us, and in whom the world is born to a new life. Our study and ambition should be, how best to become like Jesus, by imitating him; for, though the imitation must needs be imperfect, yet we know from the Apostle that our heavenly Father himself gives this as the sign of the elect—that they are made like to the image of his Son.[25]

Let us, therefore, hearken to the invitation of the Angels, and go over to Bethlehem.[26] We know what sign will be given to us of our Jesus—a Child wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laid in a crib.[27] So that you, O Christians! must become children; you must not disdain to be tied in the bonds of a spiritual childhood; you must come down from your proud spirit, and meet your Saviour who has come down from heaven, and with him hide yourselves in the humility of the crib. Thus will you begin, with him, a new life. Thus will the Light that goeth forwards and increaseth even to perfect day,[28] illumine your path the whole remaining length of your journey. Thus the sight of God which leaves room for faith, which you receive at Bethlehem, will meritfor you the face-to-face vision on Thabor, and prepare you for the blissful Union, which is not merely Light, but the plenitude and repose of Love.

So far we have been speaking only of the living members of the Church, whether they began the life of grace during the holy Season of Advent, or were already living in the grace of the Holy Ghost when the ecclesiastical year commenced, and spent their Advent in preparing to be born with Jesus to a new year of higher perfection. But how shall we overlook those of our Brethren who are dead in sin; and so dead, that neither the coming of their Emmanuel, nor the example of the Christians throughout the universal Church earnestly preparing for that coming, could rouse them? No, we cannot forget them: we love them, and come to tell them (for even now they may yield to grace, and live), that there hath appeared the goodness and kindness of God our Saviour.[29] If this volume of ours should perchance fall into the hands of any of those who have not yielded to the solicitations of grace, which press them to be converted to the sweet Babe of Bethlehem, their Lord and their God; who, instead of spending the weeks of Advent in preparing to receive him at Christmas, lived them out, as they began them, in indifference and in sin: we shall, perhaps, be helping them to a knowledge of the grievousness of their state, by reminding them of the ancient discipline of the Church, which obliged all the Faithful, under pain of being considered as no longer Catholics, to receive Holy Communion on Christmas Day, as well as on Easter and Whit Sundays. We find a formal decree of this obligation given in the fifteenth Canon of the Council of Agatha (Agde) held in 506. We would also ask these poor sinners to reflect on the joy the Church feels at seeing, throughout the whole world, the immense number of her children, who still, in spite of the general decay of piety, keep the Feast of the birth of the Divine Lamb, by the sacramental participation of his Body and Blood.

Sinners! take courage; this Feast of Christmas is one of grace and mercy, on which all, both just and sinners, meet in the fellowship of the same glad Mystery. The heavenly Father has resolved to honour the Birthday of his Son, by granting pardon to all save those who obstinately refuse it. Oh! how worthy is the Coming of our dear Emmanuel to be honoured by this divine amnesty!

Nor is it we that give this invitation; it is the Church herself. Yes, it is she that with divine authority invites you to begin the work of your new life on this day whereon the Son of God begins the career of his human life. That we may the more worthily convey to you this her invitation, we will borrow the words of a great and saintly Bishop of the Middle Ages, the pious Rabanus Maurus, who, in a homily on the Nativity of our Lord, encourages sinners to come and take their place, side by side with the just, in the stable of Bethlehem, where even the ox and the ass recognize their Master in the Babe who lies there.

‘I beseech you, dearly beloved Brethren, that you receive with fervent hearts the words our Lord speaks to you through me on this most sweet Feast, on which even infidels and sinners are touched with compunction; on which the wicked man is moved to mercy, the contrite heart hopes for pardon, the exile despairs not of returning to his country, and the sick man longs for his cure; on which is born the Lamb who taketh away the sins of the world, that is, Christ our Saviour. On such a Birthday, he that has a good conscience rejoices more than usual; and he whose conscience is guilty fears with a more useful fear.... Yes, it is a sweet Feast, bringing true sweetness and forgiveness to all true penitents. My little children, I promise you without hesitation that every one who, on this day, shall repent from his heart, and return not to the vomit of his sins, shall obtain all whatsoever he shall ask; let him only ask with a firm faith, and not return to sinful pleasures.

‘On this day are taken away the sins of the entire world: why needs the sinner despair? ... On this day of our Lord’s Birth let us, dearest Brethren, offer our promises to this Jesus, and keep them, as it is written: Vow ye, and pay to the Lord your God.[30] Let us make our promises with confidence and love; he will enable us to keep them.... And when I speak of promises, I would not have anyone think that I mean the promise of fleeting and earthly goods. No—I mean, that each of us should offer what our Saviour redeemed, namely, our soul. “But how,” someone will say, “how shall we offer our souls to him, to whom they already belong?” I answer: by leading holy lives, by chaste thoughts, by fruitful works, by turning away from evil, by following that which is good, by loving God, by loving our neighbour, by showing mercy (for we ourselves were in need of it, before we were redeemed), by forgiving them that sin against us (for we ourselves were once in sin), by trampling on pride, since it was by pride that our first parent was deceived and fell.’[31]

It is thus our affectionate Mother the Church invites sinners to the Feast of the Divine Lamb; nor is she satisfied until her House he filled.[32] The grace of a New Birth, given her by the Sun of Justice, fills this Spouse of Jesus with joy. A new year has begun for her, and, like all that have preceded it, it is to be rich in flower and fruit. She renews her youth as that of an eagle. She is about to unfold another Cycle, or Year, of her mysteries, and to pour forth upon her faithful children the graces of which God has made the Cycle to be the instrument. In this season of Christmas, we have the first-fruits of these graces offered to us; they are the knowledge and the love of our Infant God: let us accept them with attentive hearts, that so we may merit to advance, with our Jesus, in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.[33] The Christmas Mystery is the gate of all the others of the rest of the year; but it is a gate which we may all enter, for, though most heavenly, yet it touches earth; since, as St Augustine beautifully remarks in one of his sermons for Christmas:[34] ‘We cannot as yet contemplate the splendour of him who was begotten of the Father before the Day Star;[35] let us, then, visit him who was born of the Virgin in the nighthour. We cannot understand how his Name continueth before the sun ,[36] let us, then, confess that he hath set his tabernacle in her that is purer than the sun.[37] We cannot as yet see the Only-Begotten Son dwelling in the Father’s Bosom; let us, then, think on the Bridegroom that cometh out of his bridechamber.[38] We are not yet ready for the banquet of our heavenly Father; let us, then, keep to the Crib of Jesus, our Master.’[39]


[1] Apoc. xix 7.
[2] Apoc. iv 10.
[3] St Luke ii 16.
[4] St Matt, ii 10.
[5] Isa. ix 6.
[6] St John i 14.
[7] Isa. liii 3.
[8] Prov. xv 15.
[9] St John iii 16.
[10] Isa. liii 7.
[11] Rom. viii 32.
[12] Cant, i 15.
[13] Isa. xxv 9.
[14] St John xiv 2.
[15] Ps. xxxiii 6.
[16] Sixth Sermon On the Nativity of our Lord, Ch. 2.
[17] St John i 12.
[18] Ibid. i. 5.
[19] Apoc. xiii 8.
[20] Commentary on St Luke, Bk. 4, Ch. 49.
[21] St Luke xi 28.
[22] St Matt, xii 50.
[23] St Matt. iii 3; Isa. xl 3.
[24] St Matt. iii 17.
[25] Rom. viii 29.
[26] St Luke ii 15.
[27] Ibid, ii 12.
[28] Prov. iv 18.
[29] Tit. iii 4.
[30] Ps. lxxv 12.
[31] Fourth Homliy On the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
[32] St Luke x 2
[33] Ibid, ii 52.
[34] Eleventh Sermon On the Nativity of our Lord.
[35] Ps. cix 3.
[36] Ibid. lxxi 17.
[37] Ibid. xviii6.
[38] Ibid.
[39] Isa. i 3.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

DURING Christmas, the Christian, on waking in the morning, should unite himself with the Church, who in her Office of Matins for Christmas Day thus invites the faithful to come and adore the Messias:

Christus natus est nobis; venite, adoremus!
Christ is born unto us; come, let us adore him!

He should profoundly adore this dear King, who has rendered himself so accessible to his creatures; and in this disposition of loving reverence, he should perform the first acts of religion, both interior and exterior, wherewith he begins the day. The time for Morning Prayer being come, he may use the following method, which is formed upon the very prayers of the Church:

Morning Prayers

First, praise and adoration of the Most Holy Trinity:

℣. Benedicamus Patrem et Filium, cum Sancto Spiritu.

℟. Laudemus et superexaltemus eum in sæcula.

℣. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.

℟. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
℣. Let us bless the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

℟. Let us praise him and extol him above all, for ever.

℣. 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.

Then praise to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ:

℣. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi.

℟. Quia per Crucem tuam redemisti mundum.
℣. We adore thee, O Christ, and we bless thee.

℟. Because by thy Cross thou hast redeemed the world.

Thirdly, invocation of the Holy Ghost:

Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium, et tui amoris in eis ignem accende.
Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful, and enkindle within them the fire of thy love.

After these fundamental acts of religion, you will recite the Lord’s Prayer, asking of God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to grant that his holy Name may be glorified on earth, now that he has blessed it by sending it his Son, over whose Crib the Angels sang: Glory be to God in the highest! This divine Messias is come to establish the Kingdom of God on earth: he is come to do the will of his Father, and to teach us to do it here on earth as it is done in heaven. Let us reverently share in these divine intentions. Let us also ask with all instance that we may be granted to partake of that heavenly Bread which is now born to us in Bethlehem.

The Lord’s Prayer

Pater noster, qui es in cœlis, sanctificetur nomen tuum: adveniat regnum tuum: fiat voluntas tua sicut in cœlo, et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie: et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris: et ne nos inducas in tentationem: sed libera nos a malo. Amen.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed he thy name: thy kingdom come: thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give as this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us: and lead us not into temptation: but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Then address our Blessed Lady, using the words of the Angelical Salutation. It is now that she is Blessed among all women:her virginal womb has yielded the divine Fruit of which the world was in expectation: every creature should proclaim her to be the Mother of God.

The Angelical Salutation

Ave Maria, gratia plena: Dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus.

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostræ. Amen.
Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

After this, recite the Symbol of Faith; and as you pronounce the words, Born of the Virgin Mary, dwell on them with a special attention, adoring the Saviour who has deigned to come down from heaven and be born in a stable.

Crede

Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem creatorem cœli et terræ. Et in Jesum Christum Filium ejus unicum, Dominum nostrum: qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine, passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus: descendit ad inferos, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis: ascendit ad cœlos, sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis: inde venturus est judicare vivos et mortuos.

Credo in Spiritum Sanctum, sanctam Ecclesiam Catholicam, Sanctorum communionem, remissionem peccatorum, carnis resurrectionem, vitam æternam. Amen.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell, the third day he arose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost: the Holy Catholic Church; the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

After having thus made the Profession of your Faith, excite within yourself sentiments of penance and compunction, by the remembrance of the sins you have committed, and of lively gratitude to the Lamb of God, who is come that he may wash away our sins by his Blood, and give us to partake of his divinity. For this end, make use of the following words of the Church, as the fittest way of celebrating these ineffable mysteries, the remembrance of which will keep up within your hearts a sorrow for having offended so merciful a God:

Antiphons For Christmas

Ant. O admirabile commercium! Creator generis humani, animatum corpus sumens, de Virgine nasci dignatus est; et procedens homo sine semine, largitus est nobis suam deitatem.

Ant. Quando natus es ineffabiliter ex Virgine, tunc impletæ sunt Scrupturæ: sicut pluvia in vellus descendisti, ut salvum faceres genus humanum: te laudamus, Deus noster.

Ant. Ecce Maria genuit nobis Salvatorem, quem Joannes videns exclamavit dicens: Ecce Agnus Dei; ecce qui tollit peccata mundi. Alleluia.
Ant. O admirable Interchange! The Creator of mankind, assuming a living Body, deigned to be born of a Virgin; and becoming Man without man’s aid, bestowed on us his divinity.

Ant. When thou wast born ineffably of the Virgin, the Scriptures were fulfilled. As dew upon Gedeon's fleece, thou camest down to save mankind. O Lord our God! we praise thee.

Ant. Lo! Mary hath brought forth a Saviour unto us, whom John seeing exclaimed: Behold the Lamb of God! Behold him that taketh away the sins of the world. Alleluia.

