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Season of Christmas

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.
[1] St Luke ii 10.

(From Chapter 1: The History of Christmas)

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From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

CHRISTMAS Eve, with its own happy spirit, is drawing to its close. Already has the Church terminated all her Advent Offices, by the celebration of the Holy Sacriftce. In her maternal considerateness, she has permitted her children to break their Fast of preparation for the great Feast, by taking their meal at mid-day. Whilst refreshing their bodies with this repast, to which Abstinence gives merit, the Faithful feel an instinct of gladness which comes as a harbinger, to tell them of that immense joy which this beautiful Night will bring them, by giving them their Emmanuel.

But so great a Solemnity as that of to-morrow could not possibly be an exception to that usage of the Church whereby she anticipates all her Feasts on their Eves. In a few moments the Office of First Vespers, in which is offered to God the evening incense, will call us to the Church, and the splendour of the function, and the magnificence of the chants, will open our hearts to those feelings of love and gratitude which will prepare them to receive the graces of to-night.

Let us spend the interval in endeavouring to gain a clear knowledge of the Mystery of our Feast; and let us absorb well the sentiments and spirit of the Church. We shall be assisted to do both by considering some of the principal traditions which attach to this joyful Solemnity.

Let us begin by listening to the Holy Fathers speaking of Christmas Day with an eloquence worthy of the Feast. And first we have St Gregory the Theologian, Bishop of Nazianzum, who thus opens his thirty-eighth discourse, which is on the Theophania,or Nativity of our Lord.

Christ is born—glorify him! Christ comes down from heaven—go ye forth to meet him! Christ is on the earth—be ye lifted up above it! O sing to the Lord, all thou earth [1] and to say all in one word, Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad,[2]because he that is now born is both of heaven and of earth! Christ has assumed our Flesh—exult in fear and in joy; in fear, because of sin; in joy, because of hope! Christ is born of a Virgin: women! honour holy virginity, that you may become Mothers of Christ!

Who would not adore him that is from the beginning? Who would not praise and extol him that is born in time? Darkness is at an end; Light is created; Egypt remains in darkness, and Israel is enlightened by the pillar of fire. The people that sat in the darkness of ignorance, now possess the bright light of knowledge and wisdom. The old things are passed away, and lo! all things are made new. The letter has given way, the spirit has triumphed; shadows have faded, the reality is come. . . . The laws of nature are set aside; the world of Heaven is to be peopled; Christ commands it—let us obey.

O clap your hands, all ye nations![3] for a Child is born unto us, and a Son is given unto us. The emblem of his Government is upon his shoulder, for his exaltation shall come by the Cross; and his name shall be called the Angel of the Great Counsel, that is, of the Counsel of his Father.[4]

Let the Baptist now cry out: Prepare ye the way of the Lord! I, too, will proclaim the virtues and power of this day. He that is without flesh takes flesh; the Word takes a Body; the Unseen is seen; the Intangible may be touched; the Eternal has a beginning; the Son of God is made the Son of Man—Jesus Christ, yesterday and to-day, and the same for ever.[5] Let the Jew take scandal, and the Greek mock, and the heretic prate. They will believe when they shall see him ascending into heaven; and if not even then, at least when they shall see him coming down from heaven, and seated on his judgement-seat.

It is hard to hear such thrilling eloquence as this, and remain cold. But let us now give ear to a Father of the Latin Church, the devout St Bernard, who, in his Sixth Sermon for Christmas Eve, pours forth his heart’s joy in these fervent words:

We have just heard the saying, which is full of grace, and worthy of all acceptation: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Juda. At these words my soul melts with love, yea, and my spirit that is within me bums with impatience to tell you, as in other years, of this joy, this thrilling joy. Jesus means Saviour. And what so necessary to them that are lost? what so welcome to them that are in misery? what so precious to them that are in despair? Besides, what salvation, what chance of salvation, was there in the law of sin, in that body of death, in so evil a day, and in such a place of affliction—had not a new and unlooked-for Salvation been born? Say not that thou dost indeed desire salvation, but that, knowing thy delicacy and the grievousness of thy sickness, thou fearest lest the cure be violent. No, fear not: this Jesus is Christ, that is, he is all sweetness; he is meek and plenteous in mercy; he is anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, that is, above them who, though they receive not the fulness, yet receive of his fulness. Yet lest thou shouldst think that because this Jesus is the Anointed with sweetness, he is therefore weak in power, it is added, he is the Son of God. . . . Let us, then, be exceeding glad, as we think over within ourselves, or say to each other, this sweet sentence: Jesus Christ—the Son of Godis born in Bethlehem of Juda!

Glorious day, indeed, is this of the Birth of the Saviour!

It had been looked forward to by the human race for four thousand years. The Church had prepared for it by the four weeks of her Advent, a Season which has ever such a charm about it. Nature, too, longs for this day, on which the Sun begins his yearly victory over the dreary reign of wintry darkness. A Holy Doctor of the Syrian Church, St Ephrem, has written the most admirable words on the beauty and fruitful virtue of this mysterious day. Let us borrow some of these from him and say them with his enthusiasm.

Grant, O Lord! that we may now celebrate this the Day of thy Birth, which to-day's Solemnity brings round to us. This Day is like thyself—it is the friend of mankind. It comes to us in its regular course, visiting us each year. It grows old with the old; it is young and fresh with little children. We remember when we were young, how it came and passed away; and here it is again, faithful as ever in its welcome visit. It knows that nature could not do without it; here again like to thee, it comes in search of our fallen race. The whole earth thirsts after thy Birthday, O Jesus! It stands, as it were, between the past and the future, commanding all ages, as thou dost. It is one, and yet it multiplies itself, as thou dost. And since we behold thy past Birthday in this presentFeast, make the two resemble each other in this also—that as thy Birthday brought Peace between heaven and earth, when the infinitely High God descended to this low earth; so may this solemnity signify and give us Peace. . . . And truly, if every day of the year be rich in thy gifts, how much more ought not this to overflow with them?

The other days of the year borrow their beauty from this, and the other Feasts owe to this all their solemnity and loveliness. . . . Thy Birthday, O Jesus! is a treasure out of which we all take wherewith to pay our debts. . . . Blessed be the Day which has brought us back the Sun, after we had been wandering in the dark night; which has brought us the Divine Sheaf that enriches us with plentifulness; which has given us the Vine-Branch that is to yield us, in due time, the cup of our salvation. ... In the bosom of that Winter which robs our trees of their fruit, the virgin Vine has given forth its divine growth. In the Season of frost, which strips our plants of their beauty, the Root of Jesse has given us its Bud. It is in December, which hides the seed sown in the earth, that the Wheat of our salvation appears from the Virgin's womb, into which he had entered in that fresh Spring-time, when the lambkins were skipping in our meadows.[6]

It is not, therefore, to be wondered at, if this day, which, we may say, is an important one even to God himself, has been made a privileged one above those of the rest of the year. We have already seen that the old pagan world paid homage to it, and thus, in their own way, were carrying out the design of God. The Holy Doctors, and the Church herself in her Liturgy, allude continually to the material Sun being the symbol of him who is called the Sun of Justice. Then again, there is the venerable tradition which tells us that the Incarnation of the Son of God having been accomplished on a Friday (March 25), the Birth of Jesus, the Light of the world, must have taken place on December 25, a Sunday. This gives a peculiar sacredness to Christmas Day when it falls on a Sunday, as it was on that day of the week that God began the Creation, and said: Let there he Light! and on the same, also, did our Lord rise from the tomb. St Sophronius of Jerusalem has beautifully treated this mystery in his first homily for Christmas Day.

In order to impress the nations of Europe, that is, of the favoured portion of the Church, with the importance of this ever-blessed day, God, who is the Sovereign Ruler of all things, has willed that on it should happen certain events of intense interest. We will select three of these. To begin with the first in order of time: it was on a Christmas Day that the Kingdom of the Franks was founded; for it was on this glorious Solemnity that King Clovis was baptized at Rheims by St Remigius. The haughty Sicambrian, thus admitted into the Fold of Christ, became a meek and humble Christian, and the founder of the first Catholic monarchy, which is now the nation of France.

A century later, that is in the year 596, our own dearest country was converted to the true faith by the labours of St Augustine, of whom St Gregory the Great, who sent him, says: ‘he was a Monk of my Monastery’[7] This holy Missionary had baptized King Ethelbert, and travelled through the land, preaching everywhere the name and Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Having reached York, he preached the word of Eternal Life to the people, and when he had ended, they seek baptism from his hands. Christmas Day is fixed upon for the regeneration of the Catechumens, and the river which flows through the City is chosen as the Baptismal Font. Ten thousand men, not counting women and children, go down into this stream, whose waters were to cleanse their souls. The severity of the season is unheeded by these fervent disciples of the Babe of Bethlehem, who, but a few days before, knew not so much as his name. From the frozen waters there comes, full of joy and innocence, the long line of Neophytes; and the Birthday of Jesus counts, that year, one nation more as belonging to his Kingdom.

Three hundred years after this, God gives us another glorious event in honour of the Birthday of his Son. It was on this divine Anniversary, in the year 800, and at Rome, in the Basilica of St Peter, that the Holy Roman Empire was created, to which God assigned the grand mission of propagating the Kingdom of Christ among the barbarian nations of the North, and of upholding, under the direction of the Sovereign Pontiffs, the confederation and unity of Europe. St Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor. Here, then, was a new Cæsar, a new Augustus, on the earth; not, indeed, a successor of those ancient Lords of Pagan Rome, butone who was invested with the title and power by the Vicar of him who is called, in the Sacred Scriptures, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Thus has God glorified, in the eyes of men, the Divine Babe who is this day born: thus has he prepared, at various times, worthy anniversaries of that Birth which gave glory to God and Peace to men. Time will reveal in what other ways the Most High still wishes to magnify, upon this twenty-fifth of December, himself and his Christ.

Impressed with the extreme importance of this Feast, and justly looking upon it as the beginning of the Era of the world's regeneration, the nations of the West, for a long time, began their year with Christmas Day, as we find in the ancient Calendars, in the Martyrologies of Usuard and Ado, and in numberless Bulls, Charts and Diplomas. It is evident, from a Council held at Cologne in 1310, that this manner of computing the year was still observed at that time. In several countries of Europe, our own among the rest, the custom has been kept up of wishing a Happy Christmas, which was the ancient salutation when this Feast was the beginning of a new year. Hence too, in these countries, the custom of making presents, of writing letters of good wishes, and other friendly acts. How many of our practices of everyday life have originated from Faith, and yet are looked upon as mere consequences of natural good-feeling, or even compliments which society requires us to pay to each other!

To encourage her children in their Christmas joy, the Church has dispensed with the law of abstinence, if this Feast fall on a Friday. This dispensation was granted by Pope Honorius III, who ascended the Papal Throne in 1216. It is true that we find it mentioned by Pope St Nicholas I, in the ninth century; but the dispensation was not universal; for the Pontiff is replying to the consultations of the Bulgarians, to whom he concedes this indulgence, in order to encourage them to celebrate these Feasts with solemnity and joy: ChristmasDay, St Stephen, St John the Evangelist, the Epiphany, the Assumption of our Lady, St John the Baptist, and SS Peter and Paul. When the dispensation for Christmas Day was extended to the whole Church, these other Feasts were not mentioned.

In the Middle Ages, the Civil Law, also, contributed to the people's love of Christmas, by enacting that no creditor could demand any payment from his debtors during the entire week of Christmas, which was called, on that account, the week of remission—a name which it had in common with the weeks of Easter and Pentecost.

But let us interrupt these interesting details regarding the grand Solemnity, whose near approach makes our hearts throb with joy. Let us repair to the House of our Heavenly Father, for the Hour of Vespers is near; and on our way, let our thoughts be at Bethlehem, where Joseph and Mary are already arrived. The sun is rapidly setting; and our Divine Sun of Justice is still hid beneath the Cloud, the Womb of the purest of Virgins. Night is coming on: Joseph and Mary are going through the narrow streets of the City of David, seeking a shelter. Let our hearts be attentive, and united in love with the two holy Pilgrims. Every heart and voice should now be giving forth to our God the tribute of praise and grateful love. Oh! happy we, that have a tribute of Song and Psalmody ready for our use, worthy of the day and of its ineffable Mystery—it is our Mother that offers us her Liturgy. Let us prepare to join her.


After the usual invocation of the divine assistance, the Church intones, in a most solemn chant, the five following Antiphons, which precede as many Psalms:

1. Ant. Hex pacificus magnificatus est, cujus vultum desiderat universa terra.
1. Ant. The King of Peace, whom the whole earth desireth to see, hath shown his greatness.

Psalm, Dixit Dominus, p. 89.

2. Ant. Magnificatus est Rex pacificus super omnes reges universæ terræ.
2. Ant. The King of Peace is magnified above all the Kings of the earth.

Psalm, Confitebor tibi, p. 90.

3. Ant. Impleti sunt dies Mariæ, ut pareret Filium suum primogenitum.
3. Ant. The days were completed for Mary, that she should bring forth her first-born Son.

Psalm, Beatus vir, p. 91.

4. Ant. Scitote quia prope est regnum Dei: amen dico vobis quia non tardabit.
4. Ant. Know ye, that the Kingdom of God is at hand; amen I say unto you, it shall not tarry.

Psalm, Laudate pueri, p. 92.

5. Ant. Levate capita vestra; ecce appropinquat redemptio vestra.
5. Ant. Raise up your heads: lo! your redemption is at hand.


Laudate Dominum omnes gentes: * laudate eum, omnes populi.

Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia ejus: * et veritas Domini manet in æternum.

O! praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.

For his mercy is confirmed upon us, and the truth of the Lord remaineth for ever.

After having extolled, in these divine canticles, the eternal generation, the fidelity, the mercy, the greatness, and the truth, of her divine Spouse, who is coming, and in a few short hours will show himself to her, the Church suspends her praise for a moment, and listens, in the Capitulum, to the consoling words of the Apostle of the Gentiles concerning the coming of God our Saviour.

(Tit. iii 4)

Apparuit benignitas et humanitas Salvatoris nostri Dei, non ex operibus justitiae quæ fecimus nos, sed secundum misericordiam suam salvos nos fecit.
The goodness and kindness of God our Saviour hath appeared; not by the works of justice, which we have done, but according to his mercy hath he saved us.

Encouraged afresh by these beautiful words, the Church resumes her praises, not borrowing, this time, the psalmody of the Royal Prophet, but singing a Hymn to Jesus, her Spouse, on the glory and beauty of his Birthday, which makes all Nature glad, and brings the sweetest joy of heart to such as know how to love the Divine Babe. It was St Ambrose—the Bee of Milan, as he has been called—who composed this Hymn, which is sung to-day in almost every part of the world.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


. Crastina die delebitur iniquitas terræ;
. Et regnabit super nos Salvator mundi.
O Jesu! Redeemer of mankind!
born before the light was made,
and born of the Eternal Father,
equal to him in infinite glory;

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

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

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

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

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

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


. To-morrow the iniquity of the earth shall be cancelled;
℟. And over us shall reign the Saviour of the world.

And now Mary's own words are to resound in the holy place! The sweet Canticle which she sang at her Visitation to Elizabeth, when, holding within herself the divine and secret Treasure, she celebrated the great things of God's power in her—this Canticle, without which the Church never lets the sun go down, is now going to be sung. O Mary! the hour is fast approaching which will manifest to both heaven and earth that divine Maternity of thine which will make all generations call thee Blessed.Suffer us to unite our souls with thine in magnifying the Lord, and to rejoice in our spirit, as thou didst in thine, in God our Saviour, who is thy Son!

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Cum ortus fuerit sol de cœlo, videbitis Regem regum procedentem a Patre, tanquam sponsum de thalamo suo.
When the sun shall have risen in the heavens, ye shall see the King of Kings coming from the Father, as a Bridegroom from his bride-chamber.

The Canticle Magnificat, p. 96.

Finally, the Church expresses all her desires in the following Prayer, which is to ascend to the Throne of God not only at every Hour of Christmas Day, but several times each day during the Octave:


Concede, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem nativitas liberet, quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus tenet. Per eumdem Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we who groan under the old captivity of sin, may be freed therefrom by the new Birth of thine Only-Begotten Son. Through the same Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

During our Vespers, the last rays of day have disappeared, and darkness has covered the earth. The Sacred Ministers, vested in their richest copes, have left the Sanctuary. In a few moments they will reenter the Church, and repair to the Tribunal of Penance, there to administer to penitent sinners the reconciliation they ask of God through the merciful Birth of his OnlyBegotten Son. All is solemn silence in the Church, which, but a few moments before, echoed with the glad chants of our praise. Let us adore the Majesty of our God, and once more present our prayer to the King of Ages, that he send down the Dew for which our earth is thirsting; and with this prayer of our hope, let us, for a last time, mingle a thought of that salutary fear of the Last Judgement which the Church has nurtured within our souls during the holy Season of Advent.

Let us embody these sentiments in a Prayer taken from the Gothic or Mozarabic Liturgy: it is a beautiful one, and most appropriate.

Prayer from the Mozarabic Breviary
(For the Nativity of our Lord, in the Evening Office, Capitula)

Rorate cœli desuper, utique prophetando Christum, et nubes pluant justum; dum Sancti omnes ejus præconantur adventum. Aperiatur terra, ut, Angelo scilicet alloquente, Virgo concipiat, et pariat Salvatorem. Hic igitur ros, qui abs te est, omnipotens Pater, rogamus, et petimus, ut fiat sanitas infirmorum; et hæc pluvia matutini temporis, præbe, nostri temporis infundat arentem, quæ infusa, tanta gratia præteritum facinus abluat, et æternum credentibus justitiæ lumen infundat; nec non ejusdem Filii tui Domini nostri indemnes præsentiam contuentes, atque cum cœlicolis coetui ejus in jubilo occurrentes, hoc canticum lætitiæ præcinamus orantes: Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini, Deus Dominus, et illuxit nobis; cujus nos adventus redemit, et Nativitas illustravit: Qui veniens requisivit perditos, illuminavit in tenebris constitutos. Tribue ergo omnipotens Pater, ut diem Nativitatis ejus ita devotione piissima celebremus, ut judicii diem mitissimum sentiamus: ut cujus benignitatem in redemptione cognovimus, ejus pietatem in judicio mansuetam sentiamus.
Drop down Dew, ye heavens, from above—by prophesying Jesus to our earth; and let the clouds rain the Just One—let all the saintly prophets herald his coming. Let the earth be opened, that, as the Angel is speaking unto her, the Virgin may conceive and bring forth the Saviour. We pray and we beseech thee, O Almighty Father, let this Dew, which comes down from thee, give health to the sick; and this Rain of morn, let it sink into the parched soil of our times, and by the infusion of its abundant grace, cleanse away past sins, and shed over them that believe the eternal light of justice. Moreover, may we, looking with confidence at the presence of our Lord Jesus thy Son, and joyfully going to meet him in company with the heavenly citizens, sing to him this canticle of joy and prayer: Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: The Lord is God, and he hath shone upon us: his Coming hath redeemed us, and his Nativity hath enlightened us: he that came looking for the lost ones hath given light to them that sat in darkness. Grant unto us, therefore, O Almighty Father, so most devoutly to celebrate the day of his Birth, as that the day of his Judgement may be to us a day of exceeding mercy: that thus, having felt how great is his goodness in redeeming, we may experience how gentle is his mercy in judging us.


And now we will leave the House of God, and attend to the duties of our state of life at home, until the hour of Matins summons us to return and celebrate the Midnight Birth of our Saviour. In order to prepare ourselves for that most imposing Service, we shall do well to resume the reflections upon the Liturgy of our Feast, which we interrupted in order to assist at Vespers. How few would keep from the Service of Christmas Night, and how still fewer would complain that they never seem to derive that benefit from it, which they are told is so great, if they would but take the pains to ask themselves why it is that the Church attaches such importance to her children's joining her in the celebration of this gay Winter Midnight!




[1] Ps. xcv 1.
[2] Ibid. xcv 11.
[3] Ibid. xlvi 2.
[4] Isa. ix 6.
[5] Heb. xiii 8.
[6] Third Sermon On our Lord's Nativity.
[7] Lib. 8, Ep. 30.
[8] In the Monastic Breviary, it is as follows: ℟. Breve. Hodie scietis * quia veniet Dominus. Hodie. ℣. Et mane videbitis gloriam ejus. * Quia. Gloria. Hodie. In 2nd Vespers. ℟. Breve. Verbum caro factum est, * Alleluia, Alleluia. Verbum. ℣. Et habitavit in nobis. * Alleluia. Gloria. Verbum. Christe, Redemptor omnium, Ex Patre Patris Unice, Solus ante principium Natus ineffabiliter, Tu lumen, tu splendor Patris, Tu spes perennis omnium, Intende quas fundunt preces Tui per orbem famuli. Memento salutis Auctor Quod nostri quondam corporis Ex illibata Virgine Nascendo formam sumpseris. Sic præsens testatur dies, Currens per anni circulum, Quod solus a sede Patris Mundi salus adveneris. Hunc cœlum, terra, hunc mare, Hunc omne quod in eis est, Auctorem adventus tui Laudans exsultat cantico. Nos quoque qui sancto tuo Redempti Sanguine sumus, Ob diem Natalis tui Hymnum novum concinimus. Gloria tibi Domine, Qui natus es de Virgine, Cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu, In sempiterna sæcula. Amen.





From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

We will begin by telling them that in the early ages of the Church every great Feast was prepared for by long Vigils; during which the people deprived themselves of their usual rest, and spent the hours in the Church, fervently joining in the Psalms and Lessons which made up the Office which we now call Matins. The Night was divided into three parts called Nocturns. At dawn of day they resumed their chants in an Office which was even more solemn than Matins: it was one of praise, and from this its characteristic, was called by the name of Lauds. This Service, which occupied a very considerable portion of the night, is still kept up, though at a time less trying to nature; Matins and Lauds are publicly recited every day in Cathedral and Monastic Churches, and privately by everyone in Holy Orders. They are by far the longest portion of the Divine Office. The want of the old spirit of devoted appreciation of the Liturgy has made the Laity indifferent to being present at the celebration of Matins, and this even in countries where Protestantism has not rendered their presence almost an impossibility. Thus, there are very few places where the people assist at Matins, excepting four times in the year; namely, on the three last days of Holy Week, and on Christmas Night. It is only on the last named that the Office is said at the same hour as anciently; for with regard to Tenebræ, they are recited on the afternoons respectively preceding each of the three days.

The Office of Christmas Night has always been said or sung with extraordinary solemnity. Firstly, it was so just, that the moments immediately preceding the Hour when the Holy Mother gave birth to her Jesus, should be spent in the most fervent prayers and watchings! But, secondly, the Church is not satisfied tonight with saying her Matins—she does so every night, and the faithful may come and assist at them as often as they wish:—she follows them by the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that so she may the better solemnize the Divine Birth; and she begins her Mass at Midnight, for it was at that silent hour that the VirginMother gave us the Blessed Fruit of her Womb. We cannot be surprised that the faithful, in many parts of Christendom, used to spend the whole Night in the Church.

In Rome, for many centuries—at least from the seventh to the eleventh—two Matins were sung, the first in the Basilica of St Mary Major. They commenced immediately after sunset. There was no Invitatory. As soon as they were ended, the Pope celebrated the first or midnight Mass. No sooner was it finished, than the people accompanied him to the Church of St Anastasia, and there he sang the second Mass, or, as it was called, of the Aurora. Again the Pontiff and people formed a procession—this time it was to St Peter’s—and having entered the Basilica, the second Matins were begun. They had an Invitatory, and were followed by Lauds. The other Hours having been sung, the Pope said the third and last Mass, at the hour of Terce, which is our 9 o’clock. We are indebted for these details to Amalarius, and to the ancient Liturgist of the thirteenth century published under the name of Alcuin. We also find them clearly indicated by the text of the old Antiphonaries of the Roman Church, which were published by the Blessed Joseph Maria Tommasi, and by Gallicioli.

How lively was the faith of those olden times! To people who lived unceasingly amidst the Mysteries of Religion, Prayer was a tie which knit them closely together, and made them pass hours in the Church without weariness. They understood the value of the Prayers of the Church; and the Ceremonies of the Liturgy, which complete the tribute of man’s inward worship of his Creator, were not looked upon as, unfortunately, they now so often are, as a dumb show, or at best an unmeaning poetry introduced for effect. What, in our days, are found only in individuals, were then in the mass of the people—faith, and a keen sense of the supernatural.

Thanks be to God! this strong practical faith is not dead among us, and is each year spreading in the land. How often have not we ourselves been charmed at seeing the traditions of the old Catholic customs still kept up in some families, especially in those favoured parts of the country where heresy has not been able to corrupt the simplicity of the people. We have seen, and it is one of the most pleasing recollections of our childhood, one of these families seated together, after the frugal evening collation, round a blazing fireside, waiting for the hour to come when the whole house was to go to the midnight Mass. A plain but savoury supper, which was to be eaten on their return home, and so add to the joy of holy Christmas Night, was prepared beforehand. A huge piece of wood, called the Yule-Log, was burning cheerfully on the hearth; it would last till the Mass was over, and warm the old men and the little children, as they came in chilled by the sharp frost.