The Confession of Sins

Confiteor Deo Omnipotenti, beatæ Mariæ semper Virgini, beato Michaeli Archangelo, beato Joanni Baptistæ, sanctis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, et omnibus sanctis, quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo, et opere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Ideo precor beatam Mariam semper Virginem, beatum Michaelem Archangelum, beatum Joannem Baptistam, sanctos Apostolos Petrum et Paulum, et omnes sanctos, orare pro me ad Dominum Deum nostrum.

Misereatur nostri omnipotens Deus, et dimissis peccatis nostris, perducat nos ad vitam æternam. Amen.

Indulgentiam, absolutionem, et remissionem peccatorum nostrorum tribuat nobis omnipotens et misericors Dominus. Amen.
I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and to all the saints, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed: through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech the blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, to pray to our Lord God for me.

May Almighty God have mercy on us, and our sins being forgiven, bring us to life everlasting. Amen.

May the almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon, absolution, and remission of our sins. Amen.

This is the proper time for making your meditation, as no doubt you practise this holy exercise. During Christmas, our meditation should turn principally upon the Birth of Jesus Christ in our souls. At this period of the Liturgical Year, we must return to the very basis of our spiritual life, and yield, with childlike docility, to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost. The object of our contemplation, as well as the source of our confidence, is Jesus, the Incarnate Word, swathed in the bands of infancy, laid in his Crib, presented in the Temple, and fleeing into Egypt. His love for us has induced him to subject himself to these weaknesses of childhood, in order that even we may imitate our God! St Luke tells us that his Blessed Mother kept all these mysteries in her heart, and pondered them:[1] let us follow her sweet example, and feed our souls with the heavenly Manna. Let the rays of this hidden but penetrating Light illumine us. If we would follow Jesus to Thabor, let us begin to follow him in the way he now shows us—of a Child's simplicity and humility. The higher the architect wishes to carry up the building, the deeper does he sink the foundations. Jesus humbles himself so profoundly, because the work he has undertaken is to go up even to the highest heavens. As his members, we must go with him; we must bear him company, now in his humble Crib, and later on his Cross, if we would be associated with him when the day of his triumph comes, and he is seated at the right hand of his Father.

The next part of your Morning Prayer must be to ask of God, by the following prayers, grace to avoid every kind of sin during the day you are just beginning. Say, then, with the Church, whose prayers must always be preferred to all others:

℣. Domine, exaudi orationem meam.

℟. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.

Oremus

Domine, Deus omnipotens, qui ad principium hujus diei nos pervenire fecisti, tua nos hodie salva virtute, ut in hac die ad nullum declinemus peccatum, sed semper ad tuam justitiam faciendam nostra procedant eloquia, dirigantur cogitationes et opera. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
℣. O Lord, hear my prayer.

℟. And let my cry come unto thee.

Let us pray

Almighty Lord and God, who hast brought us to the beginning of this day, let thy powerful grace so conduct us through it, that we may not fall into any sin, but that all our thoughts, words, and actions may be regulated according to the rules of thy heavenly justice, and tend to the observance of thy holy law. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then beg the divine assistance for the actions of the day, that you may do them well; and say thrice:

℣. Deus, in adjutorium meum intende.

℟. Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.

℣. Deus, in adjutorium meum intende.

℟. Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.

℣. Deus, in adjutorium meum intende.

℟. Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.

Oremus

Dirigere et sanctificare, regere et gubernare dignare, Domine Deus, Rex cœli et terræ, hodie corda et corpora nostra, sensus, sermones et actus nostros in lege tua, et in operibus mandatorum tuorum, ut hic et in æternum, te auxiliante, salvi et liberi esse mere amur, Salvator mundi. Qui vivis et regnas in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
℣. Incline unto my aid, O God.

℟. O Lord, make haste to help me.

℣. Incline unto my aid, O God.

℟. O Lord, make haste to help me.

℣. Incline unto my aid, O God.

℟. O Lord, make haste to help me.

Let us pray

Lord God, and King of heaven and earth, vouchsafe this day to rule and sanctify, to direct and govern our souls and bodies, our senses, words, and actions in conformity to thy law, and strict obedience to thy commands; that by the help of thy grace, O Saviour of the world! we may be fenced and freed from all evils. Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.

After this, uniting yourself with the Church, who celebrates with holy enthusiasm the rising of the Sun of Justice, by whose Light she does the works which render her agreeable to this her divine Spouse, say together with her:

℣. Verbum caro factum est. Alleluia!

℟. Et habitavit in nobis. Alleluia!

Oremus

Da nobis, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus, ut qui nova incarnati Verbi tui luce perfundimur; hoc in nostro resplendeat opere quod per fidem fulget in mente. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
℣. The Word was made Flesh. Alleluia!

℟. And dwelt among us. Alleluia!

Let us pray

Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that as we are enlightened by the new light of thy Word made Flesh, we may show in our actions the effects of that faith that shineth in our minds. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

During the day, you will do well to use the instructions and prayers which you will find in this volume for each day of the Season, both for the Proper of the Time and the Proper of the Saints. In the evening you may use the following prayers:

NIGHT PRAYERS

After having made the sign of the Cross, begin by adoring and praising the Son of God made flesh, and dwelling amongst us his creatures for our salvation. For this end you may recite the following stanzas of one of the Hymns sung by the Church during Christmas:

Hymn

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.

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

Amen.
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.

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

Amen.

After this Hymn, say the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Apostles Creed, as in the morning.

Then make the Examination of Conscience, going over in your mind all the faults you have committed during the day; think how unworthy sin makes us of the caresses and the company of the Divine Babe; and conclude by making a firm resolution to avoid sin for the future, to do penance for it, and to avoid the occasions which would again lead you into it.

The Examination of Conscience concluded, recite the Confiteor (or I confess) with heartfelt contrition, and then give expression to your sorrow by the following Act, which we have taken from Blessed Robert Bellarmine’s Catechism:

Act of Contrition

O my God, I am exceedingly grieved for having offended thee, and with my whole heart I repent for the sins I have committed: I hate and abhor them above every other evil, not only because, by so sinning, I have lost heaven and deserve Hell, but still more because I have offended thee, O infinite Goodness, who art worthy to be loved above all things. I most firmly resolve, by the assistance of thy grace, never more to offend thee for the time to come, and to avoid those occasions which might lead me into sin.

You may then add the Acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity, to the recitation of which Pope Benedict XIV has granted an indulgence of seven years and seven quarantines for each time.

Act of Faith

O my God, I firmly believe whatsoever the holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church requires me to believe: I believe it, because thou hast revealed it to her, thou who art the very Truth.

Act of Hope

O my God, knowing thy almighty power, and thy infinite goodness and mercy, I hope in thee that, by the merits of the Passion and Death of our Saviour Jesus Christ, thou wilt grant me eternal life, which thou hast promised to all such as shall do the works of a good Christian; and these I resolve to do, with the help of thy grace.

Act of Charity

O my God, I love thee with my whole heart and above all things, because thou art the sovereign Good: I would rather lose all things than offend thee. For thy love also, I love and desire to love my neighbour as myself.

Then say to our Blessed Lady, in honour of the ineffable dignity of her Maternity, the following Anthem:

Alma Redemptoris mater, quæ pervia cœli
Porta manes, et stella maris, succurre cadenti
Surgere qui curat populo: tu quæ genuisti,
Natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem,
Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore
Sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.

℣. Post partum, Virgo, inviolata permansisti.
℟. Dei Genitrix, intercede pro nobis.

Oremus

Deus, qui salutis æternæ, beatæ Mariæ virginitate fecunda, humano generi præmia præstitisti: tribue, quæsumus, ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamus, per quam meruimus auctorem vitæ suscipere, Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum. Amen.
Sweet Mother of our Redeemer,
Gate whereby we enter heaven, and Star of the sea!
help us, we fall; yet do we long to rise.
Nature looked upon thee with admiration, when thou didst give birth to thy divine Creator,
thyself remaining, before and after it, a pure Virgin.
Gabriel spoke his Hail to thee; we sinners crave thy pity.

℣. After childbirth thou didst remain most pure, O Virgin!
℟. O Mother of God, make intercession for us.

Let us pray

O God, who by the fruitful Virginity of Blessed Mary hast given to mankind the rewards of eternal salvation; grant, we beseech thee, that we may experience her intercession, by whom we received the Author of Life, our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son. Amen.

You would do well to add the Litany of our Lady. An indulgence of three hundred days for each time it is recited has been granted by the Church.

The Litany of the Blessed Virgin

Kyrie, eleison.
Christe, eleison.
Kyrie, eleison.
Christe, audi nos.
Christe, exaudi nos.
Pater de cœlis, Deus, miserere nobis.
Fili, Redemptor mundi, Deus, miserere nobis
Spiritus Sancte, Deus, miserere nobis.
Sancta Trinitas, unus Deus, miserere nobis.
Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis.
Sancta Dei Genitrix, ora, etc.
Sancta Virgo virginum,
Mater Christi,
Mater divinæ gratiæ,
Mater purissima,
Mater castissima,
Mater inviolata,
Mater intemerata,
Mater amabilis,
Mater admirabilis,
Mater boni consilii,
Mater Creatoris,
Mater Salvatoris,
Virgo prudentissima,
Virgo veneranda,
Virgo prædicanda,
Virgo potens,
Virgo demens,
Virgo fidelis,
Speculum justitiæ.
Sedes sapientiæ,
Causa nostræ lætitiæ,
Vas spirituale,
Vas honorabile,
Vas insigne devotionis,
Rosa mystica,
Turris Davidica,
Turris eburnea,
Domus aurea,
Fœderis arca,
Janua cœli,
Stella matutina,
Salus infirmorum,
Refugium peccatorum,
Consolatrix afflictorum,
Auxilium Christianorum,
Regina Angelorum,
Regina Patriarcharum,
Regina Prophetarum,
Regina Apostolorum,
Regina Martyrum,
Regina Confessorum,
Regina Virginum,
Regina Sanctorum omnium,
Regina sine labe originali concepta,
Regina Sacratissimi Rosarii,
Regina pacis,
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, parce nobis, Domine.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, exaudi nos, Domine.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Christe, audi nos.
Christe, exaudi nos.

℣. Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genitrix.
℟. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

Oremus

Concede nos famulos tuos, quæsumus, Domine Deus, perpetua mentis et corporis sanitate gaudere: et gloriosa beatæ Mariæ semper Virginis intercessione, a præsenti liberari tristitia, et æterna perfrui lætitia. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, pray, etc.
Holy Virgin of virgins,
Mother of Christ,
Mother of divine grace,
Mother most pure,
Mother most chaste,
Mother inviolate,
Mother undefiled,
Mother most amiable,
Mother most admirable,
Mother of good counsel,
Mother of our Creator,
Mother of our Redeemer,
Virgin most prudent,
Virgin most venerable,
Virgin most renowned,
Virgin most powerful,
Virgin most merciful,
Virgin most faithful,
Mirror of justice,
Seat of wisdom,
Cause of our joy,
Spiritual vessel,
Vessel of honour,
Singular vessel of devotion,
Mystical Rose,
Tower of David,
Tower of ivory.
House of gold,
Ark of the covenant,
Gate of heaven,
Morning Star,
Health of the weak,
Refuge of sinners,
Comforter of the afflicted,
Help of Christians,
Queen of Angels,
Queen of Patriarchs,
Queen of Prophets,
Queen of Apostles,
Queen of Martyrs,
Queen of Confessors,
Queen of Virgins,
Queen of all Saints,
Queen conceived without original sin,
Queen of the Most Holy Rosary,
Queen of peace.
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

℣. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
℟. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray

Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that we thy servants may enjoy constant health of body and mind, and by the glorious intercession of Blessed Mary, ever a Virgin, be delivered from all present affliction, and come to that joy which is eternal. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Here invoke the Holy Angels, whose protection is, indeed, always so much needed by us, but never so much as during the hours of night. Say with the Church:

Sancti Angeli, custodes nostri, defendite nos in prælio, ut non pereamus in tremendo judicio.
℣. Angelis suis Deus mandavit de te.
℟. Ut custodiant te in omnibus viis tuis.

Oremus

Deus, qui ineffabili provi· dentia sanctos Angelos tuos ad nostram custodiam mittere dignaris: largire supplicibus tuis, et eorum semper protectione defendi, et æterna societate gaudere. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Holy Angels, our loving Guardians, defend us in the hour of battle, that we may not be lost at the dreadful judgement.
℣. God hath given his Angels charge of thee.
℟. That they may guard thee in all thy ways.

Let us pray

O God, who in thy wonderful providence hast been pleased to appoint thy holy Angels for our guardians; mercifully hear our prayers, and grant we may rest secure under their protection, and enjoy their fellowship in heaven for ever. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then beg the assistance of the Saints by the following Antiphon and prayer of the Church:

Ant. Sancti Dei omnes, intercedere dignemini pro nostra omniumque salute.
℣. Lætamini in Domino et exsultate, justi.
℟. Et gloriamini omnes recti corde.

Oremus

Protege, Domine, populum tuum, et Apostolorum tuorum Petri et Pauli et aliorum Apostolorum patrocinio confidentem, perpetua defensione conserva.

Omnes Sancti tui, quææsumus, Domine, nos ubique adjuvent: ut dum eorum merita recolimus, patrocinia sentiamus: et pacem tuam nostris concede temporibus, et ab Ecclesia tua cunctam repelle nequitiam: iter, actus, et voluntates nostras, et omnium famulorum tuorum, in salutis tuæ prosperitate dispone: benefactoribus nostris sempiterna bona retribue: et omnibus fidelibus defunctis requiem æternam concede. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Ant. All ye Saints of God, vouchsafe to intercede for us and for all men, that we may be saved.
℣. Rejoice in the Lord, ye just, and be glad.
℟. And glory, all ye right of heart.

Let us pray

Protect, O Lord, thy people; and because we have confidence in the intercession of blessed Peter and Paul and thy other Apostles, ever defend and preserve us.

May all thy Saints ever help us, we beseech thee, O Lord! and grant that, whilst we honour their merits, we may experience their intercession. Grant thy holy peace unto these our days, and drive all iniquity from thy Church. Direct and prosper unto salvation every step and action and desire of us and of all thy servants. Repay our benefactors with everlasting blessings; and grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

And here you may add a special mention of the Saints to whom you bear a particular devotion, either as your patrons or otherwise; as also of those whose feast is kept in the Church that day, or at least who have been commemorated in the Divine Office.

This done, remember the necessities of the Church Suffering, and beg of God that he will give to the souls in Purgatory a place of refreshment, light, and peace. For this intention recite the usual prayers.

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.
Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine.
Et lux perpetua luceat eis.
℣. A porta inferi.
℟. Erue, Domine, animas eorum.
℣. Requiescant in pace.
℟. Amen.
℣. Domine, exaudi orationem meam.
℟. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.

Oremus

Fidelium Deus omnium Conditor et Redemptor, animabus famulorum famularumque tuarum remissionem cunctorum tribue peccatorum: ut indulgentiam, quam semper optaverunt, piis supplicationibus consequantur. Qui vivis et regnas in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
From the depths I have 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 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.
And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
Eternal rest give to them, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon them.
℣. From the gate of hell.
℟. Deliver their souls, O Lord.
℣. May they rest in peace.
℟. Amen.
℣. O Lord, hear my prayer.
℟. And let my cry come unto thee.

Let us pray

O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, give to the souls of thy servants departed the remission of all their sins: that through the help of pious supplications, they may obtain the pardon they have always desired. Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.

Here make a special memento of such of the Faithful departed as have a particular claim upon your charity; after which, ask of God to give you his assistance, whereby you may pass the night free from danger. Say then, still keeping to the words of the Church:

Ant. Salva nos, Domine, vigilantes, custodi nos dormientes: ut vigilemus cum Christo, et requiescamus in pace.
℣. Dignare, Domine, nocte ista.
℟. Sine peccato nos custodire.
℣. Miserere nostri, Domine.
℟. Miserere nostri.
℣. Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos.
℟. Quemadmodum speravimus in te.
℣. Domine, exaudi orationem meam.
℟. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.

Oremus

Visita, quæsumus, Domine, habitationem istam, et omnes insidias inimici ab ea longe repelle: Angeli tui sancti habitent in ea, qui nos in pace custodiant, et benedictio tua sit super nos semper. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
Ant. Save us, O Lord, whilst awake, and watch us as we sleep; that we may watch with Christ, and rest in peace.
℣. Vouchsafe, O Lord, this night,
℟. To keep us without sin.
℣. Have mercy on us, O Lord.
℟. Have mercy on us.
℣. Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us.
℟. As we have hoped in thee.
℣. O Lord, hear my prayer.
℟. And let my cry come unto thee.
LET US PRAY
Visit, we beseech thee, O Lord, this house and family, and drive from it all snares of the enemy: let thy holy Angels dwell herein, who may keep us in peace, and may thy blessing be always upon us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

And that you may end the day in the same sentiments wherewith you began it, devoutly pay your homage to the divine Mystery of the Incarnation by reciting the following prayer:

℣. Notum fecit Dominus, alleluia!
℟. Salutare suum, alleluia!

Oremus

Deus, qui sacratissimam noctem veri luminis fecisti illustratione clarescere; da, quæsumus, ut cujus lucis mysteria in terra cognovimus, ejus quoque gaudiis in cœlo perfruamur. Qui tecum vivit et regnat in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
℣. The Lord hath made known, alleluia!
℟. His salvation, alleluia!

Let us pray

O God! who hast enlightened the most sacred of Nights by the brightness of him who is the true Light; grant, we beseech thee, that we who have known the mysteries of this Light on earth, may likewise come to the enjoyment of it in heaven. Who liveth and reigneth with thee for ever. Amen.

[1] St Luke i 19, 51.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

SUCH is the number and importance of the feasts kept during this holy season, that even those of the faithful who have not the habit of hearing Mass daily at other times look upon it as a sort of duty to do so now: and rightly; for the Lamb, who is offered up in this Divine Sacrifice, is he whom they have been asking of the Eternal Father with so much earnestness during Advent, in those words of the Prophet Isaias: Send forth, O Lord, the Lamb, the Ruler of the Earth.[1]

This tender Lamb is come; the child is born unto us,[2] and even now is on the Altar of his Sacrifice. St Paul tells us that this Jesus, on his first entrance into the world, said to his Father: Sacrifice and oblation thou wiliest not; but a Body thou hast fitted unto me. Then said I; behold I come: to do thy will, O God.[3] It is true that the Sacrifice of the Cross, of which that of the Mass is the continuation, was the Sacrifice of Christ at the end of his three-and-thirty years; still, during these days of Christmas, when we have so much to learn from the mystery of the Sacred Infancy, we shall be in strict accordance with the spirit of the Church if, whilst assisting at Mass, we keep before our minds not only the bleeding Victim of Calvary, but likewise the sweet Lamb of Bethlehem. Moreover, does not our Jesus offer himself for us to his Father from his Crib as well as from his Cross? Thus, we read in the Acts of the Saints, that as often as this our Redeemer wished to requite the faith and love of his servants by manifesting to them his real Presence in the sacred Host, he appeared to them in the form of a lovely Babe.

The liturgical iconography of the Greeks represents the mystery of the Eucharist under the symbol of a Babe reposing on a Paten. So, too, in many of our Latin Missals, up to the end of the sixteenth century, we find an illumination or engraving, as the case may be, representing a Priest vested in a Chasuble, standing at the Altar, and holding in his hands the Body of our Saviour under the form of a Child.

Let the faithful, therefore, enter the House of God in the dispositions wherewith the Shepherds and the Magi were animated, when they went to Bethlehem, the House of Bread. They too must come with haste;[4] from the midnight of this world to that Light which shineth in darkness.[5] They must come to the Altar as to the Crib of Jesus, and in the joy of this Mystery, they must offer their whole heart to the New-Born Babe. Then, uniting themselves with Mary and the Church, they must offer the Lamb of God to the heavenly Father, and themselves together with him—and all this with the humility and simplicity of little children.

We will now endeavour to embody these sentiments in our explanation of the Mysteries of the Holy Mass, and initiate the faithful into these divine secrets; not, indeed, by indiscreetly presuming to translate the sacred formulas, but by suggesting such Acts, as will enable those who hear Mass to enter into the ceremonies and sentiments of the Church and the Priest.

During a considerable portion of this Season, the Mass is celebrated in commemoration of the great Mysteries which were accomplished at this period of the Liturgical Year; and the Prayers used by the Church on these great Feasts will be found on the respective days. During the remaining forty days, the Holy Sacrifice is either of the Saints, or of the Sundays which come during this time, and on which there does not occur a principal Feast. The Sundays of Septuagesima and Sexagesima sometimes fall during Christmastide; and when this happens, they cannot be put out by any Feast save those of the Patron of the Place, or of the Titular or Dedication of the Church.

In all the Masses of the Sundays, as also on those Feasts which are called simples and semi-doubles, the Priest makes a commemoration of our Blessed Lady as Mother of God, and this by three Prayers which we give in their proper places. With regard to the colours of the Vestments used during this holy Season, we have explained them in a previous chapter.

On the Sundays, if the Mass at which the faithful assist be the Parochial, or as it is often called the Public Mass, two solemn rites precede it, which are full of instruction and blessing: the Asperges, or sprinkling of the Holy Water, and the Procession.

During the Asperges, let them unite with the intentions of the Church in this venerable rite, and pray for that purity of heart which will fit them for admission into that Stable of Bethlehem, wherein the Word Incarnate first appeared to his creatures.

Antiphon of the Asperges

Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo, et mundabor; lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.
Ps. Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
℣. Gloria Patri, etc.
Ant. Asperges me, etc.
℣. Ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam.
℟. Et salutare tuum da nobis.
℣. Domine, exaudi orationem meam.
℟. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
℣. Dominus vobiscum.
℟. Et cum spiritu tuo.
OREMUS
Exaudi nos, Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus: et mittere digneris sanctum Angelum tuum de cœlis, qui custodiat, foveat, protegat, visitet atque defendat omnes habitantes in hoc habitaculo. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.
℟. Amen.
Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, O Lord, and I shall be cleansed; thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.
Ps. Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy.
℣. Glory, etc.
Ant. Sprinkle me, etc.
℣. Show us, O Lord, thy mercy.
℟. And grant us the Saviour, whom we expect from thee.
℣. O Lord, hear my prayer.
℟. And let my cry come unto thee.
℣. The Lord be with you.
℟. And with thy spirit.
LET US PRAY
Graciously hear us, O holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God: and vouchsafe to send thy holy Angel from heaven, who may keep, cherish, protect, visit and defend all who are assembled in this place. Through Christ our Lord.
℟. Amen.

The Procession, which immediately precedes the Mass, should remind us of the Shepherds and Magi going to Bethlehem, and how, after a holy impatience to reach the sacred spot, they arrived, and found Mary and Joseph and the Infant lying in the manger.

But see, Christians, the Sacrifice begins! The Priest is at the foot of the altar; God is attentive, the Angels are in adoration, the whole Church is united with the Priest, whose priesthood and action are those of the great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Let us make the sign of the Cross with him.

The Ordinary of the Mass

In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.
℣. Introibo ad altare Dei.
℟. Ad Deum qui lætificat juventutem meam.
Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me.
Quia tu es, Deus, fortitudo mea: quare me repulisti? et quare tristis incedo, dum affiigit me inimicus?
Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam: ipsa me deduxerunt et adduxerunt in montem sanctum tuum, et in tabernacula tua.
Et introibo ad altare Dei: ad Deum qui lætificat juventutem meam.
Confitebor tibi in cithara Deus, Deus meus: quare tristis es anima mea? et quare conturbas me?
Spera in Deo, quoniam adhuc confitebor illi: salutare vultus mei, et Deus meus.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
℣. Introibo ad altare Dei.
℟. Ad Deum qui lætificat juventutem meam.
℣. Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini.
℟. Qui fecit cœlum et terram.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
I unite myself, O my God, with thy Church, who comes to seek consolation in Jesus Christ thy Son, who is the true Altar.
Like her, I beseech thee to defend me against the malice of the enemies of my salvation.
It is in thee that I have put my hope; yet do I feel sad and troubled at being in the midst of the snares which are set for me.
Send me, then, him who is light and truth; it is he who will open to us the way to thy holy mount, to thy heavenly tabernacle.
He is the Mediator, and the living Altar; I will draw nigh to him, and be filled with joy.
When he shall have come, I will sing in my gladness, Be not sad, O my soul! why wouldst thou be troubled?
Hope in his coming; he who is thy Saviour and thy God will soon be with thee.
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.
I am to go to the altar of God, and feel the presence of him who consoles me!
This my hope comes not from any merits of my own, but from the all-powerful help of my Creator.

The thought of his being about to appear before his God excites in the soul of the Priest a lively sentiment of compunction. He cannot go further in the Holy Sacrifice without confessing, and publicly, that he is a sinner, and deserves not the grace he is about to receive. Listen with respect to this confession of God's Minister, and earnestly ask our Lord to show mercy to him; for the Priest is your Father; he is answerable for your salvation, for which he every day risks his own. When he has finished, unite with the Servers, or the Sacred Ministers, in this prayer:

Misereatur tui omnipotens Deus, et dimissis peccatis tuis, perducat te ad vitam æternam.
May Almighty God have mercy on thee, and forgiving thy sins, bring thee to everlasting life.