Meanwhile, till it was time for Mass, their conversation was upon the Mystery of this much-loved Night. They compassionated the Blessed Mother and the sweet Babe, exposed to the inclemency of wintry weather, and with no other shelter than that of a wretched stable. Then, too, there were the Christmas Carols, in the practise of which they had spent many a pleasant evening of Advent. The whole soul was evidently in these dear old melodies, and many a tear would fall as the song went on to tell how the Angel Gabriel visited Mary, and declared to her that she was to be Mother of the Most High God; how Mary and Joseph were worn with fatigue, going from street to street in Bethlehem, trying to find a lodging, and no one would take them in; how they were obliged to shelter in a stable, and how the Divine Child was born in it; how the loveliness of the Babe in his little crib was above all the beauty of the Angels; how the Shepherds went to see him, and took their humble gifts, and played their rude music, and adored him in the faith of their simple hearts. And thus they spent the happy Eve, passing from conversation to song, and from one song to another, and all was on Mary or Jesus, Joseph or Bethlehem. Cares of life were forgotten, troubles were gone, melancholy was a sin; but it was time to leave; the village clock had just gone eleven; and of the happy group, there was a little one who had been too young the other years, and this was his first Midnight Mass. There was no brighter face in the procession than his. Would he ever forget that beautiful Night!

In many of our readers, these reminiscences will excite a feeling of regret that the miseries of the world around us make such Catholic customs as these unrealities: at all events, they will show how the holiest feelings of religion may blend with the best joys of family and home. The lesson is worth learning, though the examples that teach it are too Catholic for these rough times. Let us, therefore, leave them and turn again to objects, which are realities, made holy by to-night’s Mystery, they will assist us to enter still further into the spirit of the Church.

There are three places on this earth of ours which we should visit to-night. For two of them, it can only be in spirit. The first is Bethlehem, and the Cave of the Nativity, which is Bethlehem’s glory. Let us approach it with respectful awe, and contemplate the humble dwelling which the Son of the Eternal God chose for his first home. It is a Stable in the hollow of a rock, just outside the city walls. It is about forty feet long by twelve in width. The ox and the ass, as spoken by the Prophet, are there, standing near the Manger, mute witnesses of the Divine Mystery to which man refused to lend his own dwelling.

Joseph and Mary enter into the Stable-Cave. It is night, and all nature is buried in silence; but these two Hearts are sending up their praise and adoration to God, who thus deigns to atone for man's pride. The Virgin-Mother prepares the Clothes which are to swathe the limbs of the Divine Infant, and longs, though with a most tranquil patience, for the blissful moment when she shall have the first sight of the Blessed Fruit of her womb, kiss him, caress him and feed him—the Eternal God—at her Breast.

Our Jesus, on his part, now that he is about to leave the sanctuary of his Mother’s womb, and make his visible entrance into this world of sin, adores his Heavenly Father, and, according to the revelation of the Psalmist, which is commented by St Paul in his Epistle to the Hebrews, thus speaks: Sacrifice and oblation thou willedst not; but a Body thou hast fitted unto me. Holocausts for sin did not please thee. Then said /, behold I come. In the head of the Book it is written of me that I should do thy will, O God![1]

All this was happening in the Stable at Bethlehem, about this very hour of the Night. The Angels of God were singing their anthems of praise to this his incomprehensible mercy towards his rebel creatures. They looked down with admiration upon the Mother of their God, the Mystical Rose, whose hidden beauty was soon to bloom and fill the world with its fragrance.

O happy cave of Bethlehem! scene of these stupendous Mysteries! who is there that can forget it to-night? Who is there that does not love it above the richest palaces of Kings? From the very commencement of Christianity it was the object of men's deepest veneration. When, later on, God sent the great St Helen to resuscitate in his Church the knowledge and love of the Holy Places of Palestine, one of the works of the holy Empress was to build a magnificent Basilica over the spot, where stands this trophy of God's love for his creatures.

Let us go in spirit to this venerable Basilica; we shall find there groups of infidels and schismatics, but we shall also find the Religious who have the care of it, preparing to sing the same Matins, and in the same Latin tongue, which we are to have. These Religious are the Children of St Francis, heroic followers of the poverty of their Divine Master, the Infant of Bethlehem. Because they are poor and humble therefore they have had, for upwards of four hundred years, the honour of being the sole guardians of these Holy Places, which the Crusaders grew tired of defending. Let us pray in union with them to-night; and go with them, and kiss that sacred spot of the Cave, where is written in letters of gold: Here was Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary. (Hic de Virgine Maria Jesus Christus natus est.)

In vain, however, should we seek at Bethlehem for the holy Crib in which the Infant Jesus lay. The curse of God has struck that unhappy country, and deprived it of this precious relic, which now, for upwards of twelve hundred years, has been venerated in the centre of Catholicity, Rome, the favoured Spouse of Christ.

Rome, then, is the second place we must visit on this blessed Night. And in the Holy City itself there is one special Sanctuary which claims all our veneration and love. It is the Basilica of the Crib, the splendid Church of Saint Mary Major. Of all the Churches which the people of Rome have erected in honour of the Mother of God, this is the grandest. It stands on the Esquilme,rich in its marble and gold, but richer still in its possessing, together with the Portrait of our Lady painted by St Luke, the humble yet glorious Crib of Jesus, of which the inscrutable designs of God have deprived Bethlehem. An immense concourse of people is to-night assembled in the Basilica, awaiting the happy moment when this monument of the love and the humiliation of a God will be brought in, carried on the shoulders of the Priests, as an Ark of the New Covenant, whose welcome sight gives the sinner confidence, and makes the just man thrill with joy. Thus has God willed that Rome, which was to be the new Jerusalem, should be also the new Bethlehem; and that the children of the Church should find, in this the unchangeable centre of their Faith, the varied and exhaustless nourishment of their Love.

But the Basilica of the Crib is not the only sanctuary in Rome which has an attraction for us to-night. An imposing ceremony, which embodies a profound mystery, is taking place, at this very hour, in the palace of the Vatican, near the Tomb of the Prince of the Apostles.

The Divine Infant, who is to be born amongst us, is the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace, whose government is upon his shoulders,[2] as we shall sing to-morrow, with the Church. We have already seen how the God of Hosts has honoured this power of Emmanuel, by leading powerful Nations to acknowledge him who lay in the Crib of Bethlehem as the Lord to whom they owed their adoring fealty. The same recognition of that Babe as the Mighty God is made by the ceremony to which we allude. The Sovereign Pontiff, the Vicar of our Emmanuel, blesses, in his name, a Sword and Helmet, which are to be sent to some Catholic warrior who has deserved well of the Christian world. In a letter addressed to Queen Mary of England and to Philip, her husband, Cardinal Pole gives an explanation of this solemn rite. The sword is sent to some Prince, whom the Vicar of Christ wishes to honour in the name of Jesus, who is King: for the Angel said to Mary: The Lord will give unto him the Throne of David his father.[3] It is from him alone that the power of the sword comes;[4] for God said to Cyrus: I have girded thee (with the sword[5]); and the Psalmist thus speaks to the Christ of God: Gird thy Sword upon thy thigh, O thou most Mighty![6] And because the Sword should not be drawn save in the cause of justice, it is for that reason that a Sword is blessed on this Night, in the midst of which rises, born unto us, the divine Sun of Justice. On the Helmet, which is both the ornament and protection of the head, there is worked, in pearls, the Dove, which is the emblem of the Holy Ghost; and this to teach him who wears it that it is not from passion or ambition that he must use his sword, but solely under the guidance of the divine Spirit, and from a motive of spreading the Kingdom of Christ.

How beautiful is this union of energy and meekness under the one symbol and ceremony! This power of blending and harmonizing the varied beauty of distinct classes of truth is not to be found save in that Christian Rome, which is our Mother and where God has established the centre of Light and Love. The ceremony we have been describing is still observed. What a grand list it would be, had we the names of all those glorious Christian Warriors, who were thus created Knights of the Church, at this solemn hour, when we celebrate the Birth of him who came to vanquish our enemy! We are going to adore this Babe in his Crib; let us think of our Mother's teaching, and pay homage to him as our Prince and King, and beseech him to humble the enemies of his Church, and vanquish those who are leagued against both our perfection and our salvation.

And now to the third of the sanctuaries, wherein is to be effected, this Night, the mystery of the Birth of Jesus. This third Sanctuary is near us; it is in us; it is our own heart. Our heart is the Bethlehem that Jesus desires to visit, and in which he would be born, there to live and grow unto a perfect man, as St Paul expresses it.[7] Why, after all, was he born in the stable of the city of David, but that he might make sure of our heart, which he loved with an everlasting love, and so ardently that he came down from heaven to dwell in it? Mary's virginal womb held him but for nine months; he wishes us to keep him for ever in our dwelling!

O heart of man, thou living Bethlehem, hold thyself in readiness, and keep a glad feast! Already, thou hast prepared thyself for this union with thy Jesus by the confession of thy misdeeds, by the contrition of thy sins, and by the satisfaction thou hast made for them. Now, therefore, be all attention: he is coming in the Midnight. Let him find everything ready, ready as were the Stable, the Crib and the Swaddling-clothes. True, thou hast nothing to offer him like what Mary and Joseph had—she, a Mother's caresses; and he, the most solicitous and tender care; but thou hast an adoration and a love like those of the poor Shepherds, and these thou must offer. Like the Bethlehem yonder in the far east, thou art living in the midst of heresy, of infidelity, and of men who ignore the divine mystery of divine love: secret then, but hearty, must be thy prayers, like those which are ascending this night to heaven from the few faithful ones who are assembled in the Holy Cave with the Sons of St Francis; for in that unfortunate Palestine, which has been a slave to the most degrading errors for this last thousand years, there are still a few who know and love God. On this glad Midnight, let thy soul become like that splendid Basilica of Rome, which possesses the two treasures, the Holy Crib and the venerable Portrait of the Virgin Mother. Let thy affections and thoughts be pure as the white marble of its pillars; thy charity bright as the gold which glitters on its ceiling; thy deeds shining as the countless tapers which light up its beauty, and turn this night into the glare of a summer noon. Thou must learn, too, O soldier of Christ! to use a Christian's weapons; thou must fight thy way to the Crib of thy Jesus; thou must fight for thy position there, and maintain it by the unbroken loyalty of thy love; thou must fight for the happy consummation of thy victory: union eternal with him. Treasure up these holy sentiments, and let them console and sanctify thee during these moments which precede the coming of Emmanuel into thee. O living Bethlehem! there is a word which heaven gave thee for these moments; take it up, and let it be thy ceaseless prayer; Come, Lord Jesus! come.[8]

It is time for us to depart, and go into the House of God. The Bells are not being rung for us, it is true—still, their melody wakens up Bethlehem in our hearts. How strange this joyous pealing at this midnight hour! But is not everything strange in this mysterious night of the Birth of God? He is going to show himself to us—but it is to be in a Crib, and as a little Child. When he came on Sinai, it


was surrounded with thick clouds of smoke, and amidst thunder and lightning: now, there is nothing but humility, stillness and loveliness beyond measure. The Moon, emblem of the brightness reflected from Jesus upon Mary, is shedding its soft light on our path. The stars are twinkling in the firmament, and make us think of the Star which is so soon to rise and guide the Magi to our Saviour's Crib.

And whilst thus thinking over all these strange mysteries, we have reached the porch of the Church. The Sanctuary sends its light down even to the threshold of the holy place. Beautiful sight, indeed! What wonder that King Clovis, as he entered the Church of Rheims on his first Christmas Night, stood dazzled with the blaze of light, and trembling with emotion said to St Remigius, who had just baptized him: ‘Father! is this the Kingdom thou didst promise me?’ ‘No, my Son,’ replied the Bishop, ‘it is but the way that will lead thee to it.’


After the Pater, Ave and Credo have been said secretly, the Church commences the Office by her usual prayer:

℣. Domine, labia mea aperies.
℟. Et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam.

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

℣. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto:
℟. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen. Alleluia.
℣. O Lord! thou wilt open my lips.
℟. And my mouth shall declare thy praise.

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

℣. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
℟. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Alleluia.

Then comes, with its glad burden—Christ is born unto us—the Invitatory, whereby the Church invites her children every morning to come and adore the Lord. To-night the invitation is made by the Angels, who call us to the Crib of our Redeemer: they speak to us in the words of the Church and the Royal Prophet


Christus natus est nobis, * venite, adoremus.
Christ is born unto us, * come, let us adore.


Venite, exsultemus Domino, jubilemus Deo Salutari nostro; præoccupemus faciem ejus in confessione, et in psalmis jubilemus ei.

Christus natus est nobis, * venite, adoremus.

Quoniam Deus magnus Dominus, et Rex magnus super omnes deos: quoniam non repellet Dominus plebem suam, quia in manu ejus sunt omnes fines terræ, et altitudines montium ipse conspicit.

Venite, adoremus.

Quoniam ipsius est mare, et ipse fecit illud, et aridam fundaverunt manus ejus: Venite, adoremus, et procidamus ante Deum: ploremus coram Domino qui fecit nos; quia ipse est Dominus Deus noster: nos autem populus ejus, et oves pascuæ ejus.

Christus natus est nobis, * venite, adoremus.

Hodie si vocem ejus audieritis, nolite obdurare corda vestra, sicut in exacerbatione secundum diem tentationis in deserto: ubi tentaverunt me patres vestri, probaverunt et viderunt opera mea.

Venite, adoremus.

Quadraginta annis proximus fui generationi huic, et dixi: Semper hi errant corde: ipsi vero non cognoverunt vias meas, quibus juravi in ira mea, si introibunt in requiem meam.

Christus natus est nobis, * venite, adoremus.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.

Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

Venite, adoremus.

Christus natus est nobis, * venite, adoremus.
Come, let us praise the Lord with joy, let us joyfully sing to God our Saviour; let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise to him with psalms.

Christ is born unto us, * come, let us adore.

For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods; he will not reject his people; for in his hand are all the ends of the earth, and the heights of the mountains are his.

Come, let us adore.

For the sea is his, and he made it, and his hands formed the dry land: come, let us adore and fall down, and weep before the Lord that made us; for he is the Lord our God; and we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Christ is born unto us, * Come, let us adore.

To-day, if ye shall hear his voice, from the Crib, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation according to the day of temptation in the wilderness: where your fathers tempted me, me the Lord, the Father of Emmanuel; they proved me, and saw my works.

Come, let us adore.

Forty years was I nigh unto this generation, and I said: These always err in heart: and these men have not known my ways: so I swore in my wrath that they shall not enter into my rest.

Christ is born unto us: * come, let us adore.

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.

Come, let us adore.

Christ is born unto us, * come, let us adore.

After the Invitatory, the Church intones the sweet Hymn on the Birth of Jesus, composed by St Ambrose, which was sung in our First Vespers. Let us again sing it to our Redeemer, and feed our spirit on its delicious unction.


Jesu, Redemptor omnium.
O Jesus! Redeemer of mankind, etc.

See above, p. 116.

Thus far are the preludes to our solemn Night Office which now commences. It is divided into three vigils, or Nocturns, each of which is composed of three Psalms, three Lessons and three Responsories. The Responsories are a sort of interlude after each Lesson: but the third Lesson of the Third Nocturn is followed by the Te Deum, which takes the place of a Responsory. The interpreters of the Liturgy thus explain the Three Nocturns of tonight’s Matins. The first signifies the time which preceded the Written Law, given by God to Moses. In the Middle Ages it was the custom to veil the Altar in black during this Nocturn, to express the sentence of condemnation pronounced by God against our first Parents, and the long ages which would then have to pass before the Redeemer came. The second Nocturn signifies the time under the Written Law; and during this Nocturn the Altar was covered with a white veil, to denote that, under the Law, men received a greater degree of light, by the figures and prophecies of the Old Testament. And lastly, the third Nocturn signifies the time under the Law of Grace. During this Nocturn the Altar was covered with a red veil, to symbolize the love of God for his Spouse the Church, whereby the Son of God and our souls are mystically united.

The First Nocturn

The first Psalm celebrates the Kingly dignity of the Babe that is to be born. All nations are to be given to him as his inheritance, and the day will come when he will judge the Kings who plot his death in Bethlehem. He is the Son of the Eternal Father, begotten in the day of eternity, and now made manifest on this night to the eyes of men.

Ant. Dominus dixit ad me: Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te.
Ant. The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

Psalm 2

Quare fremuerunt gentes: * et populi meditati sunt inania?
Adstiterunt reges terræ, et principes convenerunt in unum: * adversus Dominum, et adversus Christum ejus.
Dirumpamus vincula eorum: * et projiciamus a nobis jugum ipsorum.
Qui habitat in cœlis, irridebit cos: * et Dominus subsannabit eos.
Tunc loquetur ad eos in ira sua: * et in furore suo conturbabit eos.
Ego autem constitutus sum Rex ab eo super Sion montem sanctum ejus: * prædicans præceptum ejus.
Dominus dixit ad me: * Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te.
Postula a me, et dabo tibi gentes hæreditatem tuam: * et possessionem tuam terminos terræ.
Reges eos in virga terrea: * et tamquam vas figuli confringes eos.
Et nunc, reges, intelligite: * erudimini qui judicatis terram.
Servite Domino in timore: et exsultate ei cum tremore.
Apprehendite disciplinam, nequando irascatur Dominus: * et pereatis de via justa.
Cum exarserit in brevi ira ejus: * beati omnes qui confidunt in eo.

Ant. Dominus dixit ad me: Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te.
Why have the Gentiles raged, and the people devised vain things?
The Kings of the earth stood up, and the Princes met together, against the Lord, and against his Christ.
They said: Let us break their bonds asunder; and let us cast away their yoke from us.
He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh at them: and the Lord shall deride them.
Then shall he speak to them in his anger, and trouble them in his rage.
But I, the Son of Mary, am appointed King by him over Sion, his holy mountain, preaching his commandment.
The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
Ask of me, and I will give thee the Gentiles for thy inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron, and shalt break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
And now, O ye Kings, understand: receive instruction, you that judge the earth.
Serve ye the Lord with fear: and rejoice unto him with trembling.
Embrace discipline, lest at any time the Lord be angry, and you perish from the just way.
When his wrath shall be kindled in a short time, blessed are all they that trust in him.

Ant. The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

The second Psalm praises the loveliness of the heavens during the night, and the magnificent testimony which the countless stars render to the greatness of their Creator. It then passes on to speak of the Sun, whose brilliant rising is like the Bridegroomcoming forth from the nuptial chamber. The Sun is our Emmanuel; his Tabernacle the Womb of Mary. It is to-day that he begins his course; starting from the deepest stage of humiliation, he will mount to the meridian of glory. Let us adore him in his humble commencement, and humble ourselves together with him. He is the Lawgiver and the Law; he is our joy and our light; he is our helper and our Redeemer: let us love and obey him.

Ant. Tamquam sponsus Dominus procedens de thalamo suo.
Ant. The Lord is as a Bridegroom coming out of his bride-chamber.

Psalm 18

Cœli enarrant gloriam Dei: * et opera manuum ejus annuntiat firmamentum.
Dies diei eructat verbum: * et nox nocti indicat scientiam.
Non sunt loquelæ, neque sermones: * quorum non audiantur voces eorum.
In omnem terram exivit sonus eorum: * et in fines orbis terræ verba eorum.
In sole posuit tabernaculum suum: * et ipse tamquam sponsus procedens de thalamo suo.
Exsultavit ut gigas ad currendam viam: * a summo cœlo egressio ejus.
Et occursus ejus usque ad summum ejus: * nec est qui se abscondat a calore ejus.
Lex Domini immaculata, convertens animas: * testimonium Domini fidele, sapientiam præstans parvulis.
Justitiæ Domini rectæ, lætificantes corda: * præceptum Domini lucidum, illuminans oculos.
Timor Domini sanctus, permanens in sæculum sæculi: * judicia Domini vera, justificata in semetipsa.
Desiderabilia super aurum et lapidem pretiosum multum: * et dulciora super mel et favum.
Etenim servus tuus custodit ea: * in custodiendis illis retributio multa.
Delicta quis intelligit? ab occultis meis munda me: * et ab alienis parce servo tuo.
Si mei non fuerint dominati, tunc immaculatus ero: * et emundabor a delicto maximo.
Et erunt ut complaceant eloquia oris mei: * et meditatio cordis mei in conspectu tuo semper.
Domine adjutor meus: * et Redemptor meus.

Ant. Tamquam sponsus Dominus procedens de thalamo suo.
The heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands.
Day to day uttereth speech, and night to night showeth knowledge.
There are no speeches nor languages, where their voices are not heard.
Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth: and their words unto the ends of the world.
He hath set his tabernacle in the sun, the image of his Son; and he as a Bridegroom coming out of his bride-chamber,
Hath rejoiced as a giant to run the way: his going out is from the end of heaven,
And his circuit even to the end thereof: and there is no one that can hide himself from his heat.
The law of the Lord, which Jesus is coming to declare to us, is unspotted, converting souls: the testimony of the Lord is faithful, giving wisdom to little ones, little as the Divine Infant in his Crib.
The justices of the Lord are right, rejoicing hearts: the commandment of the Lord is lightsome, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is holy, enduring for ever and ever: the judgements of the Lord are true, justified in themselves.
More to be desired than gold and many precious stones: and sweeter than honey and the honey-comb.
For thy servant keepeth them; and in keeping them there is a great reward.
Who can understand sins? From my secret ones cleanse me, O Lord; and from those of others spare thy servant.
If they shall have no dominion over me, then shall I be without spot; and I shall be cleansed from the greatest sin.
And the words of my mouth shall be such as may please: and the meditation of my heart always in thy sight.
O Lord, that art born for my sake, thou art my helper and my Redeemer.

Ant. The Lord is as a Bridegroom coming out of his bride-chamber.

The third Psalm shows us Christ advancing in the conquest of the world, as the mighty Conqueror. His beauty and meeknessare, like his truth and his justice, perfect; and the power of his love is irresistible. On his right we have the Queen of this world, the august Mary; the Lord has been pleased with her beauty, and her fruitful Virginity has been the model after which have been formed all those pure souls consecrated to God, who are the companions of the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. In this most sublime Psalm, let us sing our canticle of praise to the ineffable dignity of our Divine King, and to the sweetness of our incomparable Mother and Queen.

Ant. Diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis; propterea benedixit te Deus in æternum.
Ant. Grace is poured out upon thy lips; therefore hath God blessed thee for ever.

Psalm 44

Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum: * dico ego opera mea Regi.
Lingua mea calamus scribæ: * velociter scribentis.
Speciosus forma præ filiis hominum, diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis: * propterea benedixit te Deus in æternum.
Accingere gladio tuo super femur tuum: * potentissime.
Specie tua et pulchritudine tua: * intende, prospere procede, et regna.
Propter veritatem, et mansuetudinem, et justitiam: * et deducet te mirabiliter dextera tua.
Sagittæ tuæ acutæ, populi sub te cadent: * in corda inimicorum regis.
Sedes tua, Deus, in sæculum sæculi: * virga directions, virga regni tui.
Dilexisti justitiam, et odisti iniquitatem: * propterea unxit te Deus, Deus tuus, oleo lætitiæ præ consortibus tuis.
Myrrha, et gutta, et casia a vestimentis tuis, a domibus ebumeis: * ex quibus delectaverunt te filiæ regum in honore tuo.
Adstitit Regina a dextris tuis in vestitu deaurato: * circumdata varietate.
Audi filia, et vide, et inclina aurem tuam: * et obliviscere populum tuum, et domum patris tui.
Et concupiscet Rex decorem tuum: * quoniam ipse est Dominus Deus tuus, et adorabunt eum.
Et filiæ Tyri in muneribus: * vultum tuum deprecabuntur omnes divites plebis.
Omnis gloria ejus filiæ regis ab intus: * in fimbriis aureis circumamicta varietatibus.
Adducentur Regi virgines post eam: * proximæ ejus afferentur tibi.
Afferentur in lætitia et exsultatione: * adducentur in templum Regis.
Pro patribus tuis nati sunt tibi filii: * constitues eos principes super omnem terrain.
Memores erunt nominis tui: * in omni generatione et generationem.
Propterea populi confitebuntur tibi in æternum, * et in sæculum sæculi.

Ant. Diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis, propterea benedixit te Deus in æternum.

℣. Tamquam sponsus.
℟. Dominus procedens de thalamo suo.
My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works, my songs, to Jesus the King.
My tongue is the pen of a scrivener, that writeth swiftly.
Thou, O Emmanuel, art beautiful above the sons of men; grace is poured abroad in thy lips: therefore hath God blessed thee for ever.
Thou comest that thou mayest conquer the world; gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O thou most Mighty!
With thy comeliness and thy beauty, set out, proceed prosperously and reign.
Because of truth, and meekness, and justice: and thy right hand shall conduct thee wonderfully.
Thy arrows are sharp: under thee shall people fall, into the hearts of the enemies of the King, who sends thee.
Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a sceptre of uprightness.
Thou hast loved justice, and hatedst iniquity: therefore God, thy God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
Myrrh, and stacte, and cassia perfume thy garments, from the ivory houses; out of which the daughters of kings have delighted thee in thy glory.
The Queen, thy Mother, who shares in thy triumph, stood on thy right hand in gilded clothing, surrounded with variety.
Thy Holy Spirit spoke to her, and said: * Hearken, O Daughter, and see, and incline thine ear: and forget thy people, and thy father’s house.
‘And the King shall greatly desire thy beauty: for he is the Lord thy God, and him they shall adore.
‘And the daughters of Tyre with gifts, yea, all the rich among the people, shall entreat thy countenance.'
All the glory of the King’s Daughter is within, in golden borders, clothed round about with varieties.
After her shall virgins be brought to the King: her neighbours, they that have spiritually conceived Christ, shall be brought to thee, O King I
They shall be brought with gladness and rejoicing: they shall be brought into the temple of the King.
Instead of thy fathers of the Jewish people, of whose race thou didst deign to be born, but who have not known thee,O Emmanuel I sons are born to thee of a new race: thou shalt make them princes over all the earth.
They shall remember thy name throughout all generations.
Therefore shall people praise thee for ever, yea for ever and ever.