The Priest having answered Amen, make your confession, saying with a contrite spirit:

Confiteor Deo omnipotenti, beatæ Mariæ semper Virgini, beato Michaeli Archangelo, beato Joanni Baptistæ. sanctis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, omnibus Sanctis, et tibi, Pater: quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo, et opere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Ideo precor beatam Mariam semper Virginem, beatum Michaelem Archangelum, beatum Joannem Baptistam, sanctos Apostolos Petrum et Paulum, omnes Sanctos, et te, Pater, orare pro me ad Dominum Deum nostrum.
I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the saints, and to thee, Father, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech the blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, and thee, Father, to pray to our Lord God for me.

Receive with gratitude the paternal wish of the Priest, who says to you:

Misereatur vestri omnipotens Deus, et dimissis peccatis vestris, perducat vos ad vitam æternam.
℟. Amen.
Indulgentiam, absolutionem, et remissionem peccatorum nostrorum tribuat nobis omnipotens et misericors Dominus.
℟. Amen.
May Almighty God be merciful to you, and forgiving your sins, bring you to everlasting life.
℟. Amen.
May the almighty and merciful Lord grant us pardon, absolution, and remission of our sins.
℟. Amen.

 

Invoke the divine assistance, that you may approach to Jesus Christ.

℣. Deus, tu conversus vivificabis nos.
℟. Et plebs tua lætabitur in te.
℣. Ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam.
℟. Et Salutare tuam da nobis.
℣. Domine, exaudi orationem meam.
℟. Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
℣. O God, it needs but one look of thine to give us life.
℟. And thy people shall rejoice in thee.
℣. Show us, O Lord, thy mercy.
℟. And give us the Saviour whom thou hast prepared for us.
℣. O Lord, hear my prayer.
℟. And let my cry come unto thee.


The Priest here leaves you to ascend to the altar; but first he salutes you:

℣. Dominus vobiscum.
℣. The Lord be with you.

 

Answer him with reverence:

℟. Et cum spiritu tuo.
℣. Oremus.
℟. And with thy spirit.
℣. Let us pray.


He ascends the steps, and comes to the Holy of Holies. Ask, both for him and yourself, deliverance from sin:

Aufer a nobis, quæsumus, Domine, iniquitates nostras; ut ad Sancta sanctorum puris mereamur mentibus introire. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Take from our hearts, O Lord, all those sins which make us unworthy of thy visit; we ask this of thee by thy divine Son, our Lord.

When the Priest kisses the altar, out of reverence for the relics of the Martyrs which are there, say:

Oramus te, Domine, per merita sanctorum tuorum quorum reliquiae hic sunt, et omnium Sanctorum: ut indulgere digneris omnia peccata mea. Amen.
Generous soldiers of Jesus Christ, who have mingled your own blood with his, intercede for us that our sins may be forgiven: that so we may, like you, approach unto God.

If it be a High Mass at which you are assisting, the Priest incenses the Altar in a most solemn manner; and this white cloud, which you see ascending from every part of the Altar, signifies the prayer of the Church, who addresses herself to Jesus Christ; which this Divine Mediator then causes to ascend, united with his own, to the throne of the majesty of his Father.

The Priest then says the Introit. It is a solemn opening anthem, in which the Church, at the very commencement of the Holy Sacrifice, gives expression to the sentiments which fill her heart.

It is followed by nine exclamations, which are even more earnest, for they ask for mercy. In addressing them to God, the Church unites herself with the nine choirs of Angels, who are standing round the altar of Heaven, one and the same as this before which you are kneeling.

To the Father who has sent us his Son:

Kyrie eleison.
Kyrie eleison.
Kyrie eleison.
Lord, have mercy on us!
Lord, have mercy on us!
Lord, have mercy on us!

To the Son who has come down to us:

Christe eleison.
Christe eleison.
Christe eleison.
Christ, have mercy on us!
Christ, have mercy on us!
Christ, have mercy on us!

To the Holy Ghost, whose operation has accomplished the mystery:

Kyrie eleison.
Kyrie eleison.
Kyrie eleison.
Lord, have mercy on us!
Lord, have mercy on us!
Lord, have mercy on us!

Then, mingling his voice with that of the heavenly host, the Priest intones the sublime Canticle of Bethlehem, which announces glory to God and peace to men. Instructed by the revelations of God, the Church continues in her own words the Hymn of the Angels. She celebrates with rapture the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world. She offers to this Lamb, in return for the humiliations of the Stable and the Crib, the homage of her fervent praise, declaring that he alone is Holy, he alone is Lord, he alone Most High. Enter, Christians, into these sentiments of profound adoration of confidence and of tender love towards the Divine Lamb.

The Angelic Hymn

Gloria in excelsis Deo, Et in terra pax homibus bonæ voluntatis.
Laudamus te: benedicimus te: adoramus te: glorificamus te: gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.
Domine Deus, Rex cœlestis, Deus Pater omnipotens.
Domine, Fili unigenite, Jesu Christe.
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram.
Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.
Quoniam tu solus sanctus, tu solus Dominus, tu solus Altissimus, Jesu Christe, cum Sancto Spiritu, in gloria Dei Patris. Amen.
Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace to men of good will.
We praise thee: we bless thee: we adore thee: we glorify thee: we give thee thanks for thy great glory.
O Lord God, Heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.
O Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son.
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father.
Who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Who takest away the sins of the world, receive our humble prayer.
Who sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
For thou alone art holy, thou alone art Lord, thou alone, O Jesus Christ, together with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

The Priest turns towards the people, and again salutes them, to make sure, as it were, of their pious attention to the sublime act, for which all this is but the preparation. The words of this greeting are especially beautiful during the season of Christmas: The Lord be with you! Isaias had foretold that it would indeed be verified, and the Angel confirms the prophecy to St Joseph, when he thus says to him: He shall be called Emmanuel, that is, God with us.[6]

Then follows the Collect or Prayer, in which the Church formally expresses to the divine Majesty the special intentions she has in the Mass which is being celebrated. You may unite in this prayer by reciting with the Priest the Collects, which you will find in their proper places: but on no account omit to join with the server of the Mass in answering Amen.

Then follows the Epistle, which is generally a portion of one or other of the Epistles of the Apostles, or a passage from some Book of the Old Testament. Whilst it is being read, thank him who, not satisfied with having at sundry times spoken to us by the Prophets, has deigned in these days to speak to us by his Son.[7]

The Gradual is an intermediate formula of Prayer between the Epistle and Gospel. It again brings to our attention the sentiments which were expressed in the Introit. Read it with devotion, so as to penetrate more and more the spirit of the Christmas Mystery.

The song of praise, the Alleluia, is next heard. Let us, whilst it is being sung, unite with the holy Angels, who, at the Birth of the Divine Lamb, made our earth echo with their heavenly chants.[8]

One of the princes of this heavenly host said, speaking to the shepherds: Behold I evangelize to you (that is I bring you good tidings of) a great joy; for this day is born unto you a Saviour in Bethlehem, the City of David.[9] Afterwards came the Apostles, and they evangelized this same joy to the whole world; and the Book which contains the words which gave joy to mankind is called the Gospel, Evangelium. A passage from this divine Book is now going to be read to the assembly of the faithful; we shall hear the very words of him who became a Little Child in order to be thus able to speak to us.

If it be a High Mass, the Deacon prepares to fulfil his noble office, that of announcing the Good Tidings of salvation. He prays God to cleanse his heart and lips. Then, kneeling, he asks the Priest's blessing; and having received it, he at once goes to the place where he is to sing the Gospel. As a preparation for hearing it worthily, you may thus pray, together with the Priest and Deacon:

Munda cor meum ac labia mea, omnipotens Deus, qui Jabia Isaiæ Prophetæ calculo mundasti ignito: ita me tua grata miseratione dignare mundare, ut sanctum Evangelium tuum digne valeam nuntiare. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Dominus sit in corde meo et in labiis meis: ut digne et competenter annuntiem Evangelium suum: In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Saucti. Amen.
Alas! these ears of mine are but too often defiled with the world’s vain words; cleanse them, O Lord, that so I may hear the words of eternal life, and treasure them in my heart. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Grant to thy ministers thy grace, that they may faithfully explain thy law; that so all, both pastors and flock, may be united to thee for ever. Amen.

You will stand during the Gospel, as though you were waiting the orders of your Lord; and at the commencement, make the sign of the Cross on your forehead, lips and breast; and then listen to every word of the Priest or Deacon. Let your heart be ready and obedient. Whilst my beloved was speaking, says the Spouse in the Canticle, my soul melted within me.[10] If you have not such love as this, have at least the humble submission of Samuel, and say: Speak, Lord! thy servant heareth.[11]

After the Gospel, if the Priest say the Symbol of Faith, the Credo, you will say it with him. Faith is that gift of God without which we cannot please him. It is Faith that makes us see the Light which shineth in darkness, and which the darkness of unbelief did not comprehend. It is Faith that shows us him we are to love. It is Faith, too, that makes us become little children again; for such we must be, if we would have access to the Crib of him whom Clement of Alexandria so beautifully calls the King of Infants. Let us, then, say with the Catholic Church, our Mother:

The Nicene Creed[12]

Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, factorem cœli et terræ, visibilium omnium et invisibilium.
Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum. Et ex Patre natum ante omnia sæcula, Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero. Genitum non factum, consubstantialem Patri, per quem omnia facta sunt. Qui propter nos homines, et propter nostram salutem, descendit de cœlis. Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine; et homo factus est. Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato, passus et sepultus est. Et resurrexit tertia die secundum Scripturas. Et ascendit in cœlum; seder ad dexteram Patris. Et iterum venturus est cum gloria judicare vivos et mortuos; cujus regno non erit finis.
Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem, qui ex Patre Filioque procedit. Qui cum Patre et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur; qui locutus est per Prophetas. Et unam sanctam Catholicam et Apostolicam Ecclesiam. Confiteor unum Baptisma in remissionem peccatorum. Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum, et vitam venturi sæculi. Amen.
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God. And born of the Father before all ages; God of God, light of light; true God of true God. Begotten, not made; consubstantial with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. And became incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary; AND WAS MADE MAN. He was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried. And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures. And ascended into heaven, sitteth at the right hand of the Father. And he is to come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; of whose kingdom there shall be no end.
And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son. Who together with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified; who spoke by the Prophets. And one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the remission of sins. And I expect the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Priest and the people should, by this time, have their hearts ready: it is time to prepare the offering itself. And here we come to the second part of the Holy Mass, which is called the Oblation, and which immediately follows that which was called the Mass of Catechumens, on account of its being formerly the only part at which the candidates for Baptism had a right to be present.

See then, dear Christians! bread and wine are about to be offered to God, as being the noblest of inanimate creatures, since they are made for the nourishment of man; and even that is only a poor material image of what they are destined to become in our Christian Sacrifice. Their substance will soon give place to God himself, and of themselves nothing will remain but the appearance. Happy creatures, thus to yield up their own being that God may take its place! We too are to undergo a like transformation, when, as the Apostle expresses it, that which to us is mortal shall put on immortality.[13] Until that happy change shall be realized, let us offer ourselves to God as often as we see the bread and wine presented to him in the Holy Sacrifice; and let us glorify him who, by assuming our human nature, has made us partakers of the divine nature.[14]

The Priest again turns to the people with the usual salutation, as though he would warn them to redouble their attention. Let us read the Offertory with him, and when he offers the Host to God, let us unite with him in saying:


Suscipe, sancte Pater, omnipotens æterne Deus, hanc immaculatam hostiam, quam ego indignus famulus tuus offero tibi Deo meo vivo et vero, pro innumerabilibus peccatis et offensionibus et negligentiis meis, et pro omnibus circumstantibus, sed et pro omnibus fidelibus christianis vivis atque defunetis; ut mihi et illis proficiat ad salutem in vitam æternam. Amen.
All that we have, O Lord, comes from thee, and belongs to thee; it is just, therefore, that we return it unto thee. But, how wonderful art thou in the inventions of thy immense love! This Bread which we are offering to thee is to give place in a few moments to the sacred Body of Jesus. We beseech thee, receive, together with this oblation, our hearts which long to live by thee, and to cease to live their own life of self.

When the Priest puts the wine into the chalice, and then mingles with it a drop of water, let your thoughts turn to the divine mystery of the Incarnation, which is manifested to the world by the Birth of our Emmanuel, and say:

Deus qui humanæ substantiæ dignitatem mirabiliter condidisti, et mirabilius reformasti: da nobis per hujus aquæ et vini mysterium, ejus divinitatis esse consortes, qui humanitatis nostræ fieri dignatus est particeps, Jesus Christus Filius tuus Dominus noster: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
O Lord Jesus, who art the true Vine, and whose Blood, like a generous wine, has been poured forth under the pressure of the Cross! thou hast deigned to unite thy divine nature to our weak humanity, which is signified by this drop of water. O come and make us partakers of thy divinity, by showing thyself to us in thy sweet and wondrous visit.

The Priest then offers the mixture of wine and water, beseeching God graciously to accept this oblation, which is so soon to be changed into the reality of which it is now but a figure. Meanwhile, say in union with the Priest:


Offerimus tibi, Domine, calicem salutaris, tuam deprecantes clementiam: ut in conspectu divinæ Majestatis tuæ, pro nostra et totius mundi salute, cum odore suavitatis ascendat. Amen.
Graciously accept these gifts, O sovereign Creator of all things. Let them be fitted for the divine transformation,which will make them, from being mere offerings of created things, the instrument of the world's salvation.

                                    
After having thus held up the sacred gifts towards heaven, the Priest bows down: let us also humble ourselves, and say:

In spiritu humilitatis, et in animo contrito suscipiamur a te, Domine: et sic fiat sacrificium nostrum in conspectu tuo hodie, ut placeat tibi, Domine Deus.
Though daring, as we do, to approach thy altar, O Lord, we cannot forget that we are sinners. Have mercy on us, and delay not to send us thy Son, who is our saving Host.

Let us next invoke the Holy Ghost, whose operation is about to produce on the altar the presence of the Son of God, as it did in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the divine mystery of the Incarnation:

Veni, Sanctificator, omnipotens æterne Deus, et benedic hoc sacrificium tuo sancto nomini præparatum.
Come, O Divine Spirit, make fruitful the offering which is upon the altar, and produce in our hearts him whom they desire.

If it be a High Mass, the Priest, before proceeding any further with the Sacrifice, takes the thurible a second time. He first incenses the bread and wine which have been just offered, and then the altar itself; hereby inviting the faithful to make their prayer, which is signified by the incense, more and more fervent, the nearer the solemn moment approaches. St John tells us that the incense which burns on the Altar in heaven is made of the Prayers of the Saints. During Christmastide, therefore, we may look on the fragrant cloud which covers our Altar here on earth as an emblem of the prayers said by the Shepherds round the Crib, and of the adorations paid by the Magi to the Infant-God. Let us imitate them; for this same Jesus is soon to be on our Altar.

But the thought of his own unworthiness becomes more intense than ever in the heart of the Priest. The public confession which he made at the foot of the altar is not enough; he would now, at the altar itself, express to the people, in the language of a solemn rite, how far he knows himself to be from that spotless sanctity wherewith he should approach to God. He washes his hands. Our hands signify our works; and the Priest, though by his priesthood he bear the office of Jesus Christ, is by his works but man. Seeing your Father thus humble himself, do you also make an act of humility, and say with him these verses of

PSALM 25

 

Lavabo inter innocentes manus meas: et circumdabo altare tuum, Domine.
Ut audiam vocem laudis: et enarrem universa mirabilia tua.
Domine, dilexi decorem domus tuæ, et locum habitationis gloriæ tuæ.
Ne perdas cum impiis, Deus, animam meam, et cum viris sanguinum vitam meam.
In quorum manibus iniquitates sunt: dextera eorum repleta est muneribus.
Ego autem in innocentia mea ingressus sum: redime me, et miserere mei.
Pes meus stetit in directo: in ecclesiis benedicam te, Domine.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
I, too, would wash my hands, O Lord, and become like unto those who are innocent, that so I may be worthy to come near thy altar, and hear thy sacred Canticles, and then go and proclaim to the world the wonders of thy goodness. I love the beauty of thy House, which thou art about to make the dwellingplace of thy glory. Leave me not, O God, in the midst of them that are enemies both to thee and me. Thy mercy having separated me from them, I entered on the path of innocence, and was restored to thy grace; but have pity on my weakness still; redeem me yet more, thou who hast so mercifully brought me back to the right path. In the midst of these thy faithful people, I give thee thanks. 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.

The Priest, taking encouragement from the act of humility he has just made, returns to the middle of the altar, and bows down full of respectful awe, begging of God to receive graciously the Sacrifice which is about to be offered to him, and expresses the intentions for which it is offered. Let us do the same.

Suscipe, sancta Trinitas, hanc oblationem, quam tibi ofterimus ob memoriam Passionis, Resurrectionis et Ascensionis Jesu Christi Domini nostri: et in honore beatæ Mariæ semper Virginis, et beati Joannis Baptistæ, et sanctorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli, et istorum, et omnium Sanctorum: ut illis proficiat ad honorem, nobis autem ad salutem: et illi pro nobis intercedere dignentur in cœlis, quorum memoriam agimus in terris. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
O Holy Trinity, graciously accept the Sacrifice we have begun. We offer it in remembrance of the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. Permit thy Church to join with this intention that of honouring the ever glorious Virgin Mary, the Blessed Baptist John, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, the Martyrs whose relics lie here under our altar awaiting their resurrection, and the Saints whose memory we this day celebrate. Increase the glory they are enjoying, and receive the prayers they address to thee for us.

The Priest again turns to the people; it is for the last time before the sacred Mysteries are accomplished. He feels anxious to excite the fervour of the people. Neither does the thought of his own unworthiness leave him; and before entering the cloud with the Lord, he seeks support in the prayers of his brethren who are present. He says to them:

Orate, fratres: ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptable fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipotentem.
Brethren, pray that my Sacrifice, which is yours also, may be acceptable to God, our Almighty Father.

With this request he turns again to the altar, and you will see his face no more until our Lord himself shall have come down from heaven upon that same altar. Assure the Priest that he has your prayers, and say to him:

Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis, ad laudem et gloriam nominis sui, ad utilitatem quoque nostram, totiusque Ecclesiæ suæ sanctæ.
May our Lord accept this Sacrifice at thy hands, to the praise and glory of his name, for our benefit and that of his holy Church throughout the world.

Here the Priest recites the prayers called the Secrets, in which he presents the petition of the whole Church for God's acceptance of the Sacrifice, and then immediately begins to fulfil that great duty of religion, Thanksgiving. So far he has adored God, and has sued for mercy; he has still to give thanks for the blessings bestowed on us by the bounty of our heavenly Father, and expressly for that chiefest of all his gifts, the Messias. We are on the point of receiving a new visit of this Son of God; the Priest, in the name of the Church, is about to give expression to the gratitude of all mankind. In order to excite the faithful to that intensity of gratitude which is due to God for all his gifts, he interrupts his own and their silent prayer by terminating it aloud, saying:

Per omnia sæcula sæculorum!
For ever and ever

In the same feeling, answer your Amen! Then he continues:

℣. Dominus vobiscum.
℟. Et cum spiritu tuo.
℣. The Lord be with you.
℟. And with thy spirit.

℣. Sursum corda!
℣. Lift up your hearts!

Let your response be sincere:

℟. Habemus ad Dominum.
℟. We have them fixed on God.

And when he adds:

℣. Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro.
℣. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,

Answer him with all the earnestness of your soul:

℟. Dignum et justum est.
℟. It is meet and just.

Then the Priest:

Preface:[15]

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere: Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus; quia per incarnati Verbi mysterium, nova mentis nostræ oculis lux tuæ claritatis infulsit: ut dum visibiliter Deum cognoscimus, per hunc in invisibilium amorem rapiamur: et ideo cum Angelis et Archangelis, cum Thronis et Dominationibus, cumque omni militia cœlestis exercitus, hymnum gloriæ tuæ canimus, sine fine dicentes:
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always and in all places give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God; for by the mystery of the Incarnate Word, a new ray of thy glory has appeared to the eyes of our soul: so that while we behold God visibly, we may be carried by him to the love of things invisible: and therefore with the Angels and Archangels, with the Thrones and Dominations, and with all the heavenly host, we sing a hymn to thy glory, saying unceasingly:

Here unite with the Priest, who on his part unites himself with the blessed Spirits, in giving thanks to God for the unspeakable Gift: bow down and say:

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus sabaoth!
Pleni sunt cœli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis!
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis!
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed be the Saviour whom we were expecting, and who is coming to us in the name of the Lord who sends him.
Hosanna be to him in the highest!

After these words commences the Canon, that mysterious prayer, in the midst of which heaven bows down to earth, and God descends unto us. The voice of the Priest is no longer heard; yea, even at the altar all is silence. It was thus, says the Book of Wisdom, in the quiet of silence, and while the night was in the midst of her course, that the Almighty Word came down from his royal throne.[16] Let us await him in a like silence, and respectfully fix our eyes on what the Priest does in the holy place.

THE CANON OF THE MASS

In this mysterious colloquy with the great God of heaven and earth, the first prayer of the sacrificing Priest is for the Catholic Church, his and our Mother.

Te igitur, clementissime Pater, per Jesum Christum Filium tuum Dominum nostrum supplices rogamus ac petimus, uti accepta habeas et benedicas hæc dona, hæc munera, hæc sancta sacrificia illibata, in primis quæ tibi offerimus pro Ecclesia tua sancta Catholica: quam pacificare, custodire, adunare et regere digneris toto orbe terrarum, una cum famulo tuo Papa nostro N. et Antistite nostro N., et omnibus orthodoxis, atque catholicæ et apostolicæ fidei cultoribus.
O God, who manifestest thyself unto us by means of the mysteries which thou hast entrusted to thy holy Church, our Mother; we beseech thee, by the merits of this sacrifice, that thou wouldst remove all those hindrances which oppose her during her pilgrimage in this world. Give her peace and unity. Do thou thyself guide our Holy Father the Pope, thy Vicar on earth. Direct thou our Bishop, who is our sacred link of unity; and watch over all the orthodox children of the Catholic Apostolic Roman Church.

Here pray, together with the Priest, for those whose interests should be dearest to you.

Memento, Domine, famulorum famularumque tuarum N. et N., et omnium circumstantium, quorum tibi fides cognita est, et nota devotio: pro quibus tibi offerimus, vel qui tibi offerunt hoc sacrificium laudis, pro se, suisque omnibus, pro redemptione animarum suarum, pro spe salutis et incolumitatis suæ; tibique reddunt vota sua æterno Deo, vivo et vero.
Permit me, O God, to intercede with thee in more earnest prayer for those for whom thou knowest that I have a special obligation to pray: * * * Apply to them the fruits of this divine Sacrifice, which is offered unto thee in the name of all mankind. Visit them by thy grace, pardon them their sins, grant them the blessings of this present life and of that which is eternal.

Here let us commemorate the Saints: they are that portion of the Body of Jesus Christ which is called the Church Triumphant.

Communicantes, et memoriam venerantes, in primis gloriosæ semper Virginis Mariæ, Genitricis Dei et Domini nostri Jesu Christi: sed et beatorum Apostolorum ac Martyrum tuorum, Petri et Pauli, Andreæ, Jacobi, Joannis, Thomæ, Jacobi, Philippi, Bartholomæi, Matthæi, Simonis et Thaddæi: Lini, Cleti, Clementis, Xysti, Cornelii, Cypriani, Laurentii, Chrysogoni, Joannis et Pauli, Cosmæ et Damiani, et omnium sanctorum tuorum, quorum meritis precibusquec oncedas, ut in omnibus protectionis tuæ muniamur auxilio. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
But the offering of this Sacrifice, O my God, does not unite us with those only of our brethren who are still in this transient life of trial: it brings us closer to those also, who are already in possession of heaven. Therefore it is that we wish to honour by it the memory of the glorious and ever Virgin Mary, of whom Jesus is born to us; of the Apostles, Confessors, Virgins, and of all the Saints; that so they may assist us, by their powerful intercession, to become worthy to see Jesus in Bethlehem, and to contemplate thee, as they now do, in the mansion of thy glory.

The Priest, who, up to this time, had been praying with his hands extended, now joins them, and holds them over the bread and wine, as the High Priest of the Old Law did over the figurative victim: he thus expresses his intention of bringing these gifts more closely under the notice of the Divine Majesty, and of marking them as the material offering whereby we profess our dependence, and which is, in a few instants, to yield its place to the living Host, upon whom all our iniquities are to be laid.

Hanc igitur oblationem servitutis nostræ, sed et cunctæ familiæ tuæ, quæsumus Domine, ut placatus accipias: diesque nostros in tua pace disponas, atque ab æterna damnatione nos eripi, et in electorum tuorum jubeas grege numerari. Per Christum Dominuin nostrum. Amen.