Ant. Grace is poured out upon thy lips; therefore hath God blessed thee for ever.

℣. As a Bridegroom.
℟. The Lord is coming from his bride-chamber.

The Priest begins the two first words of the Lord's Prayer:

Pater noster.
Our Father.

The rest is said in silence, as far as the last two petitions, when the Priest says aloud:

℣. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem,
℣. And lead us not into temptation,

The Choir answers:

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

Then the Priest:

Exaudi, Domine Jesu Christe, preces servorum tuorum, et miserere nobis, qui cum Patre et Spiritu Sancto vivis et regnas in sæcula sæculorum.
Graciously hear, O Lord Jesus Christ, the prayers of thy servants, and have mercy upon us: who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, livest and reignest for ever and ever.

The Choir answers: Amen.

Then one of the Choir turns towards the Priest, and bowing down, says:

Jube, Domne, benedicere.
Pray, Father, give thy blessing.

Then the Priest:

Benedictione perpetua benedicat nos Pater æternus.
℟. Amen.
May the Eternal Father bless us with an everlasting blessing.
℟. Amen.

The Lessons of the First Nocturn are taken from the Prophet Isaias, whom the Church has followed through the whole of Advent. The Responsories which follow each Lesson assist the Faithful in those sentiments of joy which should fill their hearts on hearing the sacred prophecies read to them, and that, too, at the very hour when they are to be accomplished.

First Lesson
(Isaias ix)

Primo tempore alleviata est terra Zabulon, et terra Nephtali: et novissimo aggravata est via maris trans Jordanem Galilææ Gentium. Populus qui ambulabat in tenebris vidit lucem magnam: habitantibus in regione umbrae mortis, lux orta est eis. Multiplicasti gentem, et non magnificasti lætitiam. Lætabuntur coram te, sicut qui lætantur in messe, sicut exsultant Victores capta præda, quando dividunt spolia. Jugum enim oneris ejus, et virgam humeri ejus, et sceptrum exactoris ejus superasti, sicut in die Madian. Quia omnis violenta prædatio cum. tumultu, et vestimentum mistum sanguine, erit in combustionem, et cibus ignis. Parvulus enim natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis: et factus est principatus super humerum ejus: et vocabitur nomen ejus, Admirabilis, Consiliarius, Deus, Fortis, Pater futuri sæculi, Princeps pacis.

℟. Hodie nobis cœlorum Rex de Virgine nasci dignatus est, ut hominem perditum ad cœlestia regna revocaret. * Gaudet exercitus Angelorum: quia salus æternahumano generi apparuit.
. Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis. * Gaudet exercitus. Gloria Patri.
℟. Hodie nobis cœlorum, usque ad Gloria in excelsis.Benedictio. Unigenitus Dei Filius nos benedicere et adjuvare dignetur.
℟. Amen.
At the first time, the land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephtali, was lightly touched by the Lord; and at the last, the way of the sea beyond the Jordan of Galilee of the Gentiles was heavily loaded. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and hast not increased the joy. The inhabitants of Jerusalem whom thou hast succoured, shall rejoice before thee, as they that rejoice in the harvest; as conquerors rejoice after taking a prey, when they divide the spoils. For the yoke of their burden, and the rod of their shoulder, and the sceptre of their oppressor, thou hast overcome, as in the day of Madian. For every violent taking of spoils, with tumult, and garment mingled with blood, shall be burnt, and be fuel for the fire. For a Child is born unto us, and a Son is given unto us; and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of peace.

℟. To-day the King of heaven deigned to be born to us of a Virgin, that he might restore lost man to the heavenly kingdom. * The host of Angels rejoices: for that eternal salvation hath appeared to the human race.
. Glory be to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will. * The host of Angels, etc. Glory be to the Father.
Then is repeated the ℟. Today the King, as far as Glory be to God.Blessing. May the onlybegotten Son of God vouchsafe to bless and help us.
℟. Amen.

Second Lesson
(Isaias xl)

Consolamini, consolamini popule meus, dicit Deus vester. Loquimini ad cor Jerusalem, et advocate eam, quoniam completa est malitia ejus, dimissa est iniquitas illius: suscepit de manu Domini duplicia pro omnibus peccatis suis. Vox damantis in deserto: Parate viam Dei, rectas facite in solitudine semitas Dei nostri. Omnis vallis exaltabitur et omnis mons et collis humiliabitur, et erunt prava in directa, et aspera in vias planas. Et revelabitur gloria Domini: et videbit omnis caro pariter quod os Domini locutum est. Vox dicentis: Clama. Et dixi: Quid clamabo? Omnis caro fœœnum, et omnis gloria ejus quasi flos agri. Exsiccatum est feenum, et cecidit flos; quia spiritus Domini sufflavit in eo. Vere foenum est populus: exsiccatum est feenum, et cecidit flos: Verbum autem Domini nostri manet in æternum.

. Hodie nobis de cœlo pax vera descendit: * Hodie per totum mundum melliflui facti sunt cœli.
℣. Hodie illuxit nobis dies redemptionis novæ, reparationis antiquæ, felicitatis æternæ. * Hodie per totum.Benedictio. Spiritus sancti gratia illuminet sensus et corda nostra.
. Amen.
Be comforted, be comforted, my people, saith your God. Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her, for her evil is come to an end, her iniquity is forgiven: she hath received of the hand of the Lord double blessings for all her sins. The voice of one crying in the desert: ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight and the rough ways plain.’ And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken. The voice of one saying: Cry. And I said: What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field. The grass is withered, and the flower is fallen, because the spirit of the Lord hath blown upon it. Indeed the people is grass: the grass is withered, and the flower is fallen: but the Word of our Lord endureth for ever.

℟. To-day true peace has come down to us from heaven: * To-day throughout the whole world the heavens have dropped honey.
℣. To-day there has shone upon us the day of the new redemption, of the ancient reparation, of the eternal happiness. * To-day throughout.Blessing. May the grace of the Holy Ghost enlighten our senses and our hearts.
. Amen.

Third Lesson
(Isaias lii)

Consurge, consurge, induere fortitudine tua, Sion; induere vestimentis gloriæ tuæ, Jerusalem, civitas Sancti: quia non adjiciet ultra ut pertranseat per te incircumcisus et immundus. Excutere de pulvere, consurge, sede, Jerusalem: solve vincula colli tui, captiva filia Sion. Quia hæc dicit Dominus: Gratis venumdati estis, et sine argento redimemini. Quia hæc dicit Dominus Deus: in Ægyptum descendit populus meus in principio, ut colonus esset ibi: et Assur absque ulla causa calumniatus est eum. Et nunc quid mihi est hic, dicit Dominus? quoniam ablatus est populus meus gratis: dominatores ejus inique agunt, dicit Dominus: et tota die nomen meum blasphematur. Propter hoc sciet populus meus nomen meum in die illa: quia ego ipse qui loquebar, ecce adsum.

. Quem vidistis pastores? dicite, annuntiate nobis, in terris quis apparuit? * Natum vidimus, et choros Angelorum collaudantes Dominum.
℣. Dicite, quidnam vidistis? et annuntiate Christi nativitatem. * Natum vidimus. Gloria. * Natum vidimus.
Arise, arise, put on thy strength, O Sion; put on the garments of thy glory, O Jerusalem, the city of the Holy One; for henceforth, the uncircumcised and unclean shall no more pass through thee. Shake thyself from the dust, arise, sit up, O Jerusalem: loose the bonds from off thy neck, O captive daughter of Sion. For thus saith the Lord: You were sold without price, and you shall be redeemed without money. For thus saith the Lord God: My people went down into Egypt at the beginning, to sojourn there: and the Assyrian hath oppressed them without any cause at all. And now what have I here, saith the Lord: for my people is taken away without price? They that rule over them treat them unjustly, saith the Lord, and my name is continually blasphemed all the day long. Therefore my people shall know my name in that day: for I myself that spoke, behold I am here.

. Whom have ye seen, O Shepherds! say, tell us, who is it has appeared on the earth? * We have seen the Child that is born, and choirs of Angels praising the Lord.
℣. Say, what have ye seen? and tell us of the birth of Christ. * We have seen. Glory. * We have seen.

The Second Nocturn

The fourth Psalm is a hymn in praise of the Christian Church, which begins to-day, and receives, in the Stable of Bethlehem, the first believers, the Shepherds. This new Sion, which is to contain the City of our God, is founded on the sides of the North, to show that it shall be open to the Gentiles. In vain will the Princes of the earth seek, in their conceited calculations, to destroy the Church: God, who has founded her, will make her triumph. Empires shall pass away, and their persecutions: the Church will survive them all, knowing neither wrinkle nor decay.

Ant. Suscepimus, Deus, misericordiam tuam in medio templi tui.
Ant. We have received thy mercy, O God, in the midst of thy temple.

Psalm 47

Magnus Dominus, et laudabilis nimis: * in civitate Dei nostri, in monte sancto ejus.
Fundatur exsultatione universæ terræ mons Sion: * latera aquilonis, civitas regis magni.
Deus in domibus ejus cognoscetur: * cum suscipiet eam.
Quoniam ecce reges terræ congregati sunt: * convenerunt in unum.
Ipsi videntes sic admirati sunt, conturbati sunt, com* moti sunt: * tremor apprehendit eos.
Ibi dolores ut parturientis: * in spiritu vehementi conteres naves Tharsis.
Sicut audivimus, sic vidimus in civitate Domini virtutum, in civitate Dei nostri: * Deus fundavit eam in æternum.
Suscepimus, Deus, misericordiam tuam: * in medio templi tui.
Secundum nomen tuum, Deus, sic et laus tua in fines terræ: * justitia plena est dextera tua.
Lætetur mons Sion, et exsultent filiæ Judæ: * propter judicia tua, Domine.
Circumdate Sion, et complectimini eam: * narrate in turribus ejus.
Ponite corda vestra in virtute ejus: * et distribuite domos ejus, ut enarretis in progenie altera:
Quoniam hic est Deus, Deus noster in æternum, et in sæculum sæculi: * ipse reget nos in sæcula.

Ant. Suscepimus, Deus, misericordiam tuam in medio templi tui.

Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to be praised, in the City of our God, in his holy mountain.
On this day, with the joy of the whole earth is Mount Sion founded, on the sides of the North, the City of the great King.
In her houses shall God be known, when he shall protect her.
For behold the kings of the earth assembled themselves: they gathered together.
They saw, so they wondered, they were troubled, they were moved: trembling took hold of them.
There were pains as of a woman in labour. With a vehement wind thou shalt break in pieces the ships of Tharsis.
As we have heard, so have we seen, in the City of the Lord of hosts, in the City of our God: God hath founded it for ever.
We have received thy mercy, O God, which appeared to us in Bethlehem; we have received it in the midst of thy temple.
According to thy name, O God, so also is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of justice.
Let Mount Sion rejoice, and the daughters of Juda be glad: because of thy judgements, O Lord.
Surround Sion, and encompass her: tell ye in her towers.
Set your hearts on her strength; and distribute her houses, that ye may relate it in another generation:
For this is our God, our God unto eternity, and for ever and ever: he, our Pastor, shall rule us for evermore.

Ant. We have received thy mercy, O God, in the midst of thy temple.

The fifth Psalm prophesies the peaceful reign of the Son of David, who comes to save the poor, and humble the oppressor. His coming is in sweetness and silence, like the dew of night. It is this very night that he comes to us from Mary's virginal womb. He is the rain announced by the Prophets, which is to fall upon the parched earth. His kingdom shall be glorious and eternal. In a few days hence, the Kings shall prostrate themselves at his feet, offering him the gold of Arabia and the incense of Saba. He, on his part, will give to his people for their nourishment the Bread of his own Body; and thus his Church will be for ever a Bethlehem, that is, a House of Bread.

Ant. Orietur in diebus Domini abundantia pads, et dominabitur.
Ant. There shall spring up an abundance of peace in the days of the Lord; and he shall rule.

Psalm 71

Deus, judicium tuum Regi da: * et justitiam tuam filio Regis.
Judicare populum tuum in justitia: * et pauperes tuos in judicio.
Suscipiant montes pacem populo: * et colles justitiam.
Judicabit pauperes populi: et salvos faciet filios pauperum: * et humiliabit calumniatorem.
Et permanebit cum sole, et ante lunam: * in generatione et generationem.
Descendet sicut pluvia in vellus: * et sicut stillicidia stillantia super terrain.
Orietur in diebus ejus justitia, et abundantia pacis: * donec auferatur luna.
Et dominabitur a mari usque ad mare: * et a flumine usque ad terminos orbis terrarum.
Coram illo procident Æthiopes: * et inimici ejus terram lingent.
Reges Tharsis, et insulae munera offerent: * Reges Arabum et Saba dona adducent.
Et adorabunt eum omnes reges terræ: * omnes gentes servient ei.
Quia liberabit pauperem a potente: * et pauperem cui non erat adjutor.
Parcet pauperi et inopi: * et animas pauperum salvas faciet.
Ex usuris et iniquitate redimet animas eorum: * et honorabile nomen eorum coram illo.
Et vivet, et dabitur ei de auro Arabiæ, et adorabunt de ipso semper: * tota die benedicent ei.
Et erit firmamentum in terra in summis montium, superextolletur super Libanum fructus ejus: * et florebunt de civitate sicut fœnum terræ.
Sit nomen ejus benedictum in sæcula: * ante solem permanet nomen ejus.
Et benedicentur in ipso omnes tribus terræ: * omnes gentes magnificabunt eum.
Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel: * qui facit mirabilia solus.
Et benedictum nomen majestatis ejus in æternum: * et replebitur majestate ejus omnis terra: fiat, fiat.
Ant. Orietur in diebus Domini abundantia pacis, et dominabitur.

Give to the King thy judgement, O God! and to the King’s Son, who is born to-day, thy justice.
To judge thy people with justice, and thy poor with judgement.
Let the mountains receive peace for the people; and the hills justice.
He, the Messias, shall judge the poör of the people, and he shall save the children of the poor; and he shall humble the oppressor.
And his kingdom on earth shall continue with the sun, and before the moon; throughout all generations.
He shall come down mysteriously in the midnight like rain upon the fleece, and as showers falling gently upon the earth.
In his days shall justice spring up, and abundance of peace, till the moon be taken away.
And he shall rule from sea to sea; and from the river Jordan unto the ends of the earth.
Before him the Ethiopians shall fall down; and his enemies shall lick the ground.
The Kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents; the Kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts.
And all kings of the earth shall adore him; all nations shall serve him.
For he shall deliver the poor from the mighty, and the needy that had no helper.
He shall spare the poor and needy; and he shall be called Jesus, because he shall save the souls of the poor, his creatures.
He shall redeem their souls from usuries and iniquity: and their name shall be honourable in his sight.
And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Arabia, for him they shall always adore: they shall bless him all the day.
He is the bread of life; therefore under his reign there shall be a firmament on the earth on the tops of the mountains; above Libanus shall the fruit thereof be exalted: and they of the City, his Church, shall flourish like the grass of the earth.
Let his name be blessed for evermore: his name continueth before the sun.
And in him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed: all nations shall magnify him.
Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel, who alone doth wonderful things,
And blessed be the name of his majesty for ever: and the whole earth shall be filled with his majesty. So be it. So be it.
Ant. There shall spring up an abundance of peace, in the days of the Lord; and he shall rule.

The sixth Psalm is a hymn of gratitude for the blessing brought us by the Divine Infant. The anger of the Almighty Lord is appeased at the sight of a Crib containing the Son of God and the Son of Mary! Let us listen with delight to the words of the New-born Babe. Justice and Peace have kissed: Incarnate Truth now dwells on our earth, and the Justice of the Eternal Father looks down from heaven upon our Emmanuel.

Ant. Veritas de terra orta est; et justitia de cœlo prospexit.
Ant. Truth is sprung out of the earth; and justice hath looked down from heaven.

Psalm 84

Benedixisti, Domine, terrain tuam: * avertisti captivitatem Jacob.
Remisisti iniquitatem plebis tuæ: * operuisti omnia peccata eorum.
Mitigasti omnem iram tuam: * avertisti ab ira indignationis tuæ.
Converte nos Deus salutaris noster; * et averte iram tuam a nobis.
Numquid in æternum irasceris nobis: * aut extendes iram tuam a generatione in generationem?
Deus tu conversus vivificabis nos: * et plebs tua lætabitur in te.
Ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam: * et salutare tuum da nobis.
Audiam quid loquatur in me Dominus Deus, * quoniam loquetur pacem in plebem suam.
Et super Sanctos suos: * et in eos qui convertuntur ad cor.
Verumtamen prope timentes eum salutare ipsius: * ut inhabitet gloria in terra nostra.
Misericordia et veritas obviaverunt sibi: * justitia et pax osculatæ sunt.
Veritas de terra orta est: * et justitia de cœlo prospexit.
Etenim Dominus dabit benignitatem: * et terra nostra dabit fructum suum.
Justitia ante eum ambulabit: * et ponet in via gressus suos.

Ant. Veritas de terra orta est, et Justitia de cœlo prospexit.

℣. Speciosus forma præ filiis hominum.
℟. Diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis.

Pater noster.
Lord, thou hast blessed thy land: thou hast, this night, turned away the captivity of Jacob.
Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people: thou hast covered all their sins.
Thou hast mitigated all thy anger: thou hast turned away from the wrath of thy indignation.
Convert us, O God, our Saviour! and turn off thy anger from us.
Heavenly Father! wilt thou be angry with us for ever? or wilt thou extend thy wrath from generation to generation?
Thou wilt turn, O God, and bring us to life; and thy people shall rejoice in thee.
Show us, O Lord, Him who is thy mercy: and grant us thy salvation.
I will hear, near my Saviour’s Crib, what the Lord God will speak in me, for he will speak peace unto his people:
And unto his Saints: and unto them that are converted to the heart.
Surely his Salvation is near to them that fear him: that glory may dwell in our land.
This day, in Bethlehem, Mercy and Truth have met each other: Justice and Peace have kissed.
Truth is sprung out of the earth: and Justice hath looked down from heaven.
For the Lord will give goodness: and our earth shall yield her fruit.
Justice shall walk before him, the Man-God: and shall set his steps in the way.

Ant. Truth is sprung out of the earth, and Justice hath looked down from heaven.

℣. Thou art beautiful, O Jesus, above the sons of men.
℟· Grace is poured forth on thy lips.

Our Father.

After the Pater Noster has been recited, as in the First Nocturn, the Priest says:

Ipsius pietas et misericordia nos adjuvet, qui cum Patre et Spiritu Sancto vivit et regnat in sæcula sæculorum.

℟. Amen.
May his goodness and mercy help us, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth for ever and ever.

℟. Amen.

The Book of the Sermons of the Holy Fathers is now opened, and a passage is read from one of those magnificent discourses of St Leo the Great, which enraptured the people of Rome in the fifth century.

Benedictio. Deus Pater omnipotens sit nobis propitius et clemens.

. Amen.
Blessing. May God the Father Almighty be propitious and merciful unto us.

℟. Amen.

Fourth Lesson

Sermo Sancti Leonis Papæ.

Salvator noster, dilectissimi, hodie natus est: gaudeamus. Neque enim fas est locum esse tristitiæ, ubi natalis est vitæ: quæ consumpto mortalitatis timore, nobis ingerit de promissa æternitate lætitiam. Nemo ab hujus alacritatis participatione secernitur. Una cunctis lætitiæ communis est ratio: quia Dominus noster peccati mortisque destructor, sicut nullum a reatu liberum reperit, ita liberandis omnibus venit. Exsultet sanctus, quia propinquat ad palmam: gaudeat peccator, quia invitatur ad veniam: animetur Gentilis, quia vocatur ad vitam. Dei namque Filius secundum plenitudinem temporis quam divini consilii inscrutabilis altitudo disposuit, reconciliandam auctori suo naturam generis assumpsit humani, ut inventor mortis diabolus, per ipsam quam vicerat, vinceretur.

℟. O magnum mysterium, et admirabile sacramentum! ut animalia viderent Dominum natum jacentem in præsepio: * Beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum.
℣. Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. * Beata Virgo.
Sermon of St Leo, Pope.

On this day, dearly beloved, is born our Saviour: let us be glad: for surely it is a sin to be sad on the Birthday of that Life which, ridding us of the fear of death, gladdened us with the promise of immortality. From a share in this gladness not one of us is excluded. To all there is the one same cause of joy: for our Lord, the destroyer of sin and death, came to deliver all, seeing that all were slaves to guilt. Let the Saint exult, because he is now brought near to his crown; let the Sinner rejoice, because he is invited to his pardon; let the Gentile be of good heart, because he is called to life. For when there had come the fulness of time, fixed by the inscrutable depths of the divine counsel, the Son of God assumed to himself the nature of man, in order to restore it to the favour of its Maker; that thus the Devil, the author of Death, might be conquered by that very nature whereby himself had conquered.

℟. O great Mystery, and wonderful secret! brute beasts to see their new-born Lord laid in a Manger! * Blessed is the Virgin, that deserved to carry in her Womb Christ our Lord!
℣. Hail Mary! full of grace, the Lord is with thee. * Blessed is the Virgin.

At Rome, if there be in the Holy City the Knight, who has received the Helmet and Sword, blessed, as we have described, by the Sovereign Pontiff, the fifth Lesson is given to him to sing, because it speaks of the great Battle between Christ and Satan in the glorious mystery of the Incarnation. Whilst the Choir is singing the Responsory O magnum mysterium, the Knight is taken by the Master of Ceremonies to the Pope. Standing before the Holy Father, he draws his sword, thrice sets its point on the ground, thrice brandishes it in the air, and then wipes the blade upon his left arm. He is then taken to the Ambo, or reading-desk, takes off his helmet, and, having vested the Cope over his armour, he sings the Lesson. These ceremonies of our holy Mother, the Church of Rome, were drawn up in days when might was not right, and brute force was made subservient to moral power and principle. The Christian Warrior, cased in his steel armour, was resolved, as indeed he was bound, never to draw his sword save in the cause of Christ, the conqueror of Satan: was there anything strange in his expressing this by a sacred ceremony?

Benedictio. Christus perpetuæ det nobis gaudia vitæ.

℟. Amen.
Blessing. May Christ grant unto us the joys of eternal life.

℟. Amen.

Fifth Lesson

In quo conflictu pro nobis inito, magno et mirabili æquitatis jure certatum est, dum omnipotens Dominus cum sævissimo hoste non in sua majestate, sed in nostra congreditur humilitate: objiciens ei eamdem formam, eamdemque naturam, mortalitatis quidem nostræ participem, sed peccati totius expertem. Alienum quippe ab hac Nativitate est, quod de omnibus legitur. Nemo mundus a sorde, nec infans cujus est unius diei vita super terram. Nihil ergo in istam singularem Nativitatem de carnis concupiscentia transivit, nihil de peccati lege manavit. Virgo regia Davidicæ stirpis eligitur, quæ sacro gravidanda fœtu, divinam humanamque prolem prius conciperet mente, quam corpore. Et ne superni ignara consilii ad inusitatos paveret affatus, quod in ea operandam erat a Spiritu Sancto, colloquio discit angelico, nec damnum credit pudoris, Dei Genitrix mox futura.

. Beata Dei genitrix Maria, cujus viscera intacta permanent: * Hodie genuit Salvatorem sæculi.

. Beata quæ credidit, quoniam perfecta sunt omnia quæ dicta sunt ei a Domino. * Hodie genuit Salvatorem.

Benedictio. Ignem sui amoris accendat Deus in cordibus nostris.

℟. Amen.
In the conflict thus entered into for our sakes, the combat was fought by our Omnipotent God with great and admirable equity; inasmuch as it is not in bis own Majesty, but in our lowliness, that he attacks our bitter foe; opposing him with the self-same form, and self-same nature as ours, Man like us in everything save sin: for, that which is written of all men, had no place in this Nativity: 'Not one is free from defilement, no, not the child whose life on earth is but one day.' Into this admirable Birth, then, there passed nothing pertaining to the concupiscence of the flesh, there entered not aught of the law of sin. A Virgin of the royal family of David is chosen, who, having to be made Mother of the Divine Child, the God-Man, conceived him in her soul, before she conceived him in her womb. And lest the ineffable mystery should make her fear, were she left ignorant of the Divine plan, she is told by the Angel of that which was to be done in her by the Holy Ghost, and was given to see how she could be Mother of God, yet remain a pure Virgin.

. The Blessed Mother of God, Mary, remaining ever the spotless Virgin, * Hath this day given birth to the Saviour of the world.

. Blessed in that she believed, for all those things have been done in her, that were said unto her by the Lord.

Blessing. May God enkindle within our hearts the fire of his love.

. Amen.

Sixth Lesson

Agamus ergo, dilectissimi, gratias Deo Patri, per Filium ejus in Spiritu sancto: qui propter multam charitatem suam, qua dilexit nos, misertus est nostri: et cum essemus mortui peccatis, convivificat nos Christo, ut essemus in ipso nova creatura, novumque figmentum. Deponamus ergo veterem hominem cum actibus suis, et adepti participationem generationis Christi, carnis renuntiemus operibus. Agnosce, O Christiane, dignitatem tuam: et divinæ consors factus naturæ, noli in veterem vilitatem degeneri conversatione redire. Memento cujus capitis et cujus corporis sis membrum. Reminiscere, quia erutus de potestate tenebrarum, translatus es in Dei lumen et regnum.

℟. Sancta et immaculata Virginitas, quibus te laudibus efferam, nescio: * Quia quem cœli capere non poterant, tuo gremio contulisti.

℣. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui. * Quia. Gloria. * Quia.
Let us, therefore, dearly beloved, give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Ghost: because, through his exceeding charity, wherewith he hath loved us, he has had compassion upon us; and when we were dead in our sins, quickened us unto life together with Christ, that we might be a new creature in him, and a new substance. Therefore, let us put off the old man with his acts, and, having been made partakers of the generation of Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh. Learn thy own worth, O Christian I and having been made a partaker of the divine nature, scorn to become again the vile thing of old. Remember of what Head and of what Body thou art a member. Remember how thou, having been snatched from the power of darkness, hast been translated into the Light and Kingdom of God.

. O holy and immaculate Virginity, I know not with what praises I shall extol thee: * For thou didst bear in thy womb him whom the heavens cannot contain.

℣. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. * For thou. Glory. * For thou.


The seventh Psalm of Christmas Day’s Matins is the prayer of the Jewish people for their Deliverer, the Messias. Juda has fallen under the Roman power; she has lost the sceptre; Jerusalem is polluted by the presence of the Gentiles; and yet the Christ appears not. This Psalm reminds the God of Jacob of the promises made to David and his seed, of that everlasting Kingdom, which is so long in coming, and of those other Prophecies, whose accomplishment can alone put a stop to the haughty blasphemies of the Gentiles. But the hour has come; Juda and the Gentiles are to be kept no longer in suspense; Jehovah is about to fulfil his word.

Ant. Ipse invocabit me, alleluia: Pater meus es tu, alleluia.
Ant. He shall cry out to me, alleluia, 'thou art my Father,' alleluia.

Psalm 88

Misericordias Domini * in æternum cantabo.
In generationem et generationem: * annuntiabo veritatem tuam in ore meo.
Quoniam dixisti: in æternum misericordia ædificabitur in cœlis: * præparabitur veritas tua in eis.
Disposui testamentum electis meis; juravi David servo meo: * usque in æternum præparabo semen tuum.
Et ædificabo in generationem et generationem: * sedem tuam.
Confitebuntur cœli mirabilia tua, Domine: * etenim veritatem tuam in Ecclesia Sanctorum.
Quoniam quis in nubibus æquabitur Domino: * similis erit Deo in filiis Dei?
Deus, qui glorificatur in concilio Sanctorum: * magnus et terribilis super omnes, qui in circuitu ejus sunt.
Domine Deus virtutum, quis similis tibi? * potens es, Domine, et veritas tua in circuitu tuo.
Tu dominaris potestati maris: * motum autem fluctuum ejus tu mitigas.
Tu humiliasti sicut vulneratum, superbum: * in brachio virtutis tuæ dispersisti inimicos tuos.
Tui sunt cœli, et tua est terra, orbem terræ et plenitudinem ejus tu fundasti: * aquilonem et mare tu creasti.
Thabor et Hermon in nomine tuo exsultabunt: * tuum brachium cum potentia.
Firmetur manus tua: et exaltetur dextera tua: * justitia et judicium præparatio sedis tuæ.
Misericordia et veritas præcedent faciem tuam. * beatus populus qui scit jubilationem.
Domine, in lumine vultus tui ambulabunt, et in nomine tuo exsultabunt tota die: * et justitia tua exaltabuntur.
Quoniam gloria virtutis eorum tu es: * et in beneplacito tuo exaltabitur cornu nostrum.
Quia Domini est assumptio nostra: * et sancti Israel Regis nostri.
Tunc locutus es in visione Sanctis tuis, et dixisti: * Posui adjutorium in potente, et exaltavi electum de plebe mea.
Inveni David servum meum: * oleo sancto meo unxi eum.
Manus enim mea auxiliabitur ei: * et brachium meum confortabit eum.
Nihil proficiet inimicus in eo: * et filius iniquitatis non apponet nocere ei.
Et concidam a facie ipsius inimicos ejus: * et odientes eum in fugam convertam.
Et veritas mea, et misericordia mea cum ipso: * et in nomine meo exaltabitur cornu ejus.
Et ponam in man manum ejus, * et in fluminibus dexteram ejus.
Ipse invocabit me: Pater meus es tu: * Deus meus, et susceptor salutis meæ.
Et ego primogenitum ponam ilium: * excelsum præ regibus terne.
In æternum servabo illi misericordiam meam: * et testamentum meum fidele ipsi.
Et ponam in sæculum sæculi semen ejus: * et thronum ejus sicut dies cœli.
Si autem dereliquerint filii ejus legem meam: et in judiciis meis non ambulaverint.
Si justitias meas profanaverint: * et mandata mea non custodierint.
Visitabo in virga iniquitates eorum: * et in verberibus peccata eorum.
Misericordiam autem meam non dispergam ab eo: * neque nocebo in veritate mea.
Neque profanabo testamentum meum: * et quæ procedunt de labiis meis, non faciam irrita.
Semel juravi in Sancto meo, si David mentiar: * semen ejus in æternum manebit.
Et thronus ejus sicut sol in conspectu meo: * et sicut luna perfecta in æternum, et testis in cœlo fidelis.
Tu vero repulisti et despexisti: * distulisti Christum tuum.
Evertisti testamentum servi tui: * profanasti in terra sanctuarium ejus.
Destruxisti omnes sepes ejus: * posuisti firmamentum ejus formidinem.
Diripuerunt eum omnes transeuntes viam: * factus est opprobrium vicinis suis.
Exaltasti dexteram deprimentium eum: * lætificasti omnes inimicos ejus.
Avertisti adjutorium gladii ejus: * et non es auxiliatus ei in bello.
Destruxisti eum ab emundatione: * et sedem ejus in terram collisisti.
Minorasti dies temporis ejus: * perfudisti eum confusione.
Usquequo, Domine, avertis in finem: * exardescet sicut ignis ira tua?
Memorare quæ mea substantia: * numquid enim vane constituisti omnes filios hominum?
Quis est homo qui vivet, et non videbit mortem: * eruet animam suam de manu inferi?
Ubi sunt misericordiæ tuæ antiquæ, Domine: * sicut jurasti David in veritate tua?
Memor esto, Domine, opprobrii servorum tuorum: * (quod continui in sinu meo) multarum gentium.
Quod exprobraverunt inimici tui, Domine: * quod exprobraverunt commutationem Christi tui.
Benedictus Dominus in æternum: * fiat, fiat.

Ant. Ipse invocabit me, alleluia: Pater meus es tu, alleluia.
The mercies of the Lord I will sing for ever.
Unto generation and generation I will show forth thy truth with my mouth.
For thou hast said: Mercy shall be built up for ever in the heavens; thy truth shall be prepared in them.
Thou hast said: 'I have made a covenant with my elect; I have sworn to David my servant; thy seed will I settle for ever.
‘And I will build up thy Throne unto generation and generation.’
The heavens shall confess thy wonders, O Lord: and thy truth in the Church of the Saints.
For who in the clouds can be compared to the Lord: or who among the sons of God shall be like to God?
God, who is glorified in the assembly of the Saints: great and terrible above all them that are about him.
O Lord God of hosts, who is like unto thee? thou art mighty, O Lord, and thy truth is round about thee.
Thou rulest the power of the sea: and appeasest the motion of the waves thereof.
Thou hast humbled the proud one, as one that is slain: with the arm of thy strength thou hast scattered thy enemies.
Thine are the heavens, and thine is the earth; the world and the fulness thereof thou hast founded: the north and the sea thou hast created.
Thabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name: thy arm is with might.
Let thy hand be strengthened, and thy right hand exalted: justice and judgement are the preparation of thy Throne.
Mercy and truth shall go before thy face: blessed is the people that knoweth jubilation.
They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance, and in thy name they shall rejoice all the day: and in thy justice they shall be exalted.
For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy good pleasure shall our horn be exalted.
For our protection is of the Lord: and of our King, the Holy One of Israel.
Then thou spokest in a vision to thy Saints, and saidst: 'I have laid help upon one that is mighty, and have exalted one chosen out of my people.
'I have found David my servant: with my holy oil I have anointed him.
'For my hand shall help him: and my arm shall strengthen him.
'The enemy shall have no advantage over him: nor the son of iniquity have power to hurt him.
'And I will cut down his enemies before his face: and them that hate him I will put to flight.
‘And my truth and my mercy shall be with him: and in my name shall his horn be exalted.
'And I will set his hand in the sea; and his right hand in the rivers.
'He shall cry out to me: Thou art my Father, my God, and support of my salvation.
'And I will make him my First-Born, high above the Kings of the earth.
' I will keep my mercy for him for ever: and my covenant faithful to him.
'And I will make his seed to endure for evermore: and his Throne as the days of heaven.
'And if his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgements:
'If they profane my justices, and keep not my commandments:
'I will visit their iniquities with a rod: and their sins with stripes.
'But my mercy I will not take away from him: nor will I suffer my truth to fail.
'Neither will I profane my covenant: and the words that proceed from my mouth I will not make void.
'Once I have sworn by my Holiness, I will not lie unto David: his seed shall endure for ever.
'And his Throne as the sun before me: and as the moon perfect for ever, and a faithful witness in heaven.'
These are thy words, O Lord! but thou hast rejected and despised: thou hast put off thy Christ.
Thou hast overthrown the covenant of thy servant: thou hast profaned his sanctuary on the earth.
Thou hast broken down all his hedges: thou hast made his strength fear.
All that pass by the way have robbed him: he is become a reproach to his neighbours.
Thou hast set up the right hand of them that oppress him: thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice.
Thou hast turned away the help of his sword: and hast not assisted him in battle.
Thou hast made his purification to cease: thou hast cast his Throne down to the ground.
Thou hast shortened the days of his time: thou hast covered him with confusion.
How long, O Lord, turnest thou away unto the end? shall thy anger burn like fire?
Remember what my substance is: for hast thou made all the children of men in vain?
Who is the man that shall live, and not see death? that shall deliver his soul from the hand of hell?
Where, O Lord, are thy ancient mercies, according to what thou didst swear to David in thy truth?
Be mindful, O Lord, of the reproach of thy servants (which I have held in my bosom) of many nations:
Wherewith thy enemies have reproached, O Lord: wherewith they have reproached the change of thy Christ.
But, blessed be the Lord for evermore! this Christ is coming to us, and this very night l so be it—so be it!

Ant. He shall cry out to me, alleluia: ‘thou art my Father:’ alleluia.

The eighth Psalm is one of delighted joy at the coming of our Infant Jesus, our Saviour. It calls on all nations to adore him, and on all nature to do him homage. This Messias is come to reign over us: he is come to correct, that is, to uphold the whole of creation, which was fallen: a New Canticle, then, dear Christians!

Ant. Lætentur cœli, et exsultet terra ante faciem Domini, quoniamvenit.
Ant. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, before the face of the Lord; for lo! he cometh!

Psalm 95

Cantate Domino canticum novum: * cantate Domino omnis terra.
Cantate Domino, et benedicite nomini ejus: * annuntiate de die in diem Salutare ejus.
Annuntiate inter Gentes gloriam ejus: * in omnibus populis mirabilia ejus.
Quoniam magnus Dominus, et laudabilis nimis: * terribilis est super omnes deos.
Quoniam omnes dii Gentium dæmonia: * Dominus autem cœlos fecit.
Confessio et pulchritudo in conspectu ejus: * sanctimonia et magnificentia in sanctificatione ejus.
Afferte Domino patriae Gentium, afferte Domino gloriam et honorem: * afferte Domino gloriam nomini ejus.
Tollite hostias, et introite in atria ejus: * adorate Dominum in atrio sancto ejus.
Commoveatur a facie ejus universa terra: * dicite in Gentibus quia Dominus regnavit.
Etenim correxit orbem terræ qui non commovebitur; * judicabit populos in æquitate.
Lætentur cœli et exsultet terra, commoveatur mare et plenitudo ejus: * gaudebunt campi et omnia quæ in eis sunt.
Tunc exsultabunt omnia ligna silvarum a facie Domini, quia venit: * quoniam venit judicare terram.
Judicabit orbem terræ in æquitate: et populos in veritate sua.

Ant. Lætentur cœli, et exsultet terra, ante faciem Domini, quoniam venit.
Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: sing to the Lord all the earth.
Sing ye to the Lord and bless his name: show forth his Saviour from day to day.
Declare his glory among the Gentiles: his wonders among all people.
For the Lord is great, and exceedingly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the Gentiles are devils: but the Lord made the heavens.
Praise and beauty are before him: holiness and majesty in his sanctuary.
Bring ye to the Lord, all ye kindreds of the Gentiles, bring ye to the Lord glory and honour: bring to the Lord glory unto his name.
Bring up sacrifices, and come into his courts: adore ye the Lord in his holy court.
Let all the earth be moved at his presence: Say ye among the Gentiles: the Lord hath reigned, he hath reigned in his Crib.
For by his much-loved Birth he hath corrected the world, which shall not be moved; he will judge the people with justice.
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea be moved, and the fulness thereof; the fields and all things that are in them shall be joyful.
Then shall all the trees of the woods rejoice before the face of the Lord, because he cometh: because he cometh to judge and save the earth.
He shall judge the world with justice; and the people with his truth.Ant. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, before the face of the Lord; for lo! he cometh!

Ant. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, before the face of the Lord; for lo! he cometh!


The ninth Psalm, too, is a New Canticle, in praise of the Saviour that is coming, and of the Father that sends him to us. Jehovah has remembered his mercies, and the whole earth will soon be permitted to see Emmanuel. Let our holy songs, this beautiful night, be full of enthusiasm, and lend a voice of praise to all Nature, for all Nature was regenerated by its Creator being born on this earth.

Ant. Notum fecit Dominus, alleluia, Salutare suum, alleluia.
Ant. The Lord hath made known, alleluia I his Saviour, alleluia!

Psalm 97

Cantate Domino canticum novum: * quia mirabilia fecit.
Salvavit sibi dextera ejus: * et brachium sanctum ejus.
Notum fecit Dominus Salutare suum: * in conspectu
Gentium revelavit justitiam suam.
Recordatus est misericordiæ suæ, * et veritatis suæ domui Israel.
Viderunt omnes termini terræ: * salutare Dei nostri.
Jubilate Deo omnis terra: * cantate et exsultate et psallite.
Psallite Domino in cithara, in cithara et voce psalmi: * in tubis ductilibus et voce tubæ corneæ.
Jubilate in conspectu Regis Domini: * moveatur mare, et plenitudo ejus, orbis terrarum, et qui habitant in eo.
Flumina plaudent manu, simul montes exsultabunt a conspectu Domini: * quoniam venit judicare terrain.
Judicabit orbem terrarum in justitia: * et populos in æquitate.Ant. Notum fecit Dominus, alleluia, Salutare suum, alleluia.

. Ipse invocabit me, alleluia.
℟. Pater meus es tu, alleluia.

Pater noster.
Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: because he hath done wonderful things.
On this day, his right hand hath wrought for him salvation; and his arm is holy.
The Lord hath made known his Saviour: he hath revealed
his justice in the sight of the Gentiles.
He hath remembered his mercy, and his truth toward the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth, that were expecting it, have seen the salvation of our God.
Sing joyfully to God, all the earth; make melody, rejoice and sing.
Sing praise to the Lord on the harp, on the harp and with the voice of a psalm: with long trumpets and sound of cornet.
Make a joyful noise before the Lord our King: let the sea be moved, and the fulness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein.
The rivers shall clap their hands, the mountains shall rejoice together at the presence of the Lord; because he cometh to judge and save the earth.
He shall judge the world with justice, and the people with equity.Ant. The Lord hath made known, alleluia! his Saviour, alleluia!

℣. He shall cry out to me, alleluia!
. 'Thou art my Father,' alleluia!

Our Father.

The Pater noster having been recited, as in the two first Nocturns, the Priest says:

A vinculis peccatorum nostrorum absolvat nos omnipotens et misericors Dominus. ℟. Amen.
May the Almighty and merciful Lord deliver us from the chains of our sins. ℟. Amen.

Then are read the beginnings of the three Gospels which are said in the three Masses of Christmas Day.

To each portion of these Gospels is appended a passage from a Homily by one of the Holy Fathers.

The first of the three is that of St Luke, and the Homily given is that of St Gregory the Great. It relates the publishing of the Emperor Augustus’s edict, commanding a census of the whole world. This seventh Lesson, according to the Ceremonial of the Roman Church, is to be sung by the Emperor, if he happen to be in Rome at the time; and this is done in order to honour the Imperial power, whose decrees were the occasion of Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem, and so fulfilling the designs of God, which he had revealed to the ancient Prophets. The Emperor is led to the Pope, in the same manner as the Knight who had to sing the fifth lesson; he puts on the Cope; two Cardinal-Deacons gird him with the sword, and go with him to the Ambo. The Lesson being concluded, the Emperor again goes before the Pope, and kisses his foot, as being the Vicar of the Christ whom he has just announced. This ceremony was observed in 1468, by the Emperor Frederic III, before the then Pope, Paul II.

Benedictio. Evangelica lectio sit nobis salus et protectio!

℟. Amen.
Blessing. May the reading of the Gospel bring us salvation and protection.

℟. Amen.

Seventh Lesson

Lectio sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.
Cap. II.

In illo tempore, exiit edictum a Cæsare Augusto, ut describeretur universus orbis. Et reliqua.

Homilia S. Gregorii Papæ.

Quia, largiente Domino, Missarum solemnia ter hodie celebraturi sumus, loqui diu de Evangelica lectione non possumus; sed nos illiquid vel breviter dicere Redemptoris nostri Nativitas ipsa compellit. Quid est enim quod nascituro Domino, mundus describitur, nisi hoc quod aperte mοnstratur, qui ille apparebat in carne, qui electos suos adscriberet in æternitate? Quo contra de reprobis per Prophetam dicitur: Deleantur de libro viventium, et cum justis non scribantur. Qui bene etiam in Bethlehem nascitur: Bethlehem quippe domus panis interpretatur. Ipse namque est qui ait: Ego sum panis vivus qui de cœlo descendi. Locus ergo, in quo Dominus nascitur, domus panis antea vocatus est: quia futurum profecto erat, ut ille ibi per materiam carnis appareret, qui electorum mentes interna satietate reficeret. Qui non in parentum domo, sed in via nascitur, ut profecto ostenderet, quia per humanitatem suam, quam assumpserat, quasi in alieno nascebatur.

. Beata viscera Mariæ Virginis, quæ portaverunt æterni Patris Filium, et beata ubera, quæ lactaverunt Christum Dominum, * Qui hodie pro salute mundi de Virgine nasci dignatus est.

℣. Dies sanctificatus illuxit nobis; venite Gentes, et adorate Dominum. Qui hodie.

Lesson from the holy Gospel according to Luke.
Ch. II.

At that time, there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. And the rest.

Homily of St Gregory, Pope.

Since, by the divine bounty, we are this day thrice to celebrate the solemn office of Mass, we cannot speak long on the lesson of the Gospel; and yet this very Nativity of our Redeemer compels us to say something, however brief. Why, then, is it, that when our Lord was about to be born, the world is enrolled; if not that hereby is shown that he who appeared in the flesh is he that would enrol his elect in eternity? Just as, when speaking of the reprobate, the Prophet says: Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; and with the just let them not be written. Then again: Jesus is born in Bethlehem; 'tis well; for Bethlehem signifies a House of Bread, and Jesus said of himself: I am the living Bread that came down from heaven. The place, therefore, in which he is born, had had the name of House of Bread given to it, because there would appear in the material reality of our flesh he who was to refresh the souls of the elect with spiritual repletion. And why is he born, not at his Mother’s home, but away from it? Is it not to show how, by his assuming human nature, he was born, so to say, in a foreign country?

℟. Blessed is the womb of the Virgin Mary, that bore the Son of the Eternal Father; and blessed are the breasts that fed Christ the Lord, * who deigned to be born this day of the Virgin for the world’s salvation.

℣. A holy day hath shone upon us; come, ye Gentiles, and adore the Lord. * Who deigned.


The second of the three Gospels, which forms the subject of the eighth Lesson, is also taken from St Luke, and the Homily is by St Ambrose. It gives the description of the Shepherds going to the holy Stable.

Benedictio. Per Evangelica dicta deleantur nostra delicta. ℟. Amen.
Blessing. May our sins be wiped away by the words of the Gospel. ℟.Amen.

Eighth Lesson

Lectio sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Cap. II.

In illo tempore: Pastores loquebantur ad invicem: Transeamus usque Bethlehem, et videamus hoc verbum quod factum est, quod Dominus ostendit nobis. Et reliqua.

Homilia sancti Ambrosii Episcopi.

Videte Ecclesiæ surgentis exordium: Christus nascitur, et Pastores vigilare cœperunt: qui gentium greges, pecudum more ante viventes, in caulam Domini congregarent, ne quos spiritualium bestiarum, per offusas noctium tenebras paterentur incursus. Et bene pastores vigilant, quos bonus pastor informat. Grex igitur populus, nox sæculum, pastores sunt sacerdotes. Aut fortasse etiam ille sit Pastor, cui dicitur: Esto vigilans et confirma; quia non solum Episcopos ad tuendum gregem Dominus ordinavit, sed etiam Angelos ordinavit.

℟. Verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis: * Et vidimus gloriam ejus, gloriam quasi Unigeniti a Patre; plenum gratiæ et veritatis.
℣. Omnia per ipsum facta sunt: et sine ipso factum est nihil. Et vidimus. Gloria. Et vidimus.
Lesson of the holy Gospel according to Luke.

Ch. II.

At that time the Shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word, that is come to pass, which the Lord hath showed unto us. And the rest.

Homily of St Ambrose, Bishop.

Here, see the beginning of the infant Church: Christ is born; and Shepherds are watching, as about to herd into the Lord's fold that Gentile flock which had hitherto lived like brute animals, and this lest, during the thick darkness of night, they might suffer from the attacks of spiritual wild beasts. And it is well said that the Shepherds are watching, for Shepherds, trained by the Good Shepherd, do watch. So that the Flock is the people; the Night is the world; the Shepherds are the Priests. Or perhaps we might interpret him to be the Shepherd to whom it is said: Be thou watchful, and give strength; for not only has our Lord set Bishops to guard the Flock, he has set the very Angels.

℟. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us: * And we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the OnlyBegotten of the Father; full of grace and truth.
℣. All things were made by him; and without him was made nothing. * And we saw. Glory be to the Father, etc. * And we saw.

The third Gospel, which forms the subject of the ninth Lesson, is the beginning of that according to St John, and is commented on by St Augustine: it speaks of the Eternal Generation of the Word.

Benedictio. Verba Sancti Evangelii doceat nos Christus Filius Dei. ℟. Amen.
Blessing. May Christ, the Son of God, teach us the words of the Holy Gospel. ℟. Amen.

Ninth Lesson

Lectio sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.

Cap. I.

In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum. Et reliqua.

Homilia sancti Augustini Episcopi.

Ne vile aliquid putares, quale consuevisti cogitare, cum verba humana soleres audire, audi quid cogites, Deus erat Verbum. Exeat nunc nescio quis infidelis Arianus, et dicat, quia Verbum Dei factum est. Quomodo potest fieri ut verbum Dei factum sit, quando Deus per Verbum fecit omnia? Si et Verbum Dei ipsum factum est, per quod aliud Verbum est? Si hoc dicis, quia hoc est Verbum Verbi, per quod factum est illud; ipsum dico ego unicum Filium Dei. Si autem non dicis Verbum Verbi, concede non factum, per quod facta sunt omnia. Non enim per seipsum fieri potuit, per quod facta sunt omnia. Crede ergo evangelistæ.
Lesson 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. And the rest.

Homily of St Augustine, Bishop.

Lest thou shouldst think that this is some commonplace thing, as thou art wont to do when men talk to thee, hear what it is thou art to think: The Word was God. After this, some infidel Arian will come forward and tell me that the Word of God was made. How is it possible that the Word of God could be made, when Godmade all things by the Word? If this very word of God was also made, by what other Word was he made? If thou reply that the Word of the Word is the one by which he was made—then I will answer thee, that this very one is he whom we mean by the Son of God. But if thou do not say there is a Word that made the Word, then grant that he by whom all things were made was himself not made, since he by whom all things were made could not make himself. Therefore believe the Evangelist.

Our three Night Vigils are over: we have sung our songs of praise; we have listened to our Mother the Church telling us of the Prophecies of the beautiful Coming: and meanwhile, the night has advanced, and now the long-expected, the ever-sacred hour of Midnight has come, and we are to see the Divine Infant Jesus, lying in his Crib and smiling upon his Mother. Jubilee is the duty of this sweetest moment: let our hearts beat with delight! Jesus, our Salvation, is coming down from heaven, and for our sakes. What a joy it is that our dear Church gives us a Canticle which is a worthy reception of this our God! Come then, Christians, let us make the holy place echo with our grand Te Deum!

Hymn Of Thanksgiving

Te Deum laudamus: * te Dominum confitemur.
Te æternum Patrem; * omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli; * tibi cœli, et universæ potestates.
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim: * incessabili voce proclamant.
Sanctus, * Dominus Deus Sabaoth!
Pleni sunt cœli et terra * majestatis gloriæ tuæ.
Te gloriosus * Apostolorum chorus,
Te Prophetarum * laudabilis numerus,
Te Martyrum candidatus * laudat exercitus,
Te per orbem terrarum * sancta confitetur Ecclesia:
Patrem * immensæ majestatis,
Venerandum tuum verum, * et unicum Filium,
Sanctum quoque * Paraclitum Spiritum.
Tu Rex gloriæ, * Christe.
Tu Patris, * sempiternus es Filius.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem, * non horruisti Virginis uterum.
Tu devicto mortis aculeo: * aperuisti credentibus regna cœlorum.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes: * in gloria Patris.
Judex crederis * esse venturus.
We praise thee, O God! we acknowledge thee to be our Lord.
Thee, the Father everlasting, all the earth doth worship.
To thee the Angels, to thee the heavens, and all the
To thee the Cherubim and Seraphim, cry out without ceasing:
Holy! Lord God of Sabaoth!
Full are the heavens and the earth of the majesty of thy glory.
Thee the glorious choir of the Apostles,
Thee the laudable company of the Prophets,
Thee the white-robed army of Martyrs doth praise,
Thee the Holy Church throughout the world doth acknowledge:
The Father of incomprehensible majesty,
Thy adorable, true, and only Son,
And the Holy Ghost the Paraclete.
Thou, O Christ, art the King of glory.
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
Thou being to take upon thee to deliver man, didst not disdain the Virgin’s womb.
Thou having overcome the sting of death, hast opened to believers the kingdom of heaven.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.
Thee we believe to be the Judge to come.