Quam oblationem tu Deus in omnibus, quæsumus, benedictam, adscriptam, ratam, rationabilem, acceptabilemque facere digneris; ut nobis Corpus et Sanguis fiat dilectissimi Filii tui Domini nostri Jesu Christi.
Vouchsafe, O God, to accept this offering which this thy assembled family presents to thee as the homage of its most happy servitude. In return, give us peace, save us from thy wrath and number us among thy elect, through him who is coming to us, thy Son our Saviour.

Yea, Lord, this is the moment when this bread is to become his sacred Body, which is our food; and this wine is to be changed into his Blood, which is our drink. Ah! delay no longer, but send to us this divine Son our Saviour!

And here the Priest ceases to act as man; he now becomes more than a mere minister of the Church. His word becomes that of Jesus Christ, with all its power and efficacy. Prostrate yourself in profound adoration; for Emmanuel, God with us, is coming down from heaven.

Qui pridie quam pateretur, accepit panem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas: et elevatis oculis in cœlum, ad te Deum Patrem suum omnipotentem, tibi gratias agens, benedixit, fregit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens: Accipite, et manducate ex hoc omnes. Hoc est Enim Corpus meum.
What, O God of heaven and earth, my Jesus, the long expected Messias, what else can I do at this solemn moment but adore thee in silence as my sovereign Master, and open my whole heart to thee, as to its dearest King! Come then, Lord Jesus, come!

The Divine Lamb, the Son of Mary, is now lying on our Altar! Glory and love be to him for ever. But he is come that he may be immolated. When Isaias, in prophetic vision, contemplated this Child that is born unto us, he saw that even then his government was upon his shoulder,[17] and this was the Cross. Hence, the Priest, who is the minister of the will of the Most High, immediately pronounces over the Chalice those sacred words which will produce the great mystical immolation, by the separation of the Victim’s Body and Blood. The substances of bread and wine have ceased to exist: the species alone are left, veiling, as it were, the Body and Blood, lest fear should keep us from a mystery which God gives us in order to give us confidence. Let us associate ourselves to the Angels, who tremblingly look upon this deepest wonder.

Simili modo postquam cœnatum est, accipiens et hunc præclarum Calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas: item tibi gratias agens, benedixit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens: Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes. HIC EST ENIM CALIX SANGUINIS MEI, NOVI ET ÆTERNI TESTAMENTI: MYSTERIUM FIDEI: QUI PRO VOBIS ET PRO MULTIS EFFUNDETUR IN REMISSIONEM PECCATORUM. Hæc quotiescumque feceritis, in mei memoriam facietis.
O Precious Blood! thou price of my salvation! I adore thee! Wash away my sins, and make me whiter than snow. Lamb ever slain, yet ever living, thou comest to take away the sins of the world! Come also and reign in me by thy power and by thy love.

The Priest is now face to face with God. He again raises his hands towards heaven, and tells our heavenly Father that the oblation now on the altar is no longer an earthly offering, but the Body and Blood, the whole Person, of his divine Son.

Unde et memores, Domine, nos servi tui, sed et plebs tua sancta, ejusdem Christi Filii tui Domini nostri tam beatæ Passionis, nec non et ab inferid Resurrectionis, sed et in cœlos gloriosæ Ascension's: offerimus præclaræ majestati tuæ de tuis donis ac datis Hostiam puram, Hostiam sanctam, Hostiam immaculatam: Panem sanctum vitæ æternæ, et Calicem salutis perpetuæ.

Supra quæ propitio ac sereno vultu respicere digneris: et accepta habere, sicuti accepta habere dignatus es munera pueri tui justi Abel, et sacrificium Patriarchænostri Abrahæ, et quod tibi obtulit summus Sacerdos tuus Melchisedech, sanctum sacrificium, immaculatam hostiam.
Father of infinite holiness, the Host so long expected is here before thee! Behold this thy eternal Son, who suffered a bitter passion, rose again with glory from the grave, and ascended triumphantly into heaven. He is thy Son; but he is also our Host—Host pure and spotless—our Meat and Drink of everlasting life.

Heretofore thou didst accept the sacrifice of the innocent lambs offered to thee by Abel; and the sacrifice which Abraham made thee of his son Isaac, who, though immolated, yet lived; and lastly, the sacrifice, which Melchisedech presented to thee, of bread and wine. Receive our Sacrifice, which is above all those others. It is the Lamb, of whom all others could be but figures: it is the undying Victim: it is the Body of thy Son, who is the Bread of Life, and his Blood, which, whilst a Drink of immortality for us, is a tribute adequate to thy glory.

The Priest bows down to the altar, and kisses it as the throne of love on which is seated the Saviour of men. Do you look at it with love, as the Crib, whereon is laid, veiled in the eucharistic elements, that Jesus who has said: I am the Bread of life.

Supplices te rogamus, omnipotens Deus: jube hæc perferri per manus sancti Angeli tui in sublime Altare tuum, in conspectu divinæ Majestatis tuæ: ut quotquot ex hac altaris participatione, sacrosanctum Filii tui Corpus et Sanguinem sumpserimus, omni benedictione cœlesti et gratia repleamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
But, O God of infinite power, these sacred gifts are not only on this altar here below; they are also on that sublime Altar in heaven, which is before the throne of thy divine Majesty. These two altars are but one and the same, on which is accomplished the great mystery of thy glory and our salvation. Vouchsafe to make us partakers of the Body and Blood of the august Victim, from whom flow every grace and blessing.

Nor is the moment less favourable for making supplication for the Church Suffering. Let us, therefore, ask the divine Liberator, who has come down amongst us, that he mercifully visit, by a ray of his consoling light, the dark abode of Purgatory, and permit his Blood to flow, as a stream of mercy's dew, from this our altar, and refresh the panting captives there. Let us pray expressly for those amongst them who have a claim on our suffrages.

Memento etiam, Domine, famulorum famularumque tuarum N. et N., qui nos præcesserunt cum signo fidei, et dormiunt in somno pacis. Ipsis, Domine, et omnibus in Christo quiescentibus, locum refrigerii, lucis et pacis, ut indulgeas, deprecamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Dear Jesus! let the happiness of this thy visit extend to every portion of thy Church. Thy face gladdens the elect in the holy City; even our mortal eyes can see beneath the veil of our delighted faith: ah! hide not thyself from those brethren of ours, who are imprisoned in the place of expiation. Be thou refreshment to them in their flames, light in their darkness, and peace in their agonies of torment.

This duty of charity fulfilled, let us pray for ourselves, sinners, alas! who profit so little by the visit which our Saviour pays us. Let us, together with the Priest, strike our breast, saying:

Nobis quoque peccatoribus famulis tuis, de multitudine miserationum tuarum sperantibus, partem aliquam et societatem donare digneris cum tuis sanctis Apostolis et Martyribus: cum Joanne, Stephano, Mathia, Barnaba, Ignatio, Alexandro, Marcellino, Petro, Felicitate, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucia, Agnete, Cæcilia, Anastasia, et omnibus Sanctis tuis; intra quorum nos consortium, non æstimator meriti, sed veniæ, quæsumus, largitor admitte. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Per quem hæc omnia, Domine, semper bona creas, sanctificas, vivificas, benedicis, et præstas nobis: per ipsum, et cum ipso et in ipso, est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti, in unitate Spiritus Sancti, omnis honor et gloria.
Alas! we are poor sinners, O God of all sanctity! yet do we hope that thy infinite mercy will grant us to share in thy kingdom, not, indeed, by reason of our works, which deserve little else than punishment, but because of the merits of this Sacrifice, which we are offering to thee. Remember, too, the merits of thy holy Apostles, of thy holy Martyrs, of thy holy Virgins, and of all thy Saints. Grant us, by their intercession, grace in this world, and glory eternal in the next: which we ask of thee, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son. It is by him thou bestowest upon us thy blessings of life and sanctification; and by him also, with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, may honour and glory be to thee!

Whilst saying these last few words, the Priest has taken up the sacred Host, which was on the altar; he has held it over the Chalice, thus re-uniting the Body and Blood of the divine Victim, in order to show that he is now immortal. Then raising up both Chalice and Host, he offers to God the most noble and perfect homage which the divine Majesty could receive.

This solemn and mysterious rite ends the Canon. The silence of the Mysteries is broken. The Priest concludes his long prayers by saying aloud, and so giving the faithful the opportunity of expressing their desire that his supplications be granted:

Per omnia sæcula sæculorum.
For ever and ever.

Answer him with faith, and in a sentiment of union with your holy Mother the Church:

Amen.
Amen! I believe the mystery which has just been accomplished. I unite myself to the offering which has been made, and to the petitions of the Church.

It is time to recite the prayer which our Saviour himself has taught us. Let it ascend up to heaven together with the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. How could it be otherwise than heard, when he himself who made it for us is in our very hands now whilst we say it? As this prayer belongs in common to all God’s children, the Priest recites it aloud, and begins by inviting us all to join in it.

Oremus

Præceptis salutaribus moniti, et divina institutione formati, audemus dicere:
Let us Pray

Having been taught by a saving precept, and following the form given us by a divine instruction, we thus presume to speak:

The Lord's Prayer

Pater noster, qui es in cœlis: Sanctificetur nomen tuum: Adveniat regnum tuum: Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in cœlo, et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie: Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily Bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation.

Let us answer with deep feeling of our misery:

Sed libera nos a malo.
But deliver us from evil.

The Priest falls once more into the silence of the holy Mysteries. His first word is an affectionate Amen to your last petition—deliver us from evil—on which he forms his own next prayer: and could he pray for anything more needed? Evil surrounds us everywhere, and the Lamb on our altar has been sent to expiate it and deliver us from it.

Libera nos, quæsumus Domine, ab omnibus malis, præteritis, præsentibus et futuris: et intercedente beata et gloriosa semper Virgine Dei Genitrice Maria, cum beatis Apostolis tuis Petro et Paulo, atque Andrea, et omnibus Sanctis, da propitius pacem in diebus nostris: ut ope misericordiæ tuæ adjuti, et a peccato simus semper liberi, et ab omni perturbatione securi. Per eumdem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus.
How many, O Lord, are the evils which beset us! Evils past, which are the wounds left on the soul by our sins, and strengthen her wicked propensities. Evils present, that is, the sins now at this very time upon our soul; the weakness of this poor soul; and the temptations which molest her. There are also future evils, that is, the chastisement which our sins deserve from the hand of thy justice. In presence of this Host of our Salvation, we beseech thee, O Lord, to deliver us from all these evils, and to accept in our favour the intercession of Mary the Mother of Jesus, of thy holy Apostles Peter and Paul and Andrew. Liberate us, break our chains, give us peace: through Jesus Christ, thy Son, who with thee liveth and reigneth God.

The Priest is anxious to announce the Peace which he has asked and obtained; he therefore finishes his prayer aloud, saying:

Per omnia sæcula sæculorum.

℟. Amen.
World without end.

℟. Amen.

Then he says:

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum.
May the Peace of our Lord be ever with you.

To this paternal wish reply:

℟. Et cum spiritu tuo.
℟. And with thy spirit.

The Mystery is drawing to a close: God is about to be united with man, and man with God, by means of Communion. But first, an imposing and sublime rite takes place at the altar. So far the Priest has announced the Death of Jesus; it is time to proclaim his Resurrection. To this end, he reverently breaks the sacred Host, and having divided it into three parts, he puts one into the Chalice, thus reuniting the Body and Blood of the immortal Victim. Do you adore, and say:

Hæc commixtio et consecratio Corporis et Sanguinis Domini nostri Jesu Christi, fiat accipientibus nobis in vitam æternam. Amen.
Glory be to thee, O Saviour of the world, who didst, in thy Passion, permit thy precious Blood to be separated from thy sacred Body, afterwards uniting them again together by thy divine power.

Offer now your prayer to the ever-living Lamb, whom St John saw on the Altar of Heaven standing as though slain: say to this your Lord and King:

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, give us Peace.

Peace is the grand object of our Saviour's coming into the world: he is the Prince of Peace. The divine Sacrament of the Eucharist ought therefore to be the Mystery of Peace, and the bond of Catholic Unity; for, as the Apostle says, all we who partake of one Bread, are all one Bread and one Body.[18] It is on this account that the Priest, now that he is on the point of receiving, in Communion, the Sacred Host, prays that fraternal Peace may be preserved in the Church, and more especially in this portion of it which is assembled round the altar. Pray with him and for the same blessing:

Domine Jesu Christe, qui dixisti Apostolis tuis: Pacem relinquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis: ne respicias peccata mea, sed fidem Ecclesiæ tuæ: eamque secundum voluntatem tuam pacificare et coadunare digneris. Qui vivis et regnas Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, who saidst to thy Apostles, “my peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you”: regard not my sins, but the faith of thy Church, and grant her that peace and unity which is according to thy will. Who livest and reignest God for ever and ever. Amen.