All kneel at the following verse:

Te ergo quæsumus, tuis famulis subveni, * quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.
Æterna fac cum sanctis tuis * in gloria numerari.
Salvum fac populum tuum Domine: * et benedic hæreditati tuæ.
Et rege eos: * et extolle illos usque in æternum.
Per singulos dies * benedicimus te.
Et laudamus Nomen tuum in sæculum: * et in sæculum sæculi.
Dignare, Domine, die isto, * sine peccato nos custodire.
Miserere nostri, Domine: * miserere nostri.
Fiat misericordia tua Domine super nos, * quemadmodum speravimus in te.
In te Domine speravi: * non confundar in æternum.
We beseech thee, therefore, to help thy servants, whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious Blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy saints in eternal glory.
O Lord, save thy people, and bless thine inheritance.
And govern them, and exalt them for ever.
Every day, we magnify thee.
And we praise thy Name for ever and ever.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, as we have put our trust in thee.
In thee, O Lord, have I put my trust: let me not be confounded for ever.

Our Hymn of thanksgiving sung, the Church concludes the Office of Matins by the following Prayer, in which she embodies all her desires on this feast of the New Birth of the Only-Begotten Son of God.

Let us pray

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


It is now time to offer the Great Sacrifice, and to call down our Emmanuel from heaven: he alone can fully pay the debt of gratitude which mankind owes to the Eternal Father. He will intercede for us on the Altar, as he did in his Crib. We will approach him with love, and he will give himself to us.

But such is the greatness of to-day's Mystery, that the Church is not satisfied with only once offering up the Holy Sacrifice. The long-expected and precious Gift deserves an unusual welcome. God the Father has given his Son to us; and it is by the operation of the Holy Ghost that the grand Portent is produced: let there be, then, to the ever Blessed Three, the homage of a triple Sacrifice!

Besides, this Jesus, who is born to-night, is born thrice. He is born of the Blessed Virgin, in the stable of Bethlehem; he is born by grace, in the hearts of the Shepherds, who are the first fruits of the Christian Church; and he is born eternally from the Bosom of the Father, in the brightness of the Saints: to this triple Birth, therefore, let there be the homage of a triple Sacrifice!

The first Mass honours the Birth according to the Flesh, which, like the other two, is an effusion of the Divine Light. The hour is come: the people that walked in darkness have seen a great Light; Light is risen to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death.[9] Outside the holy place, where we are now assembled, there is dark Night: material Night, caused by the absence of the sun; spiritual Night, by reason of the sins of men, who either sleep in the forgetfulness of God, or wake to the commission of crime. At Bethlehem, round the Stable, and in the City, all is deep darkness; and the inhabitants, who would not find room for the Divine Babe, are sleeping heavily: will they awaken when the Angels begin to sing?

Midnight comes. The Holy Virgin has been longing for this happy moment. Her heart is suddenly overwhelmed with a delight which is new even to her. She falls into an ecstasy of love. As her Child will one day, in his almighty power, rise through the unmoved barrier of his Sepulchre; so now, as a sunbeam gleaming through purest crystal, he is born, and lies on the ground before her. With arms outstretched to embrace her, and smiling upon her: this is her first sight of her Son, who is Son also of the Eternal Father! She adores—takes him into her arms—presses him to her heart—swathes his infant limbs—and lays him down in the manger. Her faithful Joseph unites his adoration with hers; and so, too, do the Angels of heaven, for, the Royal Psalmist had sung this prophecy of their adoring him on his entrance into the world.[10] Heaven opens over this spot of earth, which men call a Stable; and from it there mount to the Throne of the Eternal Father the first prayer, the first tear, the first sob of this his Son, our Jesus, who thus begins to prepare the world’s salvation.

The eyes of the faithful are now riveted on the Sanctuary, where the same Jesus is to be their Holy Sacrifice. The procession of the sacred Ministers has entered the Holy of Holies, and the Priest comes with them to the foot of the Altar. The Choir is singing its openingcanticle, the Introit; where we have our God himself speaking to his Son, and saying: This Day have I begotten thee. Let the Nations rage, if they will, and be impatient of the yoke of this Babe of Bethlehem; he shall subdue them and reign over them, for he is the Son of God.


Dominus dixit ad me: Filius meus es tu; ego hodie genui te.
Ps. Quare fremuerunt gentes, et populi meditati sunt inania? ℣. Gloria Patri. Dominus dixit.
The Lord hath said unto me: Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
Ps. Why have the nations raged, and the people devised vain things? ℣. Glory, etc. The Lord hath said, etc.

The Angelic Hymn is preceded by the Kyrie eleison; but these nine supplications for mercy over, it bursts forth with those sublime words: Gloria in excelsis Deo; et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis! Let us imite, heart and voice, in this the chant of the Angels: Glory be to God! Peace be to men! These our heavenly Brethren first intoned it, and they are, at this moment, round our Altar, as they were round the Crib; they are singing our happiness. They are adoring that divine Justice, which gave not a Redeemer to their fallen fellow-angels, yet to us gives the very Son of God to be our Redeemer. They are magnifying that deep humiliation of him who made both Angels and men, and who so lovingly favours the weaker of the two. They know that our gratitude needs help, and so they lend us their sweet voices to give thanks to him who, by this mystery of love and magnificence, is enabling us poor mortals one day to fill up the thrones left vacant by the rebel spirits. Oh! yes; let us all, men and Angels, Church of earth and Church of heaven, let us sing: Glory be to God! and Peace to men! The more the Son of the Eternal Father has had to humble himself in order to enrich and exalt us, the more fervently must we cry out our warmest praise, and hymn this Mystery of the Incarnation: Tu solus Sanctus! Tu solus Dominus! Tu solus altissimus, Jesu Christe! Thou only, O Jesus! art Holy!Thou only art Lord! Thou only art Most High!

The Collect then follows, summing up all our prayers in one.


Deus, qui hanc sacratissimam noctem veri luminis fecisti illustratione clarescere: da, quæsumus, ut cujus lucis mysteria in terra cognovimus, ejus quoque gaudiis in cœlo perfruamur. Qui tecum.
O God, who hast enlightened this most sacred Night 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, etc.


Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Titum.

Cap. II.

Carissime, apparuit gratia Dei Salvatoris nostri omnibus hominibus, erudiens nos, ut, abnegantes impietatem et sæcularia desideria, sobrie et juste et pie vivamus in hoc sæculo: exspectantes beatam spem, et adventum gloriæ magni Dei et Salvatoris nostri Jesu Christi: qui dedit semetipsum pro nobis, ut nos redimeret ab omni iniquitate, et mundaret sibi populum acceptabilem, sectatorem bonorum operum. Hæc loquere et exhortare, in Christo Jesu Domino nostro.
Lesson of the Epistle of St Paul the Apostle to Titus.

Ch. II.

Dearly beloved, the grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men, instructing us that denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly and justly and godly in this world; looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and might cleanse to himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works. These things speak and exhort, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

This God our Saviour hath at length appeared! and with such grace and mercy! He alone could deliver us from dead works, and restore us to life. At this very hour, he appeareth to all men, laid in his narrow Crib, and fastly wrapped, as a Babe, in swaddlingclothes. Yes, here have we the Blessed One, whose visit we had so long hoped for! Let us purify our hearts, that he may be pleased with us; for though he is the Infant Jesus, he is also, as the Apostle has just told us, the Great God, and the Son of the Eternal Father, born from all eternity. Let us unite with the Angels and the Church in this hymn to our Great God, Jesus of Bethlehem.


Tecum principium in die virtutis tuæ, in splendoribus sanctorum: ex utero ante luciferum genui te.

℣. Dixit Dominus Domino meo: sede a dextris meis, donec ponam inimicos tuos scabellum pedum tuorum.

Alleluia, alleluia.

Dominus dixit ad me: Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te. Alleluia.
With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength, in the brightness of the Saints: from the womb, before the day-star, I begot thee.

℣. The Lord said to my Lord: Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies my footstool.

Alleluia, alleluia.

℣. The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Alleluia.


Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Cap. II.

In illo tempore: exiit edictum a Cæsare Augusto, ut describeretur universus orbis. Hæc descriptio prima facta est a præside Syriæ Cyrino: et ibant omnes, ut profiterentur singuli in suam civitatem. Ascendit autem et Joseph a Galilæa de civitate Nazareth, in Judæam, in civitatem David, quæ vocatur Bethlehem; eo quod esset de domo et familia David, ut profiteretur cum Maria desponsata sibi uxore prægnante. Factum est autem, cum essent ibi, impleti sunt dies ut pareret. Et peperit filium suum primogenitum, et pannis eum involvit, et reclinavit eum in præsepio; quia non erat eis locus in diversorio. Et pastores erant in regione eadem vigilantes, et custodientes vigilias noctis super gregem suum. Et ecce Angelus Domini stetit juxta illos, et claritas Dei circumfulsit illos, et timuerunt timore magno. Et dixit illis Angelus: Nolite timere: ecce enim evangelizo vobis gaudium magnum, quod erit omni populo: quia natus est vobis hodie Salvator, qui est Christus Dominus, in civitate David. Et hoc vobis signum: Invenietis infantem pannis involutum, et positum in præsepio. Et subito facta est cum Angelo multitudo militiæ cœlestis, laudantium Deum, et dicencentium: Gloria in altissimis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis.

Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.

Ch. II.

At that time, there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapt him up in swaddling-clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country Shepherds watching and keeping the night-watches over their flock. And behold an Angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them, and they feared with a great fear. And the Angel said to them: Fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: for this day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you: You shall find the Infant wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.

O Divine Infant! we too must needs join our voices with those of the Angels, and sing with them: Glory be to God! and Peace to men I We cannot restrain our tears at hearing this history of thy Birth. We have followed thee in thy journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem; we have kept close to Mary and Joseph on the whole journey; we have kept sleepless watch during this holy Night, waiting thy coming. Praise be to thee, sweetest Jesus, for thy mercy! and love from all hearts for thy tender love of us! Our eyes are riveted on that dear Crib, for our Salvation is there; and there we recognize thee as the Messias foretold in those sublime Prophecies which thy Spouse the Church has been repeating to us in her solemn prayers of this night. Thou art the Mighty God—the Prince of Peace—the Spouse of our souls—our Peace—our Saviour—our Bread of Life. And now what shall we offer thee? A good Will? Ah! dear Lord! thou must form it within us; thou must increase it, if thou hast already given it; that thus, we may become thy Brethren by grace, as we already are by the human nature thou hast assumed. But, O Incarnate Word! this Mystery of thy becoming Man works within us a still higher grace: it makes us, as thy Apostle tells us, partakers of that divine nature[11] which is inseparable from thee in the midst of all thy humiliations. Thou hast made us less than the Angels in the scale of creation; but in thy Incarnation thou hast made us Heirs of God, and Joint-Heirs with thine own divine Self![12] Never permit us, through our own weaknesses and sins, to degenerate from this wonderful gift, whereby thy Incarnation exalted us, and oh! dear Jesus, to what a height!

After the Gospel, the Church triumphantly chants the glorious symbol of our Faith, which tells, one by one, the Mysteries of the Man-God. At the words: Et Incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine, et Homo factus est, profoundly adore the great God who assumed our human nature, and became like unto us, his poor creatures; let your adoration and love repay him, if it were possible, for this his incomprehensible abasement. In each of to-day's Masses, when the Choir comes to these words in the Credo,the Priest rises from the sedilia, and remains kneeling in humble adoration at the foot of the Altar whilst they are being sung. You must unite your adorations with those of the Church, which is represented by the Celebrant.

During the Offering of the bread and wine, the Church tells us how the Birth of Jesus Christ filled heaven and earth with joy. In a few short moments there will be on our Altar, where we now see mere bread and wine, the Body and Blood of this same Jesus, our Emmanuel.


Lætentur cœli et exsultet terra ante faciem Domini, quoniam venit.
Let the heavens rejoice, and the earth be glad in the presence of the Lord, for he is come.


Accepta tibi sit, Domine, quæsumus, hodiernæ festivitatis oblatio; ut, tua gratia largiente, per hæc sacrosancta commercia in illius inveniamur forma, in quo tecum est nostra substantia. Qui tecum vivit.
Receive, O Lord, the offerings we make to thee on this present solemnity: that by thy grace, through the intercourse of these sacred mys teries, we may be conformable to him in whom our nature is united to thine. Who liveth etc.

The Preface then gives expression to the thanksgiving of the people, and finishes with the triple Sanctus to the God of Sabaoth. At the Elevation, when, in the midst of the mysterious silence, your Saviour, the Incarnate Word, descends upon the Altar, you must see, with the eye of your faith, the Crib, and Jesus stretching out his hands to his Eternal Father, and looking upon you with extreme tenderness, and Mary adoring him with a Mother’s love, and Joseph looking on and weeping with joy, and the holy Angels lost in amazement at the mystery. You must give your heart to the New-Born Babe, that he may fill it with what he wishes to see there; nay, beg of him to fill it with himself, and make himself its Master and its All.

After the Communion, the Church, which has just been united to the Infant God by partaking of the sacred mysteries, once more celebrates the Eternal Generation of that Divine Word, who was born from the Bosom of the Father before any creature existed, and who has appeared to the world this Night before the Day-Star has risen.


In splendoribus Sanctorum, ex utero ante luciferum genui te.
In the brightness of the Saints, from the womb, before the day-star, I begot thee.

The Church terminates this her first Sacrifice, by praying for the grace of indissoluble union with the Saviour who is born to her.


Da nobis, quæsumus, Domine Deus noster, ut qui Nativitatem Domini nostri Jesu Christi mysteriis nos frequentare gaudemus, dignis conversationibus ad ejus mereamur pervenire consortium. Qui tecum.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord our God, that we, who celebrate with joy the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, by partaking of these sacred mysteries, may, by a worthy conduct of life, come to be united with him. Who liveth, etc.

The sacred Night is passing quickly on; and will soon bring us to the Second Mass, which is to sanctify the hour of day-break, or the Aurora. Every day in the year, the Church passes the hour before Sunrise in prayer, for the rising of the Sun is a beautiful figure of the mystery of Jesus' coming to this earth to give it light. This portion of the Divine Office is called Lauds, on account of its being wholly made up of praise and joy. On Christmas Day, however, she somewhat anticipates the usual hour, in order that she may begin, at the precise time of the Aurora, a more perfect and more divine Sacrifice of Praise—the Eucharistic Oblation, which satisfies all the obligations we owe to the Divine bounty.

The Office of Lauds is celebrated with the same solemnity as that of Vespers; and altogether, the two Offices are much alike. Both of them tell us of the Divine Sun of Justice; Lauds celebrates his glorious rising, whilst Vespers which are said at sunset, when the shades of evening are beginning to fall upon the earth, remind us how we must long for that eternal Day which shall have no night, and whose Lamp is the Lamb.[13] Lauds are the morning, Vespers the evening incense. The mysteries of the liturgical day begin with the first, and end with the second.


. Deus in adjutorium meum intende.

. Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto:

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

℟. O Lord, make haste to help me.

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

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


The first Psalm of Lauds shows us our Lord in his infinite power and majesty. His admirable Birth has renewed our earth. He is born in time; but he was before all time. The voice of the deep sea betokens marvellous power; the power of Emmanuel is far more wonderful. Let us lead lives worthy of the holiness of his House, which he has come to throw open to us.

Ant. Quern vidistis pastores? Dicite: annuntiate nobis, in terris quis apparuit? Natum vidimus, et choros Angelorum collaudantes Dominum, alleluia, alleluia.
Ant. Whom have ye seen, O Shepherds? Say, tell us, who is it has appeared on the earth?—We have seen the Child that is born, and choirs of Angels praising the Lord, alleluia, alleluia.

Psalm 92

Dominus regnavit, decorem indutus est: * indutus est Dominus fortitudinem et præcinxit se.
Etenim firmavit orbem terræ: * qui non commovebitur.
Parata sedes tua ex tunc: * a sæculo tu es.
Elevaverunt fllumina, Domine: * elevaverunt flumina vocem suam.
Elevaverunt ilumina fluctus suos: * a vocibus aquarum multarum.
Mirabiles elationes maris: * mirabilis in altis Dominus.
Testimonia tua credibilia facta sunt nimis: * domum tuam decet sanctitudo, Domine, in longitudinem dierum.

Ant. Quem vidistis pastores? Dicite: annuntiate nobis, in terris quis apparuit? Natum vidimus, et choros Angelorum collaudantes Dominum. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Lord hath reigned, he is clothed with beauty: the Lord is clothed with strength, and hath girded himself.
For this day, by his birth, he hath established the world, which shall not be moved.
Thy throne, O Divine Infant! is prepared from of old: thou art from everlasting.
The floods have lifted up, O Lord! the floods have lifted up their voice.
The floods have lifted up their waves, with the noise of many waters.
Wonderful are the surges of the sea: wonderful is the Lord on high.
Thy testimonies are become exceedingly credible: holiness becometh thy House, which is thy Church, O Lord, unto length of days.

Ant. Whom have ye seen, O Shepherds? Say, tell us, who is it has appeared on the earth?—We have seen the Child that is born, and choirs of Angels praising the Lord, alleluia, alleluia.

The second Psalm is an invitation to all nations to enter into Bethlehem, that House of our Lord which is now filled with his sweet presence. He is the sovereign Pastor, and we are the sheep of his pasture. Though he be the Mighty God, yet is he most sweet and merciful; let us celebrate his coming with joy and gratitude.

Ant. Genuit puerpera regem, cui nomen æternum, et gaudia matris habens cum virginitatis honore, nec primam similem visa est, nec habere sequentem, alleluia.
Ant. The Mother has given birth to the King, whose name is eternal: she has both a Mother's joy and a Virgin’s privilege: not one has ever been, or shall ever be, like her, alleluia.

Psalm 99

Jubilate Deo omnis terra: * servite Domino in lætitia.
Introite in conspectu ejus: * in exsultatione.
Scitote quoniam Dominus ipse est Deus: * ipse fecit nos, et non ipsi nos.
Populus ejus, et oves pascuae ejus, * introite portas ejus in confessione: atria ejus in hymnis, confitemini illi.
Laudate nomen ejus, quoniam suavis est Dominus; in æternum misericordia ejus: * et usque in generationem et generationem veritas ejus.

Ant. Genuit puerpera regem, cui nomen æternum, et gaudia matris habens cum virginitatis honore, nec primam similem visa est, nec habere sequentem, alleluia.
Sing joyfully to God, all the earth! serve ye the Lord with gladness.
Come in before his presence with exceeding great joy.
Know ye that this Infant, the Lord, is God: he made us, and not we ourselves.
We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture; go ye into his gates with praise: into his courts with hymns, and give glory to him.
Praise ye his name, for the Lord is sweet: his mercy endureth for ever: and his truth to generation and generation.

Ant. The Mother has given birth to the King, whose name is eternal; she has both a Mother's joy and a Virgin’s privilege: not one has ever been, or shall ever be, like her, alleluia.

The following Psalm is the prayer of the faithful soul to her God, at dawn of day. From her first waking, she thirsts after the Great God, her Creator and Redeemer. To-day we have this same God lying before us in his Crib; he comes that he may fill our souls, and nourish us with his own substance—how shall we do otherwise than rejoice in him? The orb of day will soon light up the east; but our Sim of Justice, the Lamb, is already shedding his bright soft rays upon us. May he mercifully pour out his light on all nations! May all the earth bless this divine Fruit, which the Virgin-Mother has yielded!

Ant. Angelus ad pastores ait: Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: quia natus est vobis hodie Salvator mundi, alleluia.
Ant. The Angel said unto the Shepherds: I bring you tidings of great joy; for this day is born unto you the Saviour of the world, alleluia.

Psalm 62

Deus, Deus meus: * ad te de luce vigilo.
Sitivit in te anima mea: * quam multipliciter tibi caro mea.
In terra deserta, et invia, et inaquosa: * sic in sancto apparui tibi, ut viderem virtutem tuam, et gloriam tuam.
Quoniam melior est misericordia tua super vitas: * labia mea laudabunt te.
Sic benedicam te in vita mea: * et in nomine tuo levabo manus meas.
Sicut adipe et pinguedine repleatur anima mea: * et labiis exsultationis laudabit os meum.
Si memor fui tui super stratum meum, in matutinis meditabor in te: * quia fuisti adjutor meus.
Et in velamento alarum tuarum exsultabo, adhæsit anima mea post te: * me suscepit dextera tua.
Ipsi vero in vanum quæsierunt animam meam, introibunt in inferiora terræ: * tradentur in manus gladii, partes vulpium erunt.
Rex vero lætabitur in Deo, laudabuntur omnes qui jurant in eo: * quia obstructum est os loquentium iniqua.

Ant. Angelus ad pastores ait: Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: quia natus est vobis hodie Salvator mundi, alleluia.
O God, my God, to thee do I watch at break of day.
For thee my soul hath thirsted; for thee my flesh, oh! how many ways.
In a desert land, and where there is no way, and no water: so in the sanctuary of Bethlehem have I come before thee, to see thy power and thy glory.
For thy mercy is better than lives: thee my lips shall praise.
Thus will I bless thee all my life long: and in thy name I will lift up my hands.
Let my soul be filled as with marrow and fatness, O Bread of Life! and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips.
If I have remembered thee upon my bed, I will meditate on thee in the morning: because thou hast been my helper.
And I will rejoice under the covert of thy wings; my soul hath stuck close to thee: thy right hand hath received me.
But they have sought my soul in vain; they shall go into the lower parts of the earth: they shall be delivered into the hands of the sword, they shall be the portions of foxes.
But the just man thus delivered shall, as a King, rejoice in God; all they shall be praised that swear by him; because the mouth is stopped of them that speak wicked things.

Ant. The Angel said unto the Shepherds: I bring you tidings of great joy; for this day is born unto you the Saviour of the world, alleluia.

The Canticle, in which the Three Children, in the fiery Furnace of Babylon, bid all creatures of God bless his name, is sung by the Church in the Lauds of every Feast. It gives a voice to all creatures, and invites the whole universe to bless its divine Author. How just it is that on this day heaven and earth should unite in giving glory to God, who comes down among his own creatures, and repairs the injury done to them all by sin.

Ant. Facta est cum Angelo multitudo cœlestis exercitus laudantium Deum, et dicentium: Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis, alleluia.
Ant. With the Angel was a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will, alleluia.

Canticle of the Three Children
(Dan. 3)

Benedicite omnia opera Domini Domino: * laudate et superexaltate eum in sæcula.
Benedicite Angeli Domini Domino: * benedicite cœli Domino.
Benedicite aquæ omnes, quæ super cœlos sunt, Domino: * benedicite omnes virtutes Domini Domino.
Benedicite sol et luna Domino: * benedicite stellæ cœli Domino.
Benedicite omnis imber et ros Domino: * benedicite omnes spiritus Dei Domino.
Benedicite ignis et æstus Domino: * benedicite frigus et æstus Domino.
Benedicite rores, et pruina Domino: * benedicite gelu et frigus Domino.
Benedicite glacies et nives Domino: * benedicite noctes et dies Domino.
Benedicite lux et tenebræ Domino: * benedicite fulgura et nubes Domino.
Benedicat terra Dominum: * laudet et superexaltet eum in sæcula.
Benedicite montes et colies Domino: * benedicite universa germinantia in terra Domino.
Benedicite fontes Domino: * benedicite maria et flumina Domino.
Benedicite cete, et omnia quæ moventur in aquis, Domino: * benedicite omnes volucres cœli Domino.
Benedicite omnes bestiæ et pecora Domino: * benedicite filii hominum Domino.
Benedicat Israel Dominum: * laudet et superexaltet eum in sæcula.
Benedicite Sacerdotes Domini Domino: * benedicite servi Domini Domino.
Benedicite spiritus et animæ justorum Domino: * benedicite Sancti et humiles corde Domino.
Benedicite Anania, Azaria, Misael Domino: * laudate et superexaltate eum 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.

Ant. Facta est cum Angelo multitudo cœlestis exercitus laudantium Deum et dicentium: Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis, alleluia.
All ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord: praise and exalt him above ail for ever.
O ye Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord: O ye heavens, bless the Lord.
O all ye waters, that are above the heavens, bless the Lord: O all ye powers of the Lord, bless the Lord.
O ye sun and moon, bless the Lord: O ye stars of heaven, bless the Lord.
O every shower and dew, bless ye the Lord: O all ye spirits of God, bless the Lord.
O ye fire and heat, bless the Lord: O ye cold and heat, bless the Lord.
O ye dews and hoar frosts, bless the Lord: O ye frost and cold, bless the Lord.
O ye ice and snow, bless the Lord: O ye nights and days, bless the Lord.
O ye light and darkness, bless the Lord: O ye lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord.
Oh! let the earth bless the Lord: let it praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye mountains and hills, bless the Lord: O all ye things that spring up in the earth, bless the Lord.
O ye fountains, bless the Lord: O ye seas and rivers, bless the Lord.
O ye whales, and all that move in the waters, bless the Lord: O all ye fowls of the air, bless the Lord.
O all ye beasts and cattle, bless the Lord: O ye sons of men, bless the Lord.
Oh! let Israel bless the Lord: let them praise and exalt him above all for ever.
O ye Priests of the Lord, bless the Lord: O ye servants of the Lord, bless the Lord.
O ye spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord: O ye holy and humble of heart, bless the Lord.
O Ananias, Azarias, Misael, bless ye the Lord: praise and exalt him above all for ever.
Let us bless the Father, and the Son, with the Holy Ghost; let us praise and exalt him above all for ever.
Blessed art thou, O Lord, in the firmament of heaven: and worthy of praise, and glorious, and exalted above all for ever.

Ant. With the Angel was a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will, alleluia.

The last Psalm of Lauds sings the praise of the Lord, and urges all creatures to bless his holy name. It has a great resemblance with the Canticle of the Three Children.

Ant. Parvulus filius hodie natus est nobis, et vocabitur Deus, Fortis, alleluia, alleluia.
Ant. A Little Child is this day born unto us, and he shall be called God, the Mighty One, alleluia, alleluia.

Psalm 148

Laudate Dominum de cœlis: * laudate eum in excelsis.
Laudate eum omnes Angeli ejus: * laudate eum omnes virtutes ejus.
Laudate eum sol et luna: * laudate eum omnes stellæ et lumen.
Laudate eum cœli cœlorum: * et aquæ omnes quæ super cœlos sunt, laudent nomen Domini.
Quia ipse dixit et facta sunt: * ipse mandavit, et creata sunt.
Statuit ea in æternum, et in sæculum sæculi: * præceptum posuit, et non præteribit.
Laudate Dominum de terra: * dracones et omnes abyssi.
Ignis, grando, nix, glacies, spiritus procellarum: * quæ faciunt verbum ejus.
Montes et omnes colles: * ligna fructifera, et omnes cedri.
Bestiæ et universa pecora: * serpentes et volucres pennatæ.
Reges terræ et omnes populi: * principes et omnes judices terræ.
Juvenes et virgines, senes cum junioribus, laudent nomen Domini: * quia exaltatum est nomen ejus solius.
Confessio ejus super cœlum et terram: * et exaltavit cornu populi sui.
Hymnus omnibus Sanctis ejus: * filiis Israel, populo appropinquanti sibi.

Ant. Parvulus filius hodie natus est nobis, et vocabitur Deus, Fortis, alleluia, alleluia.

Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise ye him in the high places.
Praise ye him, all his Angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.
Praise ye him, O sun and moon: praise ye him, all ye stars and light.
Praise him, ye heavens of heavens: and let all the waters that are above the heavens praise the name of the Lord.
For he spoke, and they were made: he commanded, and they were created.
He hath established them for ever, and for ages of ages: he hath made a decree, and it shall not pass away.
Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons and all ye deeps.
Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds, which fulfil his word.
Mountains and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars.
Beasts and all cattle; serpents and feathered fowls.
Kings of the earth, and all people; princes and all judges of the earth.
Young men and maidens; let the old with the younger praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is exalted.
His praise is above heaven and earth: and he hath this Day exalted the horn of his people.
A hymn to all his Saints: to the children of Israel, a people approaching to him.

Ant. A Little Child is this day born unto us, and he shall be called God, the Mighty One, alleluia, alleluia.

The Capitulum is taken from the Epistle of St Paul to the Hebrews; we shall have it repeated, with several additional verses, in the Epistle of the Third Mass.

(Heb. I)

Multifariam, multisque modis olim Deus loquens patribus in Prophetis: novissime diebus istis locutus est nobis in Filio, quem constituit hæredem universorum, per quem fecit et sæcula.

℟. Deo gratias.
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the Prophets; last of all in these days hath spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed Heir of aU things, by whom also he made the world.

℟. Thanks be to God.

Sedulius, a Christian Poet of the fourth century, is the author of the beautiful Hymn which now follows:


A solis ortus cardine
Ad usque terræ limitem,
Christum canamus Principem,
Natum Maria Virgine.

Beatus auctor sæculi
Servile corpus induit:
Ut carne carnem liberans,
Ne perderet quos condidit.

Castæ Parentis viscera
Cœlestis intrat gratia:
Venter puellæ bajulat
Secreta, quæ non noverat.

Domus pudici pectoris
Templum repente fit Dei;
Intacta nesciens virum,
Concepit alvo Filium.

Enititur puerpera
Quem Gabriel prædixerat,
Quem ventre matris gestiens,
Baptista clausum senserat.

Foeno jacere pertulit;
Præsepe non abhorruit:
Et lacte modico pastus est,
Per quem nec ales esurit.

Gaudet chorus cœlestium,
Et Angeli canunt Deo;
Palamque fit pastoribus
Pastor, creator omnium.

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


℣. Notum fecit Dominus, alleluia.
℟. Salutare suum, alleluia.
From where the sun
rises to the furthest west,
let us all sing to Jesus our King,
the Son of the Virgin Mary.

The blessed Creator of the universe
assumed the Body of a servant:
that he might thus by Flesh deliver flesh,
and save from perdition the creatures of his hands.

The heavenly grace enters
into the womb of the VirginMother:
the young Maiden carries within her
a Secret which she knows not.

This chastest living Dwelling becomes,
in that instant God’s own Temple:
the purest of Virgins
conceives the Son of God.

She gives him birth:
him whom Gabriel had foretold,
and whom the Baptist, exulting in his mother’s womb,
perceived when yet unborn.

He suffered himself to be laid on the straw:
he disdains not the Crib:
and he who feeds the hungry birds,
is fed himself on a few drops of milk!

The heavenly citizens keep glad choir,
singing their angelhymns to God:
and the Shepherd, the Creator of the world,
is looked at by shepherds.

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


℣. The Lord hath made known, alleluia.
℟. His salvation, alleluia.

The Canticle of Zachary is now sung: it is the Church’s daily welcome of the rising Sun. It celebrates the coming of Jesus to his creatures, the fulfilment of the promises made by God, and the apparition of the divine Orient in the midst of our darkness.

Ant. Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis, alleluia, alleluia.
Ant. Glory be to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will, alleluia, alleluia.

Canticle of Zachary
(St Luke I)

Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel: * quia visitavit, et fecit redemptionem plebis suae.
Et erexit cornu salutis nobis: * in domo David pueri sui.
Sicut locutus est per os Sanctorum: * qui a sæculo sunt Prophetarum ejus.
Salutem ex inimicis nostris: * et de manu omnium qui oderunt nos.
Ad faciendam misericordiam cum Patribus nostris: * et memoran testamenti sui sancti.
Jusjurandum quod juravit ad Abraham patrem nostrum: * daturam se nobis.
Ut sine timore de manu inimicorum nostrorum liberati: * serviamus illi.
In sanctitate et justitia coram ipso; * omnibus diebus nostris.
Et tu puer, Propheta Altissimi vocaberis: * præibis enim ante faciem Domini parare vias ejus.
Ad dandam scientiam salutis plebi ejus: * in remissionem peccatorum eorum.
Per viscera misericordiæ Dei nostri: * in quibus visitavit nos Oriens ex alto.
Illuminare his qui in tenebris et in umbra mortis sedent: * ad dirigendos pedes nostros in viam pacis.

Ant. Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis, alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: because he hath this day visited and wrought the redemption of his people.
And hath raised up an horn of salvation to us, in the house of David his servant.
As he spoke by the mouth of his holy Prophets, who are from the beginning.
Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us.
To perform mercy to our Fathers, and to remember his holy testament.
The oath which he swore to Abraham our Father; that he would grant to us.
That being delivered from the hand of our enemies, we may serve him without fear.
In holiness and justice before him, all our days.
And thou, child, the Precursor of our Emmanuel, shalt be called the Prophet of the Most High: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways.
To give to his people the knowledge of the Salvation brought them by the Messias, unto the remission of their sins.
Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us.
To enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; to direct our feet into the way of peace.

Ant. Glory be to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will, alleluia, alleluia.


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






[1] Heb. x 5, 6, 7.
[2] Isa. ix 6.
[3] St Luke i 32.
[4] Rom. xiii 3, 4.
[5] Isa. xlv 1, 5.
[6] Ps. xliv 4.
[7] Eph. iv 13.
[8] Apoc. xxii 20.
[9] Isa. ix 2.
[10] Ps. xcvi 7; Heb. i 6.
[11] 2 St Pet 14.
[12] Rom.viii 17
[13] Apoc. xxi 23.
[14] In the Monastic Breviary, it is as follows: ℟. breve. Verbum caro factum est, * Alleluia, Alleluia. Verbum, ℣. Et habitavit in nobis. * Alleluia, alleluia. Gloria Patri. Verbum. A solis ortus cardine Ad usque terræ limitem, Christum canamus Principem, Natum Maria Virgine. Beatus Auctor sæculi Servile corpus induit; Ut Carne carnem liberans, Ne perderet quos condidit. Castæ Parentis viscera Cœlestis intrat gratia: Venter Puellæ bajulat Secreta, quæ non noverat. Domus pudici pectoris Templum repente fit Dei: Intacta nesciens virum, Verbo concepit Filium. Enixa est Puerpera Quem Gabriel prædixerat, Quem matris alvo gestiens, Clausus Joannes senserat. Fœno jacere pertulit. Præsepe non abhorruit: Parvoque lacte pastus est, Per quem nec ales esurit. Gaudet chorus cœlestium, Et Angeli canunt Deo: Palamque fit pastoribus Pastor, Creator omnium. Gloria tibi Domine, Qui natus es de Virgine, Cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu, In sempiterna sæcula. Amen.










From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The merry-pealing bells have wakened us up, echoing to us the sweet burden of our Matin-Song, and inviting us to come once more and adore our Jesus, and assist at the Mass of the Day, which we call the Third Mass: Christ is born unto us; come! let us adore!

The sun is shining in the east—not, indeed, as he will in his summer’s pride; still, brightly enough to tell us that his triumph over winter has begun. Now, we say, the day will grow longer! Under this emblem, let us see and adore our Sun of Justice, Jesus, our sweet Saviour, who has also begun, to-day, to run his triumphant course![1]

Until the hour of Mass comes, let us keep up in our souls the spirit of this glorious Festival, by reading the following selections from the ancient Liturgies. They are full of joy and tender devotion, and tell us of the triumph of Light, of the loveliness of the new-born Babe, and of the glory of the Virgin-Mother.

We will begin with these stanzas of Prudentius, the prince of Christian Poets: they are taken from his Hymn, which is thus headed: The Eighth of the Kalends of January: (VIII Kal. Januarias).


Quid est, quod arctum circulum
Sol jam recurrens deserit?
Christusne terris nascitur
Qui lucis auget tramitem?

Heu, quam fugacem gratiam
Festina volvebat dies!
Quam pene subductam facem
Sensim recisa extinxerat!

Cœlum nitescat lætius,
Gratetur et gaudens humus;
Scandit gradatim denuo
Jubar priores lineas.

Te cuncta nascentem, puer,
Sensere dura, et barbara,
Victusque saxorum rigor
Obduxit herbam cotibus.

Jam mella de scopulis fluunt,
Jam stillat ilex arido
Sudans amomum stipite;
Jam sunt myricis balsama.

O sancta præsepis tui,
Æterne Rex, cunabula,
Populisque per seclum sacra,
Mutis et ipsis credita.

Why is it that the Sun, which rises to-day,
leaves his narrow path?
Is it not that Jesus is born on our earth,
Jesus, who comes to widen for us the way of Light?

Ah! how speedily did the rapid
Day turn his sweet face from us!
how, each time, shorter was his stay,
preparing us for total night!

But now let the heavens wear brighter looks,
and the glad earth be happy,
for, the Sun begins once more
to mount the longer path.

Dear Infant Jesus!
all things, however hard and senseless,
feel that thou art born:
the very stones relent, and verdure comes from rocks.

The flinty mountain-side
drips now with honey;
the oak’s stiff trunk now sweats its sappy tears;
and balsam oozes now from humblest shrub.

How holy is thy cradle-crib, O King eternal!
How sacred ever to mankind!
Nay, the very Ox and Ass
stand over it as theirs!

Now let us listen to the several Churches, beginning with those of the East, as being nearest to the country where the great Event took place. First, comes the Church of Syria; her Chanter is St Ephrem; and he begins his song thus:

Nato Filio, lumen affulsit, et ex mundo tenebræ fugatæ, illuminatusque est orbis; laudes ergo referat Nato, qui ilium illuminavit.

Ortus est ex utero Virginis, eoque viso defecerunt umbræ: et tenebræ erroris ab eo expulsæ; orbisque totus illustratus; laudes ergo illi referat.
The Son of God is born—Light has shone forth, darkness has fled from the earth, and the world is enlightened; let it praise the New-Born Babe, that gave it light.

He has risen from the Virgin’s womb; the shades of night have seen him and fled: the darkness of error has been scattered; let the whole earth sing praise to him, by whom it has been illumined.

The Church of Armenia thus sings to Emmanuel during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass:

Novua flos hodie oritur ex radice Jesse, et filia David parit Filium Dei.

Multitudo Angelorum et militiæ cœlestis, descendentes de cœlis cum unigenito rege cantabant et dicebant: Hic est Filius Dei. Omnes dicamus: exsultate cœli, et lætamini fundamenta mundi, quia Deus æternus in terris apparuit, et cum hominibus conversatus est, ut salvet animas nostras.
A fresh flower has this day sprung up from the Root of Jesse: and a daughter of David has given birth to the Son of God.

A multitude of Angels and the Heavenly Host, coming down from heaven with the Only-Begotten King, sang and said: This is the Son of God! Let us all exclaim: Ye heavens exult, and ye foundations of the world be glad! for the Eternal God has appeared upon the earth, and has conversed with men, that he may save our souls!

The Greek Church thus cries out in her beautiful language:

Venite, exsultemus Domino, hodiemum celebrantes mysterium. Munis dirutus est medius; avertitur flammeus gladius, Cherubim a ligno vitæ recedit. Et ego paradisum deliciarum participo, a quo per inobedientiam expulsus fueram. Incommutabilis imago Patris, typus ejus æternitatis, formam servi accipit, ex nuptinescia matre progrediens, nullam passus commutationem: quod enim erat permansit, Deus cum esset verus; quod autem non erat præteraccipit, homo factus per philanthropiam. Illi clamemus: Qui natus es de Virgine, miserere nobis.
Come! let us rejoice in the Lord, celebrating the mystery of this day. The wall of division is destroyed; the fiery sword is sheathed, and the Angel no longer keeps us from the Tree of Life. I, yea I, that was driven, by the sin of disobedience, from the Paradise of delights, may now enter and feast. The unchangeable Image of the Father, the type of his eternity, assumes the form of a servant, and is born of a Virgin-Mother; yet he suffers not any change: for that which he was he continues to be—the true God; but that which he was not he now becomes, being made Man for love of man. Let us cry out to him: O thou that art born of the Virgin! have mercy on us.

The holy Roman Church, by the mouth of St Leo, in his Sacramentary, thus celebrates the mystery of the divine Light:

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare: nos tibi gratias agere, aeterne Deus, quia nostri Salvatoris hodie lux vera processit, quæ clara nobis omnia et intellectu manifestavit et visu. Quibus non solum præsentem vitam suo splendore dirigeret, sed ad ipsam nos majestatis immensæ gloriam perduceret intuendam.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should give thanks to thee, O Eternal God: because this day has risen the true light of our Saviour, whereby all things are made clear to our intellect and sight: that thus by his own brightness he might not only direct us in this our present life, but bring us to the very vision of thy divine Majesty.

The same Church of Rome, in the Sacramentary of St Gelasius, makes the following prayer to the heavenly Father, who sent his Son to redeem us:

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui hunc diem per incarnationem Verbi tui, et per partum beatæ Virginis consecrasti; da populis tuis in hac celebritate lætitiæ, ut et qui tua gratia sunt redempti, tua adoptione sint filii.
O Almighty and everlasting God, who hast consecrated this day by the Incarnation of thy Word, and the Delivery of the Blessed Virgin; grant to thy people upon this joyous solemnity that they who have been redeemed by thy grace may also be made thy children by adoption.

And again, the same Church thus invokes upon her children the Light of Christ: she uses the words of the Sacramentary of St Gregory the Great:

Concede nobis, omnipotens Deus, ut salutare tuum, nova cœlorum luce mirabile, quod ad salutem mundi hodierna festivitate processit, nostris semper innovandis cordibus oriatur.
Grant unto us, O Almighty God! that the Saviour whom thou sendest for the world's salvation on this day's solemnity, whereon the heavens are renewed in light, may ever rise in our hearts and renew them.

The Church of Milan, in its Ambrosian Liturgy, also celebrates the new Light and the joys of the VirginMother:

Adveniens Dominus, abstulit omnem caliginem noctis: et, ubi non erat lumen, facta est claritas, et apparuit dies.

Gaude, et lætare, exsultatio Angelorum. Gaude, Domini Virgo, prophetarum gaudium. Gaudeas, benedicta, Dominus tecum est. Gaude, quæ per Angelum gaudium mundi suscepisti. Gaude, quæ genuisti factorem et Dominum. Gaudeas, quia digna es esse Mater Christi.
When our Lord came, he dispelled all the darkness of night; and where had been no light, there was made brightness, and the day appeared.

Rejoice and be glad, O Mary, thou joy of Angels! Rejoice, O thou Virgin of the Lord, and joy of the prophets! Rejoice, thou Blessed One, the Lord is with thee. Rejoice, thou that didst receive, at the Angel's announcing, him who is the joy of the world. Rejoice, thou that didst give birth to thy Creator and Lord. Rejoice, in that thou wast worthy to be made the Mother of Christ.

The ancient Church of Gaul expresses its gladness by these joyous Antiphons, which were adopted for several ages by the Church of Rome:

Hodie intacta Virgo Deum nobis genuit, teneris indutum membris, quem lactare meruit; omnes Christum adoremus qui venit salvare nos.

Gaudeamus omnes fideles, Salvator noster natus est in mundo: hodie processit Proies magnifici germinis, et perseverat pudor virginitatis.

O mundi Domina, regio ex semine orta, ex tuo jam Christus processit alvo, tanquam sponsus de thalamo: hic jacet in præsepio qui et sidera regit.
The purest of Virgins gave us our God, who was this day born of her, clothed in the flesh of a Babe, and she was found worthy to feed him at her Breast: let us all adore Christ, who came to save us.

Ye faithful people, let us all rejoice, for our Saviour is born in our world: this Day there has been born the Son of the great Mother, and she yet a pure Virgin.

O Queen of the world, and Daughter of a kingly race! Christ has risen from thy womb, as a Bridegroom coming from the bride chamber: He that rules the stars lies in a Crib.

The Gothic Church of Spain unites her voice with that of all these others, and in her Mozarabic Breviary thus hails the rising of the divine Sun:

Hodie lumen mundi prodiit: hodie salus ævi emicuit: hodie Salvator Israel de climate cœli descendit, ut eruat omnes captivos, quos antiquus hostis predo per primi hominis delictum captivaverat: et ut cæcis mentibus lumen, surdis auditum, gratia praeveniente, restitueret: ob istius tanti mysterii beneficia montes et colles tripudiant, ipsaque mundi elementa ineffabili gaudio ista in die melos decantant: ob hoc gemebunda prece pii Redemptoris clementiam suppliciter exoramus; ut nos, qui in tenebris peccatorum nostrorum involvimur, per cordis acclamationem protinus expiemur, ut illo in nobis apparente, et splendor gloriæ jucundius, ac multiplicius nostris in præcordiis vigeat, et salutis gaudia sine fine dulcescant.
To-day has risen the Light of the world: to-day has shone forth the earth's salvation: to-day the Saviour of Israel has come down from the heavenly country, that he may set free all the slaves whom the old enemy and robber had enslaved by the sin of our first Parent; that he might also restore, by his preventing grace, light to the blind of heart, and hearing to the deaf. For the benefits of this so great mystery, let the mountains and hills leap with joy, and the very elements of the world be exceeding glad on this day, and sing sweet melody. Therefore, let us, in humblest prayer, suppliantly beseech our most merciful Redeemer; that we who are beset by the darkness of our sins, may, by this our hearts' acclamation, be speedily delivered; that he appearing among us, the brightness of his glory may more joyously and abundantly gleam in our souls, and the happiness of salvation gladden them with never-ending sweetness.

Let us end this our stroll among the ancient Liturgies, by culling a flower from Erin. The Church of Ireland, in the seventh century, used to sing this Antiphon on Christmas Day, which we have taken from the Bangor Antiphonary, published by Muratori. Here again we find the idea so often alluded to: the triumph of the Sun's light, which begins to-day, considered as the image of Jesus’ Birth.

Ab hodierno die nox minuitur, dies crescit, concutiuntur tenebræ, lumen augetur, et in lucro lucis nocturna dispendia transferentur.
From this Day, night decreases, day increases, darkness is shaken, light grows longer, and the loss of night shall make the gain of day.

And now, Christians, let us go to the House of our God, and prepare for our third Sacrifice.




[1] Ps. xviii 6.




The Office of Lauds is finished: the Canticles of joy wherewith the Church thanks the Eternal Father for his having made to rise upon us the divine Sun of Justice are ended. It is time to offer up the second Sacrifice, or, as it is called, the Mass of the Aurora. In the first, the Church celebrated the temporal Birth of the Word according to the flesh. In this, she is going to honour the second Birth of the same Son of God; a Birth full of grace and mercy; that which is accomplished in the heart of the faithful Christian.

See, then, how, at this very hour, Shepherds are told by the Angels to go to Bethlehem, and how they hasten thither. With great eagerness they enter the Stable, which is scarcely large enough to hold them. Obedient to the warning received from heaven, they are come to see the Saviour, who, they have been told, has been born unto them. They find all things just as the Angels had said. Who could tell the joy of their hearts, and the simplicity of their faith? They are not surprised to find, in the midst of poverty greater even than their own, him whose Birth has made the very Angels exult. They find no difficulty in acknowledging the wonderful mystery; they adore, they love, the Babe that lies there before them. They are at once Christians, and the Christian Church begins in them; the mystery of a God humbled for man finds faith in these humble souls. Herod will plot the death of this Babe; the Synagogue will rage; the Scribes and Doctors will league together against the Lord and his Christ; they will put this Saviour of Israel to death; but the faith of the Shepherds will not be shaken, and will find imitators in the wise and powerful ones of this world, who will come at last, and bow down their reason to the Crib and the Cross.

What is it that has come over these poor Shepherds? Christ has been born in their hearts; he dwells in them by faith and love. They are our Fathers in the Church. They are our Models. Let us imitate them, and invite the Divine Infant to come into our souls, which we will so prepare for him, that he may find nothing to prevent his entering. It is for our sakes also that the Angels speak; it is to us also that they tell the glad tidings; for the Mystery that has been accomplished this Night is too grand to have the pastoral slopes of Bethlehem for its limits. In order to honour the silent coming of the Saviour into the souls of men, the Priest is preparing to go to the altar, and a second time to offer the spotless Lamb to the Father who hath sent him.

As the Shepherds fixed their eyes on the Crib, so let ours be on the Altar, where we are soon to behold the same Jesus, hidden under appearances that are humbler even than the swathing-bands. These rustic swains enter into the Cave, not yet knowing him, whom they are going to see; but their hearts are quite ready for the revelation. Suddenly they see the Infant; and as they gaze upon him in speechless wondering, Jesus looks at them from his Crib, and smiles upon them: they are changed men, full of light, and the Sun of Justice has made Day in their souls. It is to be the same with us: the words of the Prince of the Apostles are to be verified in us: the Light that shineth in a dark place, has been our one desire and attention; now the Day will dawn, and the Day-Star arise in our hearts.[1]

This long longed-for Aurora has come! The divine Orient has risen upon us, to set now no more; for, we are firmly resolved to keep from the night of sin, which his grace has destroyed. His mercy has made us to be children of light and children of the day.[2]. There must be no more sleep of death for us. We must watch in ceaseless vigilance, remembering how the Shepherds were keeping their watch, when the Angel came to speak to them, and Heaven opened over their heads. All the Chants of this Mass of the Aurora speak to us of the brightness of the Sun of Justice; they must be sweet to us, as to captives, long buried in the cold darkness of their dungeon, is the ray of that morning which is to set them free. See, Christians, how this God of Light shines upon us from his Crib! The face of his mother is lit up with the immense brightness, on which she looks with all the fixedness of her contemplating love; and Joseph, too, has the shining vivid on his features, which makes them more beautiful and venerable than we have ever seen them. Passing by the ungrateful Bethlehem, which deserves to be left in darkness, this same divine Light breaks upon the whole world beyond the Cave, and gradually enkindles within millions of hearts a burning love for this glorious Sun of Justice, who delivers man from the labyrinth of his errors and passions, showing him and giving him the sublime end for which he was created.

In the very midst of her celebration of this mystery of the Birth of Jesus, the Church offers us another object of admiration and joy: it is one of her own children. Whilst solemnizing the divine Mystery of to-day's Feast, she commemorates in this second Mass one of those glorious heroines who preserved the Light of Christ within their souls, in spite of all the attacks made to rob them of it. Her name is Anastasia. This holy Widow of Rome suffered martyrdom under the persecution of Diocletian, and had the privilege of being thus born to eternal life on the Birthday of that Jesus for whom she suffered death.