If it be a High Mass, the Priest here gives the kiss of peace to the Deacon, who gives it to the Sub-Deacon, and he to the Choir. During this ceremony, you should excite within yourself feelings of Christian charity, and pardon your enemies, if you have any. Then continue to pray with the Priest:

Domine Jesu Christe, Fili Dei vivi, qui ex voluntate Patris, cooperante Spiritu Sancto, per mortem tuam mundum vivificasti: libera me per hoc sacrosanctum Corpus et Sanguinem tuum, ab omnibus iniquitatibus meis, et universis malis, et fac me tuis semper inhærere mandatis, et a te nunquam separari permittas. Qui cum eodem Deo Patre et Spiritu Sancto vivis et regnas Deus in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who, according to the will of thy Father, through the co-operation of the Holy Ghost, hast by thy death given life to the world; deliver me by this thy most sacred Body and Blood from all my iniquities, and from all evils; and make me always adhere to thy commandments, and never suffer me to be separated from thee, who with the same God the Father and the Holy Ghost, livest and reignest God for ever and ever. Amen.

If you are going to Communion at this Mass, say the following Prayer; otherwise, prepare yourself to make a Spiritual Communion:

Perceptio Corporis tui, Domine Jesu Christe, quod ego indignus sumere præsumo, non mihi proveniat in judicium et condemnationem: sed pro tua pietate prosit mihi ad tutamentum mentis et corporis, et ad medelam percipiendam. Qui vivis et regnas cum Deo Patre in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
Let not the participation of thy Body, O Lord Jesus Christ, which I, though unworthy, presume to receive, turn to my judgement and condemnation; but through thy mercy may it be a safeguard and remedy both to my soul and body. Who with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, livest and reignest God for ever and ever. Amen.

When the Priest takes the Host into his hands, in order to his receiving it in Communion, say:

Panem cœlestem accipiam, et nomen Domini invocabo.
Come, my dear Jesus, come!

When he strikes his breast, confessing his unworthiness, say thrice with him these words, and in the same disposition as the Centurion of the Gospel, who first used them:

Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea.
Lord, I am not worthy thou shouldst enter under my roof; say it only with one word of thine, and my soul will be healed.

Whilst the Priest receives the sacred Host, if you also are to communicate, adore profoundly your God, who is ready to take up his abode within you, and again say to him with the spouse: Come, Lord Jesus, come!

But should you not be going to receive sacramentally, make a Spiritual Communion. Adore Jesus Christ who thus visits your soul by his grace, and say to him:

Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam meam in vitam æternam. Amen.
I give thee, O Jesus, this heart of mine, that thou mayest dwell in it, and do with me what thou wilt.

Then the Priest takes the Chalice, in thanksgiving, and says:

Quid retribuam Domino pro omnibus, quæ retribuit mihi? Calicem salutaris accipiam, et nomen Domini invocabo. Laudans invocabo Dominum, et ab inimicis meis salvus ero.
What return shall I make to the Lord for all he hath given to me? I will take the Chalice of salvation, and will call upon the name of the Lord. Praising I will call upon the Lord, and I shall be saved from mine enemies.

But if you are to make a Sacramental Communion, you should, at this moment of the Priest’s receiving the precious Blood, again adore the God who is coming to you, and keep to your canticle: Come, Lord Jesus, come!

If, on the contrary, you are going to communicate only spiritually, again adore your divine Master, and say to him:

Sanguis Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam meam in vitam æternam. Amen.
I unite myself to thee, my beloved Jesus! do thou unite thyself to me! and never let us be separated.

It is here that you must approach to the altar, if you are going to Communion. The dispositions suitable for Holy Communion during this season of Christmas are given in the next Chapter, p. 80.

The Communion being finished, whilst the Priest is purifying the Chalice the first time, say:

Quod ore sumpsimus, Domine, pura mente capiamus: et de munere temporali fiat nobis remedium sempiternum.
Thou hast visited me, O God, in these days of my pilgrimage; give me grace to treasure up the fruits of this visit for my future eternity.

Whilst the Priest is purifying the Chalice the second time, say:

Corpus tuum, Domine, quod sumpsi, et Sanguis quem potavi, adhæreat visceribus meis: et præsta ut in me non remaneat scelerum macula, quem pura et sancta refecerunt Sacramenta. Qui vivis et regnas in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
Be thou for ever blessed, O my Saviour, for having admitted me to the sacred mystery of thy Body and Blood. May my heart and senses preserve, by thy grace, the purity which thou hast imparted to them: and I be thus rendered less unworthy of thy divine visit.

The Priest having read the Antiphon called the Communion, which is the first part of his Thanksgiving for the favour just received from God, whereby he has renewed his divine presence among us, turns to the people with the usual salutation; after which he recites the Prayers called the Postcommunion, which are the completion of the Thanksgiving. You will join him here also, thanking God for the unspeakable gift he has just lavished on you, and asking him, with most earnest entreaty, that he will permit you to continue for ever in the company of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

These Prayers having been recited, the Priest again turns to the people, and full of joy for the immense favour he and they have been receiving, he says:

Dominus vobiscum.
The Lord be with you.

Answer him:

Et cum spiritu tuo.

Ite, Missa est.

℟. Deo gratias.
And with thy spirit.

Go, the Mass is finished.

℟. Thanks be to God.

The Priest makes a last Prayer, before giving you his blessing: pray with him:

Placeat tibi, sancta Trinitas, obsequium servitutis meæ, quod oculis tuæ majestatis indignus obtuli, tibi sit acceptabile, mihique, et omnibus, pro quibus illud obtuli, sit, te miserante, propitiabile. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Eternal thanks be to thee, O adorable Trinity, for the mercy thou hast showed to me in permitting me to assist at this divine Sacrifice. Pardon me the negligence and coldness wherewith I have received so great a favour, and deign to confirm the blessing which thy Minister is about to give me in thy Name.

The Priest raises his hand, and thus blesses you:

Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus, Pater, et Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus.

℟. Amen.
May the Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, bless you!

℟. Amen.

He then concludes the Mass, by reading the first fourteen verses of the Gospel according to St John, which tell us of the eternity of the Word, and of the mercy which led him to take upon himself our flesh, and to dwell among us. Pray that you may be of the number of those who, now that he has come unto his own, receive him, and are made the sons of God.

℣. Dominus vobiscum.

℟. Et cum spiritu tuo.

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.

℟. Deo gratias.
℣. The Lord be with you.

℟. And with thy spirit.

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 he 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.

℟. Thanks be to God.

 

 

[1] Heb. x 5.
[2] St Luke ii 16.
[3] St John i 5.
[4] Isa. xvi 1.
[5] Ibid, ix 6.
[6] St Matt, i 23.
[7] Heb. i 1, 2.
[8] Should Septuagesima occur before February 2nd, observe here that the Alleluia Verse is replaced by the Tract. (See next vol.)
[9] St Luke ii 10, 11.
[10] Cant. v 6.
[11] 1 Kings iii 10.
[12] The Credo is not said on the Octave Days of St Stephen, St John, and Holy Innocents.
[13] 1 Cor. xv 53.
[14] 2 St Pet. i 4.
[15] This Preface is said on Christmas Day, and during its Octave; on the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus; and on the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. The Prefaces for the Epiphany, of the Blessed Trinity, and of the Apostles, will be given in their proper places. The following is the Common Preface, which is said as often as there is not a proper one assigned:
Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere: Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus, per Christum Dominum nostrum; per quem majestatem tuam laudant Angeli, adorant Dominationes, tremunt Potestates, Cœli, cœlorumque Virtutes, ac beata Seraphim, socia exultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces, ut admitti jubeas deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes;
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should always and in all places give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God: through Christ our Lord; by whom the Angels praise thy majesty, the Dominations adore it, the Powers tremble before it; the heavens and the heavenly Virtues, and the blessed Seraphim, with common jubilee glorify it. Together with whom, we beseech thee that we may be admitted to join our humble voices, saying;
[16] Wisd. xviii 14, 15.
[17] Isa. ix 6.
[18] 1 Cor. x 17.

 

 

 

 

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

DURING Advent, Holy Communion prepared the soul for the visible Coming of her heavenly Spouse. He graciously granted her that sublime favour, as a foretaste of that happy Night in which he would show himself to her as the Divine Babe, whose ineffable loveliness would ravish Angels, Shepherds, and Kings. She enjoyed something of that exquisite delight which Mary felt, when she had within her chaste womb the God who was her Child, though as yet concealed from her sight.

But now that Christmas is come; now that a little Child is born unto us, cradled in the House of Bread, which is Bethlehem; now that the Angels have invited the Shepherds, and the Star the Magi, to come and see Him and adore Him; the Holy Communion must take us on further in the knowledge of our Incarnate Word, illumine us with brighter Light, and produce within us a more ardent longing to possess this Jesus, whose love and loveliness gleam so magnificently through the humility of these swathing-bands and manger.

It is no longer the invisible Jesus, preparing, by silence and stillness, for the laborious mission of his conquest of souls: it is the Deliverer of mankind who has begun to run the way;[1] it is the Sun of Justice darting his first rays on our earth; it is cur God, asking us to give him, a weak Babe, room in our hearts; it is our Creator, who loveth souls,[2] striving to win our love.

Then let us go to him, that we may know him; let us know him, that we may love him; let us love him, that we may grow like him. What he demands of us by this Christmas mystery is that we become, like him, little children, for there is now no other means of our possessing him, no other way of going to the Father. Therefore come to him, ye faithful ones, and be enlightened![3] We have ventured to draw up these Acts, thinking that they might assist you in your preparation for the visit you are going to make to the Babe of Bethlehem. May you derive profit from them, and pray for him who gives you them.

BEFORE COMMUNION

Act of Faith

Thou art about to descend into my breast, O eternal God! and yet there is nothing to betoken the approach of thy sovereign Majesty! As on the sacred night of thy birth, thy entrance into Bethlehem was in humility and in silence; so also now, there is nothing to tell men that thou art about to visit me. A Little Child, veiled under the appearance of an humble host, is coming to me, and in a few moments I shall hold within me him who created all things, the Judge of the living and the dead! Oh! how I love to bow down my reason before this wonderful Mystery! How I love, too, to contemplate these incomprehensible abasements of my God, to which he has humbled himself in order that he might exalt me! No, Reason could never have taught me all this! How could Reason tell me what the infinite love of God for his creatures can do, when she cannot even make me see my own nothingness and sinfulness, into which, thou, dear Jesus, art now coming? O Infant God! I believe in thy love, and thy love is omnipotent. I come to thee with a simple Faith, as the Shepherds went to Bethlehem when the Angel spoke these words to them: There is horn unto you in the City of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord: and this shall be a sign unto you: you shall find the Infant wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laid in a crib:[4] they went without delay, and found thee, and believed. I would do in like manner, O my Saviour! The sacramental veils which cover thee are to me what thy infancy, thy swathing-bands, thy crib were to them: and I believe thee to be here really present. Accept this homage of my firm Faith, and receive me as one of those humble Shepherds, whose simple-heartedness merited for them the first place at the feast of Bethlehem.

Act of Humility

But, sweet Saviour! these Shepherds of Bethlehem had another offering besides the simplicity of their Faith, which made them pleasing to thee: it was the humility of their hearts. Thou lovest the humble, O my God! and therefore thou didst prefer these humble men to all the rest of mankind, giving them the grand honour of being the first Worshippers at thy Crib. The humility of Mary drew thee from heaven into her chaste womb; and the humility of these fortunate herdsmen made thee call them to be the first to form, with Mary, Joseph and the Angels, thy court in this humble Stable, which thy adorable presence has converted into a very paradise. In this thou givest an important lesson to me, who am to be favoured as they were, nay, who am about to receive thee within myself. Spare me not, my beloved Jesus; bring down the haughtiness of my spirit; destroy the conceited ambitions of my heart; cast me down at the foot of thy Crib, and suffer me not to rise again until I have become one of those little Children whom thou so lovest, that thou thyself wouldst be one; so the better to come down even so low as to me. It is as a weak Babe that thou comest to me, O infinite God! What can I do, but be confounded, and sink into my deep nothingness, I who have never known the humility and simplicity of a child! In thy divine humility thou wouldst not be born in any other place than a Stable and a Crib; my heart, then, will satisfy thee, dear Jesus! and Bethlehem itself, compared with me, had not a poverty so worthy of that Majesty which loves to descend to what is lowest, and of that Light which glories in shining where the darkness is thickest.