She had been married to a Pagan of the name of Publius; himself also a Roman; who, being irritated against her on account of her great charities to the Christians, treated her with every sort of cruelty. She endured all with admirable patience; and when this heavy trial was removed from her by the death of her husband, she devoted herself to visiting and solacing the holy Confessors who had been cast into the prisons of Rome for the Faith. Being at length apprehended as a Christian, she was tied to a stake and burned to death. Her Church in Rome, which is built on the site where formerly stood her house, is the Station for this Second Mass. The Sovereign Pontiffs used formerly to say it here, and the ancient custom was observed in later times by Pope Leo XII.

How admirable is this delicate considerateness of our holy Mother the Church! Wishing to associate one of her Saints with the glory of this present Solemnity, on which the Virginity of Mary receives its triumphant recompense, it is a holy Widow that is chosen for this signal honour; that it might hereby be shown how the Married State, though inferior in merit and holiness to the state of Virginity, is not excluded from the blessings which the Birth of the Son of Mary merited for the world. There was a Virgin, St Eugenia, that might so well have been selected; for she suffered a glorious martyrdom under Galerian on this same feast, and in the same City as did the wife of Publius: but no—the preference is given to Anastasia, the Widow. This choice of the Church, which is dictated by her heavenly wisdom, and by the love she has for all her children, forcibly reminds us of a beautiful passage in one of St Augustine’s Sermons for Christmas Day.

'Exult, O ye Virgins of Christ! for the Mother of Christ is your companion. You could not be his Mother; but for his sake you would be Virgins: he that is not born of you, is born to you. And yet you remember his words: Whosoever shall do the will of my Father, is my brother and sister and mother.[3] Now have you not done the will of his Father?

Exult, O ye Widows of Christ! for ye have vowed a holy continency to him, that made Virginity fruitful. And thou too, O nuptial chastity! you, I mean, that are faithful in the married state, you also may exult; for what you lose in the body, you do not lose in your hearts. ... Let your soul be virginal by its faith, for it is by her Faith that the Church is a Virgin. ... Jesus is Truth and Peace and Justice; conceive him by your faith, give him birth by your good works; in order that what the womb of Mary did in the Flesh of Jesus, your heart may do in the law of Jesus. Believe me, you yourselves are children of virginity, for are you not the members of Christ? Mary is Mother of Jesus, who is our Head; and the Church is the mother of you who are his members. Yes, the Church is, like Mary, both Mother and Virgin: she is Mother by her tender charity; and Virgin by the purity of her faith and holiness.'[4]

But the Holy Sacrifice is about to commence. The Introit tells us of the Birth of Jesus our Sun of Justice. The brightness of his first rising is the presage of his mid-day splendour. Strength and Beauty are his. He is armed for victory, and his name is Prince of Peace.


Lux fulgebit hodie super nos; quia natus est nobis Dominus: et vocabitur Admirabilis, Deus, Princeps pacis, Pater futuri sæculi; cujus regni non erit finis.

Ps. Dominus regnavit, decorem indutus est: indutus est Dominus fortitudinem, et præcinxit se. ℣. Gloria Patri. Lux fulgebit.
A light shall shine upon us this day; because the Lord is born for us: and his name shall be the Wonderful One, God, the Prince of Peace, the Father of the world to come; of whose reign there shall be no end.

Ps. The Lord hath reigned, he is clothed with beauty: the Lord is clothed with strength, and hath girded himself. ℣. Glory, etc. A light.

The prayer of the Church, in this the Mass of the Aurora, begs God to pour upon our souls the rays of the Sun of Justice, that so we may become fruitful in works of Light, and be no more the slaves of darkness.


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.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that as we are enlightened by the new light of thy Word become flesh, we may show, in our actions the effects of that faith which shineth in our minds. Through the same, etc.

Commemoration of St Anastasia

Da, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus, ut qui beatæ Anastasiæ, Martyris tuæ, solemnia colimus, ejus apud te patrocinia sentiamus. Per Dominum.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that as we celebrate the solemnity of blessed Anastasia thy Martyr, we may be sensible of the effects of her prayers to thee in our behalf. Through, etc.


Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Titum.

Cap. III.

Carissime: apparuit benignitas et humanitas Salvatoris nostri Dei: non ex operibus justitiæ, quæ fecimus nos; sed secundum suam misericordiam salvos nos fecit per lavacrum regenerationis, et renovationis Spiritus Sancti, quem effudit in nos abunde per Jesum Christum Salvatorem nostrum: ut justificati gratia ipsius, hæredes simus secundum spem vitæ æternæ, in Christo Jesu Domino nostro.
Lesson of the Epistle of St Paul the Apostle to Titus.

Ch. III.

Most dearly beloved: the goodness and kindness of God our Saviour appeared: not by the works of justice which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the laver of regeneration and renovation of the Holy Ghost, whom he hath poured forth upon us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour: that being justified by his grace, we may be heirs according to hope of life everlasting, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This Sun which has appeared on our earth is God our Saviour, full of tenderest mercy. We were far off from God, and were sitting in the shades of death; the rays of the divine Light had to reach down to us in the deep abyss of our sins; and now, praise be to this Infinite Mercy! we are set free, and with our freedom have received regeneration, justification, and heirship to eternal life. Who shall henceforth separate us from the love of this Infant Jesus? Is it possible that we ourselves can ever frustrate the designs of that love, by rendering all that it has done for us useless, and becoming once more the slaves of darkness and death? May God forbid it! and grant us grace to maintain our hope of everlasting life, which the Mystery of our Redemption has purchased for us.


Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini: Deus Dominus, et illuxit nobis.

℣. A Domino factum est istud, et est mirabile in oculis nostris.

Alleluia, alleluia.

℣. Dominus regnavit, decorem induit: induit Dominus fortitudinem, et præcinxit se virtute. Alleluia.

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Cap. II.

In illo tempore: Pastores loquebantur ad invicem: Transeamus usque Bethlehem, et videamus hoc verbum quod factum est, quod Dominus ostendit nobis. Et venerunt festinantes; et invenerunt Mariam et Joseph, et infantem positum in præsepio. Videntes autem cognoverunt de verbo quod dictum erat illis de puero hoc. Et omnes qui audierunt, mirati sunt, et de his quæ dicta erant a pastoribus ad ipsos. Maria autem conservabat omnia verba hæc, conferens in corde suo. Et reversi sunt pastores glorificantes et laudantes Deum in omnibus quæ audierant et viderant, sicut dictum est ad illos.

Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: the Lord is our God, and he hath shone upon us.

℣. This is the Lord's doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes.

Alleluia, alleluia.

℣. The Lord hath reigned, he is clothed with beauty: the Lord is clothed with strength, and hath girded himself with might. Alleluia.

Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.

Ch. II.

At that time: The Shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that has come to pass, which the Lord hath showed to us. And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph and the Infant lying in a manger. And seeing, they understood of the word, that had been spoken to them concerning this Child. And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the Shepherds. But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. And the Shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Let us imitate the earnestness of the Shepherds in hastening to Jesus. No sooner do they hear the Angel's words, than they start for the holy Stable in Bethlehem. Once in the presence of the Divine Infant, they know him by the sign that had been given them by the Angel; and Jesus is born in their souls by his grace. These happy men delight now in their poverty, for they find that he too is poor. They feel that they are united to him for ever, and their whole lives shall testify to the change that this December Night has worked in them. They do not keep the great event to themselves; they tell every one about the Babe of Bethlehem, they become his Apostles, and their burning words fill their listeners with astonishment. Like them, let us glorify the great God, who, not satisfied with calling us to the admirable Light, has set it in the very centre of our hearts by uniting us to himself. Let us often think of the Mysteries of this glorious Night, after the example of Mary, who keeps unceasingly in her most pure Heart the wonderful things that God has been accomplishing by her and in her.

During the Offertory of the sacred gifts, the Church extols the power of Emmanuel, who, that he might reform this fallen world, humbled himself so far as to have a few poor Shepherds for his courtiers, he whose Throne and Divinity are from eternity.


Deus firmavit orbem terræ, qui non commovebitur: parata sedes tua, Deus, ex tunc; a sæculo tu es.
God hath established the world, which shall not be moved: thy throne, O God, is prepared from of old; thou art from everlasting.


Munera nostra, quæsumus, Domine, Nativitatis hodiernæ mysteriis aptaproveniant, et pacem nobis semper infundant: ut, sicut homo genitus idem refulsit et Deus; sic nobis hæc terrena substantia conferat quod divinum est. Per eumdem.
May the offerings, O Lord, which we make, be agreeable to the mystery of this day’s Birth, and always pour forth peace upon us: that as he who,though born Man, showed himself also God, so may this earthly substance give us that which is divine. Through the same, etc.

Commemoration of St Anastasia

Accipe, quæsumus, Domine, munera dignanter oblata: et beatæ Anastasiæ, martyris tuæ, suffragantibus meritis, ad nostræ salutis auxilium provenire concede. Per Dominum.
Graciously receive, O Lord, we beseech thee, our offerings, and grant, by the merits of blessed Anastasia, thy Martyr, that they may avail to our salvation. Through, etc.

After both Priest and people have communicated, the holy Church, all illumined with the sweet Light of her Spouse, to whom she has just been united, applies to herself the words which the Prophet Zachary formerly addressed to her, when he announced the coming of the King her Saviour.


Exsulta, filia Sion; lauda, filia Jerusalem: ecce Rex tuus venit Sanctus, et Salvator mundi.
Rejoice, O daughter of Sion; shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold! thy King will come to thee, the Holy One, and the Saviour of the world.


Hujus nos, Domine, sacramenti semper novitas natalis instauret: cujus nativitas singularis humanam repulit vetustatem. Per eumdein Dominum.
May we, O Lord, always receive new Light from this Sacrament, which reneweth to us the memory of that wonderful Birth which destroyed the old man. Through the same, etc.

Commemoration of St Anastasia

Satiasti, Domine, familiam tuam muneribus sacris: ejus, quæsumus, interventione nos refove, cujus solemnia celebramus. Per Dominum.
Thou hast fed, O Lord, thy family with these sacred oblations; ever, therefore, comfort us with her intercession, whose feast we celebrate. Through, etc.

The Mass of the Aurora ended, and the Birth of Grace having been honoured by this second immolation of the divine Immortal Victim, the Faithful retire from the Church, that they may refresh themselves by sleep, and so be in readiness for the Third Mass.







[1] 2 St Pet. i 19.
[2] 1 Thess. v 5.
[3] St Matt, xii 50.
[4] Ninth Sermon On our Lord's Nativity.







From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Hebræos.

Cap. I.

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

Ch. I.

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

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


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

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

Alleluia, alleluia.

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

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

Alleluia, alleluia.

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


Initium sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.

Cap. I.

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

Ch. I.

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

Last Gospel

After the Blessing, the following Last Gospel is read.

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum.

Cap. II.

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

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

Ch. II.

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

. Thanks be to God.


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

℣. Deus, in adjutorium meum intende.

. Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritili Sancto:

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

. O Lord, make haste to help me.

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

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


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

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

Psalm 109

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

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

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


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

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


Psalm 110

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 111

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 129

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 131

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

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

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

(Heb. I)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

The Canticle, Magnificat, p. 96.


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


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

Commemoration of St Stephen

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

℣. Gloria et honore coronasti eum, Domine.

℟. Et constituisti eum super opera manuum tuarum.


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

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

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

Let us pray

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

For Compline, see p. 98.

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

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

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


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

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


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


Virgini Mariæ laudes
Intonent Christiani.

Eva tristis abstulit;
Sed Maria protulit
Natum, qui redemit

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

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

Angelus est testis
Ad me missus cœlestis.

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

Virgini Mariæ laudes
Intonent Christiani.

Eva tristis abstulit;
Sed Maria protulit
Natum, qui redemit

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

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

Angelus est testis
Ad me missus cœlestis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







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




From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

ST PETER DAMIAN thus begins his Sermon for this Feast:

We are holding in our arms the Son of the Virgin, and are honouring with our caresses this our Infant God. The holy Virgin has led us to the dear Crib. The most beautiful of the Daughters of men has brought us to the most beautiful among the Sons of men,[1] and the Blessed among women to him that is Blessed above all. She tells us . . . that now the veils of prophecy are drawn aside, and the counsel of God is accomplished. ... Is there anything capable of distracting us from this sweet Birth? On what else shall we fix our eyes? ... Lo! whilst Jesus is permitting us thus to caress him; whilst he is overwhelming us with the greatness of these mysteries, and our hearts are riveted in admiration; there comes before us Stephen, full of grace and fortitude, doing great wonders and signs among the people.[2] Is it right that we turn from our King to look on Stephen, his soldier? No; unless the King himself bid us do so. This our King, who is Son of the King, rises ... to assist at the glorious combat of his servant.... Let us go with him, and contemplate this standard-bearer of the Martyrs.

The Church gives us, in to-day's Office, this opening of a Sermon of St Fulgentius for the Feast of St Stephen:

Yesterday we celebrated the temporal Birth of our eternal King: to-day we celebrate the triumphant passion of his Soldier. Yesterday our King, having put on the garb of our flesh, came from the sanctuary of his Mother's virginal womb, and mercifully visited the earth: to-day his Soldier, quitting his earthly tabernacle, entered triumphantly into heaven. Jesus, whilst still continuing to be the eternal God, assumed to himself the lowly raiment of flesh, and entered the battle-field of this world: Stephen, laying aside the perishable garment of the body, ascended to the palace of heaven, there to reign for ever. Jesus descended veiled in our flesh: Stephen ascended wreathed with a martyr's laurels. Stephen ascended to heaven amidst the shower of stones, because Jesus had descended on earth midst the singing of Angels. Yesterday the holy Angels exultingly sang, Glory be to God in the highest; to-day they joyously received Stephen into their company. . . . Yesterday Jesus was wrapped, for our sakes, in swaddling-clothes: to-day Stephen was clothed with the robe of immortal glory. Yesterday a narrow crib contained the Infant Jesus: to-day the immensity of the heavenly court received the triumphant Stephen.

Thus does the sacred Liturgy blend the joy of our Lord's Nativity with the gladness she feels at the triumph of the first of her Martyrs. Nor will Stephen be the only one admitted to share the honours of this glorious Octave. After him we shall have John, the Beloved Disciple; the Innocents of Bethlehem; Thomas, the Martyr of the Liberties of the Church; and Sylvester, the Pontiff of Peace. But, the place of honour amidst all who stand round the Crib of the new-born King belongs to Stephen, the Protomartyr, who, as the Church sings of him, was 'the first to pay back to the Saviour the death suffered by the Saviour.’ It was just that this honour should be shown to Martyrdom; for Martyrdom is the creature's testimony and return to his Creator for all the favours bestowed on him: it is Man testifying, even by shedding his blood, to the truths which God has revealed to the world.

In order to understand this, let us consider what is the plan of God in the salvation he has given to man. The Son of God is sent to instruct mankind; he sows the seed of his divine word; and his works give testimony to his divinity. But after his sacrifice on the cross, he again ascends to the right hand of his Father; so that his own testimony of himself has need of a second testimony, in order to be received by them that have neither seen nor heard Jesus himself. Now it is the Martyrs who are to provide this second testimony; and this they will do not only by confessing Jesus with their lips, but by shedding their blood for him. The Church, then, is to be founded by the Word and the Blood of Jesus, the Son of God; but she will be upheld, she will continue throughout all ages, she will triumph over all obstacles by the blood of her Martyrs, the members of Christ: this their blood will mingle with that of their Divine Head, and their sacrifice be united to his.

The Martyrs shall bear the closest resemblance to their Lord and King. They shall be, as he said, like lambs among wolves.[3]The world shall be strong, and they shall be weak and defenceless: so much the grander will be the victory of the Martyrs, and the greater the glory of God who gives them to conquer. The Apostle tells us that Christ crucified is the power and the wisdom of God;[4] the Martyrs, immolated, and yet conquerors of the world, will prove, with a testimony which even the world itself will understand, that the Christ whom they confessed, and who gave them constancy and victory, is in very deed the power and the wisdom of God. We repeat, then: it is just that the Martyrs should share in all the triumphs of the Man-God, and that the liturgical Cycle should glorify them as does the Church herself, who puts their sacred Relics in her altar-stones; for thus the Sacrifice of their glorified Lord and Head is never celebrated without they themselves being offered together with him in the unity of his mystical Body.

Now the glorious Martyr-band of Christ is headed by St Stephen. His name signifies the Crowned; a conqueror such as he could not be better named. He marshals, in the name of Christ, the white-robed army, as the Church calls the Martyrs; for he was the first, even before the Apostles themselves, to receive the summons, and right nobly did he answer it. Stephen courageously bore witness, in the presence of the Jewish Synagogue, to the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth; by thus proclaiming the Truth, he offended the ears of the unbelievers; the enemies of God became the enemies of Stephen, and rushing upon him, they stoned him to death. Amidst the pelting of the blood-drawing missiles, he, like a true soldier, flinches not, but stands (as St Gregory of Nyssa so beautifully describes it) as though snowflakes were falling on him, or roses were covering him with the shower of their kisses. Through the cloud of stones he sees the glory of God: Jesus, for whom he was laying down his life, showed himself to his Martyr, and the Martyr again rendered testimony to the divinity of Emmanuel, but with all the energy of a last act of love. Then, to make his sacrifice complete, he imitates his divine Master, and prays for his executioners: falling on his knees, he begs that this sin be not laid to their charge. Thus, all is consummated: the glorious type of Martyrdom is created and shown to the world, that it may be imitated by every generation to the end of time, until the number of the Martyrs of Christ shall be filled up. Stephen sleeps in the Lord, and is buried in peace—in pace—until his sacred Tomb shall be discovered, and his glory be celebrated a second time in the whole Church, by that anticipated Resurrection of the miraculous Finding of his Relics.

Stephen, then, deserves to stand near the Crib of his King as leader of those brave champions, the Martyrs, who died for the Divinity of that Babe whom we adore. Let us join the Church in praying to our Saint, that he help us to come to our Sovereign Lord, now lying on his humble throne in Bethlehem. Let us ask him to initiate us into the mystery of that divine Infancy, which we are all bound to know and imitate. It was from the simplicity he had learned from that Mystery that he heeded not the number of the enemies he had to fight against, nor trembled at their angry passion, nor winced under their blows, nor hid from them the Truth and their crimes, nor forgot to pardon them and pray for them. What a faithful imitator of the Babe of Bethlehem! Our Jesus did not send his Angels to chastise those unhappy Bethlehemites who refused a shelter to the Virgin-Mother, who in a few hours was to give birth to him, the Son of David. He stays not the fury of Herod, who plots his Death; but meekly flees into Egypt, like some helpless bondsman, escaping the threats of a tyrant lordling. But it is under such apparent weakness as this that he will show his Divinity to men, and he the Infant-God prove himself the Strong God. Herod will pass away; so will his tyranny; Jesus will live, greater in his Crib, where he makes a King tremble, than, under his borrowed majesty, is this prince-tributary of Rome; nay, than Caesar Augustus himself, whose world-wide empire has no other destiny than this—to serve as handmaid to the Church, which is to be founded by this Babe, whose name stands humbly written in the official registry of Bethlehem.


The Introit is composed of the words of the holy Martyr, who, in the language of the Royal Psalmist, tells us of the plot formed against him by the wicked, and of his own humble confidence in God, whereby he triumphed over their persecutions. From the murder of the innocent Abel to the future Martyrs who are to shed their blood in the days of Anti-christ, the Church is always under persecution; in some country, she is ever shedding her blood; but her strength lies in her fidelity to Jesus her Spouse, and in the simplicity which the Babe of Bethlehem is come to teach her by his own example.


Sederunt principes, et adversum me loquebantur; et iniqui persecuti sunt me; adjuva me, Domine Deus meus, quia servus tuus exercebatur in tuis justificationibus.

Ps. Beati immaculati in via, qui ambulant in lege Domini. ℣. Gloria Patri. Sederunt.
Princes sat, and spoke against me; and sinners persecuted me: help me, O Lord my God, for thy servant hath practised thy commandments.

Ps. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. ℣. Glory, etc. Princes sat, etc.

In the Collect the Church asks, both for herself and her children, that divine vigour which makes the holy Martyrs forgive their persecutors, and perfects not only their testimony to the truth, but also their imitation of Jesus Christ. It speaks the praise of St Stephen, who was the first to follow our Saviour's example.


Da nobis, quæsumus, Domine, imitari quod colimus: ut discamus et inimicos diligere; quia ejus natalitia celebramus, qui novit etiam pro persecutoribus exorare Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum. Qui tecum.
Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that we may imitate him whose memory we celebrate, so as to learn to love even our enemies; because we now solemnize his martyrdom, who knew how to pray even for his persecutors to our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son. Who liveth, etc.

Commemoration of Christmas Day


Concede, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem nativitas liberet; quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus tenet. Per eumdem.

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


Lectio Actuum Apostolorum.

Cap. VI et VII.

In diebus illis, Stephanus, plenus gratia et fortitudine, faciebat prodigia et signa magna in populo. Surrexerunt autem quidam de synagoga quæ appellatur Libertinorum, et Cyrenensium, et Alexandrinorum, et eorum qui erant a Cilicia et Asia, disputantes cum Stephano, et non poterant resistere sapientiæ et Spiritui qui loquebatur. Audientes autem hæc, dissecabantur cordibus suis, et stridebant dentibus in eum. Cum autem esset Stephanus plenus Spiritu Sancto, intendens in cœlum, vidit gloriam Dei, et Jesum stantem a dextris Dei. Et ait: Ecce video cœlos apertos, et Filium hominis stantem a dextris Dei. Exclamantes autem voce magna continueront aures suas, et impetum fecerunt unanimiter in eum. Et ejicientes eum extra civitatem, lapidabant. Et testes deposuerunt vestimenta sua secus pedes adolescentis, qui vocabatur Saulus. Et lapidabant Stephanum invocantem et dicentem: Domine Jesu, suscipe spiritum meum. Positis autem genibus, clamavit voce magna dicens: Domine, ne statuas illis hoc peccatum. Et cum hoc dixisset, obdormivit in Domino.

Lesson from the Acts of the Apostles.

Ch. VI and VII.

In those days, Stephen, full of grace and fortitude, did great wonders and signs among the people. Now there arose some of that which is called the Synagogue of the Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen; and they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit that spoke. Now hearing these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed with their teeth at him. But Stephen being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And he said: Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. And they crying out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and with one accord ran violently upon him. And casting him forth without the city, they stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, invoking and saying: Lord Jesus! receive my spirit. And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: Lord! lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord.

Thus, O glorious Prince of Martyrs! thou wast led outside the gates of the City for thy sacrifice, and thy punishment was that of blasphemers. The Disciple was to be like to his Master in all things. But neither the ignominy of such a death nor its cruelty could daunt thy great soul: thou didst carry Jesus in thy heart, and with him thou wast stronger than all thy enemies. And what was thy joy when thou sawest the heavens open, and this same Jesus in his glorified Humanity standing at the right hand of God, and looking upon thee with love! A God looking complacently on the creature that is going to die for him, and the creature permitted to behold the God for whom he is dying—truly, this was more than enough to encourage thee! Let thine enemies cast their stones against thee, and bruise and tear thy flesh, as they please: nothing can distract thee from this sight of the Eternal King, who raised himself from his throne to applaud thee, and deck thee with the Crown which he had prepared for thee from all eternity! Now that thou art reigning in the kingdom of heaven, pray for us, that we also may be faithful, and faithful even unto death, to this same Jesus, who not only left his throne, but even came down among us as a Little Child.


Sederunt principes, et adversum me loquebantur; et iniqui persecuti sunt me.

. Adjuva me, Domine Deus meus: salvum me fac propter misericordiam tuam.

Alleluia, alleluia.

. Video cœlos apertos, et Jesum stantem a dextris virtutis Dei. Alleluia.

Princes sat and spoke against me; and the wicked persecuted me.

. Help me, O Lord my God: save me for thy mercy's sake.

Alleluia, alleluia.

. I see the heavens opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of the power of God. Alleluia.


Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum.


In illo tempore: dicebat Jesus scribis et Pharisæis: Ecce ego mitto ad vos Prophetas, et sapientes, et scritas; et ex illis occidetis, et crucifigetis, et ex eis flagelabitis in synagogis vestris, et persequemini de civitate in civitatem: ut veniat super vos omnis sanguis justus, qui effusus est super terram, a sanguine Abel justi usque ad sanguinem Zachariæ, filii Barachiæ, quem occidistis inter templum et altare. Amen dico vobis, venient hæc omnia super generationem istam. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, quæ occidis Prophetas, et lapidas eos qui ad te missi sunt, quoties volui congregare filios tuos, quemadmodum gallina congregat pullos suos sub alas, et noluisti! Ecce relinquetur vobis domus vestra deserta. Dico enim vobis, non me videbitis amodo, donec dicatis: Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.

Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.


At that time: Jesus said to the Scribes and Pharisees: Behold, I send to you Prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them you will put to death and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city: that upon you may come all the just blood that hath been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the just, even unto the blood of Zacharias, the son of Barachias, whom you killed between the temple and the altar. Amen, I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the Prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldst not? Behold, your house shall be left to you desolate. For I say to you, you shall not see me henceforth, till you say: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

The Martyrs are given to the world that they may continue the ministry of Christ on the earth by bearing testimony to his word, and by confirming this testimony by their blood. The world has despised them; like their divine Master, they have shone in the darkness, and darkness has not understood their light. Nevertheless many have received their testimony, and the seed of the Martyr's blood has brought forth in them the rich fruit of Faith. The Synagogue was cast off by God for having shed the blood of Stephen, after having imbrued its hands in that of Jesus. Unhappy they who cannot appreciate the Martyrs! Let us who are Christians take in the sublime lessons taught us by their generous sacrifice; and let our respect and love for them testify that we are grateful for the noble ministry they have fulfilled, and are still fulfilling in the Church. The Church is never without Martyrs, just as she is never without Miracles: it is the twofold testimony that she will give to the end of time, by which she evidences the divine life she has received from her almighty Founder.