Act of Contrition

And yet, O God of holiness! the Stable and the Crib, though most unworthy of thy Majesty, had nothing in them which could give thee displeasure. No place, no object in thy whole creation, could be worthy to serve thee as throne or palace; but since thou wouldst have a birth-place on this earth, the happy spot on which thy choice would fall would become, however contemptible in itself, a sanctuary worthy of thee, because thy greatness and divinity would consecrate and enrich it. There is but one place unworthy of thee, which thou couldst never choose: the heart of a sinner. Oh! that is the Stable, that is the Crib which would indeed dishonour thee. Ah! my dear Jesus! there are certain consequences, there are certain wounds scarce yet closed, left in me by past sins, which force me to remember that I was once a dwelling wherein thou couldst not enter, until thy merciful grace had removed from me the abominations of my sins. Miserable state! how I now grieve over it and detest it! Now that I see thee become, for my sake, the humble and lovely babe of Bethlehem, how hateful those sins of mine, which needed such a remedy! and how immense that love of thine, which could deign to give it me! There surely can be no more sin, dearest Lord! Give me thy grace to destroy it within me, and root it up to its last fibre. I do not forget those words of thine: Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God,[5] this is the moment for me to come near thy Crib, and do far more than see thee; cleanse, then, my heart, and let neither sin nor attachment to sin ever enter there again.

Act of Love

Such is the prayer of my contrite heart: wilt thou, my Infant God, reject it? The Church, my mother, has led me to Bethlehem; there I see thee in thy Crib leaning forward towards me, and looking on me with sweetness, and bidding me rejoice, for that thou hast pardoned me, O God of infinite mercy! and forgotten my sins. A contrite heart which sues for mercy is not all thou askest of me, nor all that I wish to offer thee: accept, then, my love. Is not this mystery of thy divine Childhood a mystery of Love? Thou comest to me because thou lovest me; but thou comest to me as a little Infant, because thou wishest me to love thee in return, and have confidence in thee. I do indeed desire to love thee, sweet Saviour! but where shall I find a love worthy of being a return for thine, which is so generous, so immense, and what I can least understand, so tender? for it is the love of an Infant God, who treats me, a sinner, as a much-loved Brother. Yet I must say it, my sweetest Jesus! for thy Crib and thy Swathing-bands, the magnificent trophies of thy unmatched love, encourage me to say it: I love thee! I come to thee that I may love thee better. I no longer wish to flee from thee: thou desirest to be united to me by love, nor will I cease to sigh after thee, until I have received thee into my heart, and am made one with thee, according to thy word: He that eateth my Flesh abideth in me, and I in him.[6] O my Jesus! inflame my heart and make it like that of the Shepherds, when they came near to the Stable where thou wast born; like that of the Magi, when the Star stood over Bethlehem, the House of Bread, and showed them that their journeying was at an end; like that of the venerable Simeon, when he saw the Christ of the Lord in Mary's arms, and all the promises fulfilled which he had received from the Holy Ghost. I offer thee the love of these and all thy Saints, of thy Holy Angels, and of thy Blessed Mother herself: let it supply the poverty of my own love, and deign, I beseech thee, to enrich me, by this thy visit, with the gold of divine charity.

Act of Desire

I love thee, O Divine Babe! therefore do I desire thee, and beseech thee to come to me. I must needs desire thee, for thou art, as thy Scripture tells me, The Desire of the everlasting hills.[7] And art thou not Light and Life? Oh! come then, Divine Sun of Justice, enlighten my darkness, and give life to my soul, which faints without thee. The nations of the earth awaited thee as their Deliverer. The Church, thy Spouse, languished with longings for thy visit. Abraham and all the Patriarchs desired to see thy day. Joseph, the Spouse of Mary, is filled with joy at the approach of that blissful hour when his eyes shall see the Son of the Eternal God. The Shepherds are impatient to behold thee: let us go over to Bethlehem, they say, and let us see this Word which is come to pass, which the Lord hath showed to us. The Magi no sooner see the Star, than they set out to seek thee, the Star of Jacob.[8] The aged Simeon is filled with the Holy Ghost, and hastens to the Temple to see the Saviour whom the Lord hath prepared. Anna, the Prophetess, is impelled by a holy enthusiasm, though weighed down with years, to come and see him who is the Consolation of Israel. All creation is excited: the very Angels leave heaven to come to see thee in thy Crib and thy Swaddling-clothes, and seeing thee to adore. Shall I alone be indifferent? Let it not be, my dearest Lord! but rather let my heart long for thee, if not with a like ardour, at least with all its affection. I beseech thee therefore, come into my soul! I offer thee all the prayers and inflamed desires of all thy Saints; and with theirs my own, poor and weak as they are. Yea, come to me; enter into my house; let my heart meet thee; nay, let it be united with thee.

O Mary! Virgin-Mother of the Messias! help me by thy prayers to love him as thou didst, that is, with my whole strength: and lead me to Bethlehem, of which thou art Queen. Ye holy Angels! suffer me to stand, in your glorious choir near the Crib of our God; fit me by your heavenly influence to share in your adorations, and under the shadow of your sacred wings to hide the tatters of my spiritual poverty. All ye Saints of God! by the delights ye found in the mystery of Bethlehem, help me and be near me, now that the great God, who filled you with light and love, is about to come into the poor dark dwelling of my heart! Amen.

In order to make your Preparation complete, follow, with a lively faith and attention, all the mysteries of the Mass at which you are to receive Communion; using for this purpose the method we have given in the preceding chapter. For your Thanksgiving after Communion, you may sometimes recite the following Acts:

AFTER COMMUNION

Act of Adoration

Thou hast, then, come down even unto me, O my Sovereign Lord! and art reposing in my heart, as in a Crib, which thou hast vouchsafed to choose for thyself, O Infant God! My heart is now become like a new Bethlehem, O Bread of Angels! I most devoutly adore thee, thee the great God thus humbling thyself to such an abyss of lowliness. To the hymn of the Angels, Glory be to God in the highest, I must needs add, Glory be to thee, my God, in this depth of my misery and weakness, whither thou hast so mercifully come! Oh! who will teach me, my sweetest Infant Guest! who will teach me how to give thee a worthy welcome of homage? Mary, thy most pure and Blessed Mother, having given thee birth, and placed thee in the Crib, prostrated herself before thee as thy humble handmaid, and adored thee. Never had this guilty earth witnessed a homage so sublime as this: and thou didst deign to accept it, as the noblest thou hadst ever received. Permit me to imitate this thy beloved Mother, and adore thee as she did, O thou my Sovereign Lord! I humbly beseech thee to accept her homage to supply for the unworthiness of mine; for she is my Mother, and thou hast willed that ail her riches and merits should belong to her children. I offer thee, likewise, the adorations of that Just Man, the chaste Spouse of Mary, the admirable Joseph, who had been admitted into the divine secret of Nazareth, and is now made a witness of the touching mystery of Bethlehem. Oh! that I might share in the devoted respect and love of this glorious Saint, so grand because so simple, and so favoured above all mortals in that he was chosen to protect thy Infancy! I also adore thee in company with the Angels, the Shepherds and the Magi; with Simeon and Anna, and all the Church of heaven and earth, which contemplates in glad amazement the sublime miracle of this abasement of thy divine Majesty.

Act of Thanksgiving

But it is not enough, O Divine Babe! that I adore thee; I must thank thee. What an honour is this thou has conferred upon me! What happiness this thou hast brought me! I, a sinner, am become by thy sweet condescension a living Bethlehem, possessing in itself Thee, the Bread of Life. Thy sovereign Majesty has come down even to me, and has chosen my heart for thy throne, or rather for thy Crib. The holy Angels adore thee and praise thee; but thou art granting to me an intimacy which these Blessed Spirits have not—thou art reposing on my heart. The Shepherds are admitted into the Stable to look at thee; they gaze upon thee with simple and loving admiration; but thou dost not permit them to caress thee. The Magi offer thee their royal gifts; but, as the prophecy said of them,[9] they kiss but the ground whereon thy Crib is placed. Happy, then, the aged Simeon, who is permitted to take thee into his arms; but oh! how happier I! who have received into myself, and now hold within me, thee, my Jesus, the Bread of Life! Blessed be thou for ever, O my God! for that thou hast treated with such incomprehensible familiarity this the poorest of all thy servants! I thank thee, and glorify thee, as did the Shepherds, who went so eagerly to Bethlehem, and returned glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; and with such glowing words did they praise thee, that all that heard, wondered at those things that were told them by the Shepherds.[10] So too will I open my lips, and borrowing the words of a Son of Bethlehem, David thy ancestor, I will say: All ye that fear God, come and hear, and I will tell you what great things he hath done to my soul.[11]

Act of Love

Yea, in very truth thou hast loved me, O my divine Guest! for thou hast laden me with the gifts of thy love. How shall I not return thee love for love, and love thee with all this heart of mine, wherein thou dwellest? Be thou loved, then, my infinitely lovable Jesus of Bethlehem! It was to win our love that thou didst lay aside all thy greatness, and, as thy Apostle expresses it,[12] empty thyself of all thy majesty, assuming the form of a servant, nay, of a weak Babe. Verily, to approach thee now with fear and trembling seems out of season, and such loveliness as this should not be approached, but with confident tenderest love. O thou that art to be my dread Judge! thou art now here, resting on my heart; thou art, thou wishest to be, in my power; and according to thine own saying, thou art mine, and I am thine. Jesus! most lovable Jesus! remain with me for ever. Here take up thy abode; here grow before God and men; here reign as my Lord and King and God. To supply for the deficiency of my own love, I offer thee the love wherewith Mary, thy most holy Mother, pressed thee to her sacred Heart, during these the first days of thy life on earth; the love wherewith Joseph, the chaste Spouse of Mary, and thy foster-father, so diligently procured thee all thou didst need; the love wherewith the Shepherds of Bethlehem gazed on thee, the Saviour that was born for them, and knew thee by this sign, that thou wast an Infant—lying—swathed—in a manger;[13] the love wherewith the adoring Magi opened their treasures before thee, and forgot all the fatigues of a long journey, entranced with the sight of thee; the love wherewith the venerable Simeon took thee up in his arms, and felt that he must needs die, now that he had seen Jesus; the love, in fine, of the Holy Angels, who, as thy Apostle tells us,[14] adored thee when born in Bethlehem, and found their heaven in looking on that immortal beauty, made visible, in thy Infant Face, even to the eyes of sinful men. Accept, O my divine Treasure! my sweetest Jesus, accept my love, as thou didst all these, and abide in me for ever.

Act of Oblation

But it is not enough that I love thee, O Divine Infant: thou commandest me to give myself to thee. I was far off, and yet thou camest to me, that thou mightest make me thine own possession; and that I might never more leave thee, thou hast taken up thy dwelling within my heart, making it thy Bethlehem, O Bread of Life! Thou wishest that I should become a little child, after thine example; that I should leave, here at thy Crib, all my pride and disobedience; that my worldly wisdom should yield, at the sight of thy Crib, to the spirit of Faith; that the false light which has hitherto been my guide, should be dispelled by the brightness which comes from the mystery of thy Divine Body swathed in the bands of infancy. O Jesus! thou King of Infants, as one of the Fathers has called thee, I give myself to thee, that thou mayest teach me to become a little child. Accept the promise I make thee, of perfect docility to all thy teachings; grant that it may be constant and always prompted by love. I detest everything in my past life which has been, either in thought or affection, contrary to thy spirit. Henceforth I will be all thine, for thou hast drawn me, by these sacred Mysteries, into holy nearness to thyself. I will imitate the Magi, who, having adored thee, went back another way into their country. May this holy infancy which I have begun after thine example be to me the beginning of a new life, with nothing of my old one in it. Simeon having received thee into his arms, wished to live no more for this earth; and shall I be satisfied with it, I who possess thee here within me? No—henceforth, my life is to be the service of thee, that so I may deserve to be united with thee for ever in heaven.

Mary, Mother of my Jesus! pray for me, that this gracious visit of thy divine Son may produce in me abundant fruits of virtue. Ye Holy Angels of God! who adore him now dwelling within me, be solicitous for the holiness and purity of my soul and body. All ye saints of God! pray for me, that I may ever be faithful to him whom ye loved on earth, and now love eternally in heaven. Amen


[1] Ps. xviii 6.
[2] Wisd. xi 27.
[3] Ps. xxxiii 6.
[4] St Luke ii 11, 12.
[5] St Matt. v 8.
[6] St John vi 57.
[7] Gen. xlix 26.
[8] Num. xxiv 17.
[9] Ps. lxxi.
[10] St Luke ii 16, 18, 20.
[11] Ps. lxv 16.
[12] Phil, ii 7.
[13] St Luke ii 11, 12.
[14] Heb. i 6.

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