During the Offertory, the Church once more proclaims the merits and the glorious death of Stephen: and by this she teaches us that the sacrifice of the holy Deacon is united with that of Jesus himself.


Elegerunt Apostoli Stephanum Levitam, plenum fide et Spiritu Sancto; quem lapidaverunt Judæi orantem, et dicentem: Domine Jesu, accipe spiritum meum. Alleluia.
The Apostles chose Stephen, a Levite, full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, whom the Jews stoned, praying, and saying: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Alleluia.


Suscipe, Domine, munera pro tuorum commemoratione Sanctorum; ut sicut illos passio gloriosos effecit, ita nos devotio reddat innocuos. Per Dominum.
Receive, O Lord, these offerings in memory of thy Saints; and as their sufferings have made them glorious, so may our devotion render us free from sin. Through, etc.

Commemoration of Christmas Day

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

United by Holy Communion to her divine Spouse, the Church, too, sees the heavens opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. She sends up to this Incarnate Word the yearnings of her intense love, and derives from the heavenly Food she has received that meekness which makes her bear with the injuries and insults put upon her by her enemies, in order that she may win them all to the faith and love of Jesus Christ. It was by partaking of this same heavenly Food that Stephen obtained the superhuman strength whereby he won his victory and Crown.


Video cœlos apertos, et Jesum stantem a dextris virtutis Dei: Domine Jesu, accipe spiritum meum, et ne statuas illis hoc peccatum.
I see the heavens opened and Jesus standing on the right hand of the power of God: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, and lay not this sin to their charge.


Auxilientur nobis, Domine, sumpta mysteria: et intercedente beato Stephano, Martyre tuo, sempiterna protectione confirment. Per Dominum.
May the mysteries we have received, O Lord, be help to us: and by the intercession of the blessed Martyr Stephen, strengthen us with thy perpetual protection. Through, etc.

Commemoration of Christmas Day

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



The solemnity of the Christmas Octave, from which the Feast of St Stephen has in a manner distracted us, returns at Vespers in all its splendour. The Church sings the Psalms and Antiphons of Christmas Day, and the Martyr’s Feast is, so to speak, suspended until she comes to the Capitulum. In this same way she celebrates the Vespers on all the Feasts which are kept during this Octave.

The Psalms and Antiphons are given above, (p. 89).

(Acts vi)

Stephanus autem plenus gratia et fortitudine faciebat prodigia et signa magna in populo.
But Stephen, full of grace and fortitude, did great wonders and signs among the people.


Deus tuorum militum
Sors, et corona, præmium,
Laudes canentes Martyris
Absolve nexu criminis.

Hic nempe mundi gaudia
Et blanda fraudum pabula,
Imbuta felle deputans,
Pervenit ad cœlestia.

Pœnas cucurrit fortiter,
Et sustulit viriliter,
Fundensque pro te sanguinem,
Æterna dona possidet.

Ob hoc precatu supplici
Te poscimus, Piissime,
In hoc triumpho Martyris,
Dimitte noxam servulis.

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


. Stephanus vidit cœlos apertos.
℟Vidit et introivit; beatus homo cui cœli patebant.

O God! thou the inheritance,
Crown, and reward of thy Soldiers!
absolve from the bonds of our sins
us who sing the praises of thy Martyr.

For counting the joys of the world
and the deceitful bait of its caresses
as things embittered with gall,
thy Martyr obtained the delights of heaven.

Bravely did he go through,
and manfully did he bear his pains;
and shedding his blood for thy sake,
he now possesses thy eternal gifts.

Therefore, most merciful Father!
we beseech thee, in most suppliant prayer,
forgive us thy unworthy servants our sins,
for it is the feast of thy Martyr’s triumph.

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


℣. Stephen saw the heavens opened.
. He saw and entered; blessed man, to whom the heavens opened.

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Ant. Sepelierunt Stephanum viri timorati, et fecerunt planctum magnum super eum.
Ant. Devout men buried Stephen, and made great mourning over him.

OREMUS Da nobis, quæsumus, Domine, imitari quod colimus, ut discamus et inimicos diligere; quia ejus natalitia celebramus, qui novit etiam pro persecutoribus exorare Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum. Qui tecum.
LET US PRAY Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that we may imitate him whose memory we celebrate, so as to learn to love even our enemies; because we now solemnize his martyrdom, who knew how to pray even for his persecutors to our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son. Who liveth, etc.

Commemoration of St John

Ant. Iste est Joannes, qui supra pectus Domini in cœna recubuit: beatus Apostolus, cui revelata sunt secreta cœlestia.

. Valde honorandus est beatus Joannes.

℟. Qui supra pectus Domini in cœna recubuit.


Ecclesiam tuam, Domine, benignus illustra, ut beati Joannis Apostoli tui et Evangelistæ illuminata doctrinis, ad dona perveniat sempiterna.

Ant. This is John, who leaned upon the Lord’s breast at the Supper. Blessed Apostle, unto whom were revealed heavenly secrets.

℣. Most worthy of honour is blessed John.

. Who leaned upon the Lord's breast at the Supper.


Mercifully, O Lord, enlighten thy Church, that being taught by blessed John, thy Apostle and Evangelist, she may come to thy eternal rewards.

Commemoration of Christmas Day

Ant. Hodie Christus natus est; hodie Salvator apparuit; hodie in terra canunt Angeli, lætantur Archangeli: hodie exsultant justi, dicentes: Gloria in excelsis Deo, alleluia.

℣. Notum fecit Dominus, alleluia.

℟. Salutare suum, alleluia.


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

Ant. This day Christ is born; this day the Saviour hath appeared; this day the Angels sing on earth; the Archangels rejoice; this day the just exult, saying: Glory be to God in the highest, alleluia.

℣. The Lord hath made known, alleluia.

℟. His salvation, alleluia.


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

In honour of our Protomartyr, we will now give a selection from the ancient Liturgical Hymns wherein his merits were celebrated by the various Churches. We begin with the Hymn composed by St Ambrose, which is in the Breviary of the Church of Milan.


Stephano primo Martyri
Cantemus novum canticum,
Quod dulce sit psallentibus,
Opem ferat credentibus.

Psallamus hoc discipuli,
Laudem dicamus Martyri,
Qui primus post Redemptorem
Christi secutus est crucem.

Hic enim per Apostolos
Probatus in laudem Dei,
Vexilla mortis rapuit,
Ut præferretur omnibus.

O præferenda gloria!
O beata victoria!
Hoc meruisse Stephanum
Ut sequeretur Dominum.

Ipse martyr egregius,
Amore Christi prædicans.
Sancto repletus Spiritu,
Vultum gerens Angelicum.

Ille levatis oculis.
Vidit Patrem cum Filio,
Monstrans in cœlis vivere,
Quem plebs quærebat perdere.

Judæi magis sæviunt,
Saxaque prensant manibus,
Currebant, ut occiderent
Sacratum Christi militem.

Iste paratus vertice,
Gaudens suscepit lapides,
Rogans pro eis Dominum,
Gaudens tradidit spiritum.

Gloria tibi, Domine,
Gloria Unigenito,
Una cum Sancto Spiritu,
In sempiterna sæcula.


To Stephen the first Martyr
let us sing a new canticle:
may it be sweet to them that sing,
and bring grace to them that believe.

Come, ye disciples of the Lord, thus let us sing:
let us give praise to the Martyr,
who was the first after the Redeemer
to follow the cross of Jesus.

For having been found by the Apostles
to be fervent in God's service,
he outran all others
and bore off the Banner of death.

O glorious First place!
O blessed victory!
Stephen to be the first
to follow his Lord!

The noble Martyr preaches
to men for the love of Christ,
with his heart full of the Holy Spirit,
and his face beaming as an Angel’s.

He raises his eyes,
and sees the Father with the Son:
he tells the people how he beholds, living in heaven,
him whom they had sought to destroy.

The Jews grow the more enraged,
and, seizing up stones in their hands,
they ran out to kill
the holy Soldier of Christ.

He was ready, and standing up,
right gladly receives the stones:
he asks God to forgive them,
and joyfully breathes forth his soul.

Glory be to thee, O Lord!
Glory be to thine Only-Begotten Son,
together with the Holy Ghost,
for everlasting ages.


The Gallican Sacramentary, on the Feast of St Stephen, thus glorifies God for the graces bestowed on this the first of the Martyrs.
Missa S. Stefani

Deus omnipotens, qui Ecclesiæ tuæ sanctum Stephanum martyrem primum messis tuæ manipulum dedisti, et primitivam oblationem novellæconfessionis ostendisti præconem, quod fructus maturescentes exhibuit; præsta universo coetui, intercessione martyris meriti, ut Ecclesiam tuam juvet suffragio, quam ornavit ministerio.
O Almighty God! who didst give the holy Martyr Stephen to thy Church as the first sheaf of thy harvest, and didst make this First offering to be the herald of a new confession, because he had yielded such quick ripened fruits; grant to this whole assembly, by the intercession of thy well-deserving Martyr, that he may aid the Church by his prayers, as he honoured her by his ministry.

The Gothic Church of Spain has, in her Mozarabic Missal, these magnificent praises to God in his holy Martyr.
In natali S. Stephani, Contestatio

Dignum et justum est: æquum et justum est: te laudare, teque benedicere, tibi gratias agere, omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui gloriaris in conventu Sanctorum tuorum; quos ante mundi constitutionem præelectos spirituali in cœlestibus benedictione signasti: quosque Unigenito tuo per adsumptionem carnis, et crucis redemptionem sociasti. In quibus Spiritum tuum Sanctum regnare fecisti; per quem ad felicis martyrii gloriam pietatis tuæ favore venerunt. Digue igitur tibi, Domine virtutum, festa solemnitas agitur; tibi hæc dies sacrata celebratur; qua beati Stephani primi martyris tui sanguis in tuæveritatis testimonio profusus, magnificum nominis tui onorem signavit. Hic est enim illius Nominis primus Confessor, quod est supra omne nomen; in quo unicum salutis nostrae praesidium, Pater æterne, posuisti. Hic in Ecclesia tua quam splendidum ad cunctorum animos confirmandos, unicæ laudis præcessit exemplum! Hic post passionem Domini nostri Jesu Christi, victoriæ palmam primus invasit. Hic ut levitico ministerio per Spiritum Sanctum ab Apostolis consecratus est; niveo candore confestim emicuit, martyrii cruore purpureus. O benedictum Abrahæ semen, Apostolicæ doctrinæ, et dominicæ crucis prior omnium factus imitator et testis! Merito cœlos apertos vidit et Jesum stantem ad dexteram Dei. Digne igitur et juste talem sub tui nominis confessione laudamus, omnipotens Deus; quem ad tantam gloriam vocare dignatus es. Suflfragia ejus nobis pro tua pietate concede. Talis pro hac plebe precetur; qualem illum post trophæa venientem exsultans Christus excepit. Illi pro nobis oculi sublimentur; qui adhuc in hoc mortis corpore constituti, stantem ad dexteram Patris Filium Dei in ipsa passionis hora viderunt. Ille pro nobis obtineat, qui pro persecutoribus suis dum lapidaretur, orabat ad te, sancte Deus, Pater omnipotens, per Dominum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui pro peccatis nostris nasci carne per Virginem, et pati dignatus est mortem: ut martyres suos suo pati doceret exemplo. Cui merito omnes Angeli atque Archangeli sine cessatione proclamant dicentes: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.
It is meet and just, it is right and just, that we praise thee, and bless thee and give thee thanks, O Almighty and eternal God! that art glorified in the assembly of thy Saints, whom thou didst choose before the foundation of the world, and didst mark with a spiritual blessing unto heavenly things; whom also thou didst associate to thine Only-Begotten Son, by his Incarnation and his redeeming of the world by the cross. Thou didst make to reign in them thy Holy Spirit, under whose guidance they were led by the sweetness of thy mercy to the glory of happy martyrdom. It is just, therefore, O God of hosts, that this festive solemnity should be kept in thy praise; that this sacred day should be devoted to thee; for on it the blood of blessed Stephen, thy first Martyr, was shed in testimony of thy truth, and thy name thereby received exceeding honour. For this is he who was the first Confessor of that Name which is above all names, and in which, O Eternal Father, thou didst place the only source of our salvation. This is he that left in thy Church an example of courage; but who can say how grand is the example, and how above all praise? This is he that was the first to seize the palm of victory, after the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is he whom the Apostles, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, had scarce consecrated to the levitical ministry, than he straightway shone with a snow-white purity, and was vested in the scarlet of a martyr's blood. O truly noble child of Abraham! worthy to become the first follower and witness of the Apostles’ teaching, and of Jesus' cross! How well did he deserve to see the heavens opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God! It is therefore meet and just, O Almighty Lord, that, whilst giving praise to thy Name, we praise him whom thou didst graciously call to this so great glory. In thy mercy grant that we may have him to intercede for us. May he pray for this thy people, now that he is in possession of the glory with which Christ welcomed him after his victory. May he now, for our sakes, lift up those eyes which, during this his mortal life, and in the hour of his martyrdom, beheld the Son of God standing at the right hand of the Father. May he be heard for us, who, whilst his persecutors were stoning him, prayed for them unto thee, O Holy God, Father Almighty, through our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son, who for our sins vouchsafed to be born of the Virgin, and suffer death: teaching his Martyrs hereby by his own example, how they should suffer. To whom most justly do all the Angels and Archangels cry out unceasingly, saying: Holy, Holy, Holy!

Let us next listen to the Greek Church singing the praises of our Protomartyr. She thus extols him in her Menæa:
XXVI Decembris, in magno Vespertino, et passim

Mente illustratus Spiritus gratia, forma velut Angelus videris, Stephane, dato tibi in corpore qui intus erat splendore, et mente tua cernentibus manifestantefulgorem quo fruitus es, luminisque contemplationes, cœlis tibi mirabiliter apertis, o martymm caput et gloria.

Quasi gradus scalæ, ad cœlestem ingressum tibi fuerunt lapidum flocci, super quos ascendens contemplatus es stantem Dominum ad Patris dexteram, tibi offerentem homonymam coronarci sua vivifica dextera, cui vicinus adstas victor gloriosus, athletarumque primitiæ.

Signis et miraculis coruscans, cœlestibus documentis impiorum combussisti synedrium, et ab illis necatus lapidibusque obrutus, pro injectantium tu deprecatus es venia, vocem imitatus Salvatoris, in cujus manus commendasti sacratissimum spiritum tuum, Stephane.

Regi et Domino omnium nato in terra Stephanus perlucidus offertur, non pretiosis decoratus gemmis, sed ex proprio sanguine fioridus: at, o martyrum amatores, venite, decerptis carminum floribus cingamus sertis tempora, et hymnis alternantes canamus: qui sapientia et charitate coruscas mente, protomartyr Christi Dei, deprecare pro nobis pacem et magnam misericordiam.

Tu ad auxilium Apostolorum Christi digne vocatus es, et ut fidelis diaconus, o vere nominate Stephane, administrasti; tamquam Christus per sanguinem transivisti.

Clarissimus sicut sol, o Deifer, ad orientem exorsus es, radios emittens confessionis tuæ, et magnæ fortitudinis atque generosissimæ oppugnationis.

Illum qui ex Matre virinescia apud nos hospitatus est, martyrum primus, in immutabili Patris divinitate stantem et gloria, in cœlis contemplatus es.

Heri apud nos per carnem hospitabatur Dominus, hodie e carne dehospitatur servus; hodie lapidatur famulus, et ideo perficitur Protomartyr divinusque Stephanus.

Stella fulgida hodie in Christi nativitate resplenduit Protomartyr Stephanus, omnes mundi fines suis illuminans fulgoribus; at Judæorum omnem extinxit impietatem, sapientiæ verbis illos animadvertens et de Scripturis disserens; illisque suadens natum ex Virgine Jesum ipsum Dei esse Filium; illorum impiamconfundit malitiam Protomartyr et divinus Stephanus.

Laudum, Stephane, omnem superasti modum, et fers ineffabihter et sine dolo tuas victoriæ palmas; non enim potest mens mortalis tuis dignam præconiis coronam intexere.

Primus in diaconis et primus in martyribus demonstratus es, sanctissime Stephane; iter enim fuisti sanctis, et multos ad Dominum perduxisti martyres; ideo cœlum tibi apertum est, et Deus tibi apparuit: ipsum deprecare salvare animas nostras.

Illumined in thy soul with the grace of the Holy Ghost, thy face shone like that of an Angel, O Stephen! The brightness that was within sent forth its rays upon thy body, and thy soul evinced to the beholders the light and contemplation thou didst enjoy, when the heavens were miraculously opened before thee, O thou the leader and the glory of the Martyrs!

The thickly falling stones were to thee as the steps of a ladder reaching the gate of heaven, by which ascending, thou didst behold our Lord standing on the Father’s right hand, offering thee, with his own life-giving right hand, that which was thy very name—a Crown: and now thou standest near him, thou the glorious conqueror, and the first combatant.

Illustrious by thy wonders and miracles and heavenly teaching, thou didst burn the chair of the impious. They stoned thee to death, and thou didst pray God to forgive them, using thy Jesus’ own words, and into his hands commending thy own most saintly spirit, O Stephen!

To the King and Lord of all, who is born on our earth, is offered the beautiful Stephen, not adorned with precious gems, but glittering in the scarlet of his own blood. Come then, ye that love the Martyrs, cull the flowers of song, and wreathe them into hymns passed on from choir to choir. O Protomartyr of Jesus our God! thy spirit beams with wisdom and love; pray for us, that we may receive peace and plentiful mercy.

Thou wast deservedly made an aid to the Apostles of Christ, and thou didst minister to them, O well-named Stephen, as the faithful Deacon. Like Jesus, thou too didst pass through blood.

O man carrying God within thee! thou didst rise in the east like a sun of fairest light, shedding the rays of thy confession, and great fortitude, and most generous resistance.

Thou, the first of Martyrs, didst look up to heaven and see standing in the immutable divinity and glory of the Father, him that was born of a Virgin-Mother, and became a guest among us.

Yesterday the Master became a guest among us by assuming our flesh; to-day his servant is unguested from the flesh; he is stoned and made the Protomartyr, the god-like Stephen.

To-day there shone a bright star for the Birth of Christ—the Protomartyr Stephen; and all the earth was illumined by his dazzling rays. He confuted all the impiety of the Jews, showing them their errors by words of wisdom, and proving his doctrine by the Scriptures, showing them that Jesus, who was born of the Virgin, was very Son of God. The Protomartyr, the god-like Stephen, confounded their blasphemous impiety.

Thou art beyond all praise, O Stephen! No tongue can say how honestly was won the laurel-branch thou bearest. No mortal mind can wreathe a Crownworthy thy great acts.

Thou, most saintly Stephen! wast first of Deacons, and first of Martyrs; for thou didst open the way to the Saints, and hast led the countless Martyrs to their God: therefore did the heavens open over thy head, and God appear unto thee. Pray to him for us, that he save our souls.

The Western Churches of the Middle Ages have left us an almost endless variety of Liturgical compositions, more particularly of Proses and Sequences, in honour of St Stephen. We have no hesitation in giving our preference to the one composed by Adam of St Victor. We shall always think it a duty to bring into notice the works of this great Liturgical Poet, whose compositions were for a long period so dear to the faithful in England, France, Germany, and in almost all the Churches of northern Europe.


Heri mundus exsultavit,
Et exsultans celebravit
Christi natalitia.

Heri chorus Angelorum
Prosecutus est cœlorum
Regem cum lætitia.

Protomartyr et Levita
Clarus fide, clarus vita,
Clarus et miraculis.

Sub hac luce triumphavit
Et triumphans insultavit
Stephanus incredulis.

Fremunt ergo tamquam feræ,
Quia victi defuere
Lucis adversarii.

Falsos testes statuunt,
Et linguas exacuunt
Viperarum filii.

Agonista, nulli cede,
Certa, certus de mercede,
Persevera, Stephane.

Insta falsis testibus,
Confuta sermonibus
Synagogam Satanæ.

Testis tuus est in cœlis,
Testis verax et fidelis,
Testis innocentiæ.

Nomen habes Coronati:
Te tormenta decet pati
Pro corona gloriæ.

Pro corona non marcenti
Perfer brevis vim tormenti:
Te manet victoria.

Tibi fiet mors Natalis,
Tibi poena terminalis
Dat vitæ primordia.

Plenus Sancto Spiritu,
Penetrat intuitu
Stephanus cœlestia.

Videns Dei gloriam,
Crescit ad victoriam,
Suspirat ad præmia.

En a dextris Dei stantem
Jesum pro te dimicantem,
Stephane, considera.

Tibi coelos reserari,
Tibi Christum revelari
Clama, voce libera.

Se commend at Salvatori
Pro quo dulce ducit mori,
Sub ipsis lapidibus.

Saulus servat omnium
Vestes lapidantium,
Lapidans in omnibus.

Ne peccatum statuatur
His a quibus lapidatur,
Genu ponit et precatur
Condolens insaniæ.

In Christo sic obdormivit,
Qui Christo sic obedivit!
Et cum Christo semper vivit
Martyrum primitiæ.

Quod sex suscitaverit
Mortuos in Africa,
Augustinus asserit,
Fama refert publica.

Hujus, Dei gratia,
Revelato corpore,
Mundo datur pluvia
Siccitatis tempore.

Solo fugat hic odore
Morbos et dæmonia,
Laude dignus et honore
Jugique memoria.

Martyr, cujus est jucundum
Nomen in Ecclesia,
Languescentem fove mundum
Cœlesti fragrantia.


Yesterday the world exulted,
and in its exultation
celebrated the Birth of Jesus.

Yesterday the Angelic Choir
in great joy stood
round the King of heaven.

The Protomartyr and Deacon Stephen,
illustrious for his faith, illustrious for his holy life,
illustrious also for his miracles,

On this day triumphed,
and in his triumph,
vanquished the unbelieving Jews.

These enemies of the Light
rage like savage beasts
at seeing their own defeat.

This brood of vipers
bring up false witnesses,
and sharpen their tongues.

Flinch not, Combatant!
Thou art sure of thy reward:
fight and persevere, O Stephen!

Withstand the false witnesses,
and confute by thy answers
the synagogue of Satan.

Thine own Witness is in heaven,
a Witness true and faithful,
and he is Witness of thine innocence.

Thy name is The Crowned:
it behoves thee to suffer,
so to win thy Crown of glory.

For a Crown which is to last for ever,
what are torments which last but an hour,
and are followed by victory?

Thy death will be thy Birth:
thy last pang will introduce
thee into eternal life.

Full of the Holy Ghost,
Stephen fixes his gaze
on the heavens above:

Seeing there the glory of God,
he pushes on to victory,
he pants for the crown.

Behold, Stephen! on God's right hand
is thy Jesus,
and he is fighting for thee.

Boldly tell it to the crowd
that the heavens are opened for thee,
and that Jesus shows himself to thee.

He then commends his spirit to his Saviour,
for whom he deems it sweet
to be thus stoned to death.

Saul makes himself guardian
of the garments of all that cast the stones:
casting thus himself each stone they throw.

But Stephen, compassionating their madness,
falls on his knees, and prays
that this sin be not laid
to the charge of his murderers.

Thus did he sleep in Christ,
who thus imitated Christ:
and now for ever lives with Christ:
Stephen, first of Martyrs.

St. Augustine
and common report assure us
that he raised up
six dead men to life in Africa.

When, through God’s mercy,
his Relics were discovered,
the earth, which was parched by a drought,
received a plentiful rain.

The very fragrance that came from his Relics
put diseases and demons to flight.
Truly, then, is he worthy of praise
and honour and eternal remembrance.

O Martyr,
whose name is so dear to the Church!
refresh our fainting world
by celestial fragrance.


With these praises which the venerable ages of old offered to thee, O Prince and First of Martyrs! we presume to unite ours. Fervently do we congratulate thee that thou hast had assigned thee by the Church the place of honour at the Crib of our Jesus. How glorious the confession thou didst make of his Divinity whilst thy executioners were stoning thee! How rich and bright the scarlet thou art clad in for thy victory! How honourable the wounds thou didst receive for Christ! How immense and yet how choice that army of Martyrs which follows thee as its leader, and to which fresh recruits will for ever be added, to the end of time.

Holy Martyr! help us by thy prayers to enter into the spirit of the mystery of the Word made Flesh, now that we are celebrating the Birth of our Saviour. Thou art the faithful guardsman of his Crib: who could better lead us to the Divine Babe that lies there? Thou didst bear testimony to his Divinity and Humanity; thou didst preach this Man-God before the blaspheming Synagogue. In vain did the Jews stop their ears; they could not stifle thy voice, which charged them with deicide, in that they had put to death him who is at once the Son of Mary and the Son of God. Show this Redeemer to us also, not, indeed, standing in glory at the right hand of his Father, but the sweet and humble Babe, as he now manifests himself to the world into which he has just been born, wrapped in swaddlingclothes, and laid in a manger. We too wish to bear witness to him, and to tell how his Birth is one of love and mercy; we wish to show by our lives that he has been born in our hearts. Obtain for us that devotedness to the Divine Infant which gave thee such courage on the day of trial: we shall have devotedness if, like thee, we are simple-hearted and fearless in our love of Jesus; for love is stronger than death. May we never forget that every Christian ought to be ready for martyrdom simply because he is a Christian. May the life of Christ, which has again begun within us, so grow within us, by our fidelity and our conduct, that we may come, as the Apostle expresses it, to the fulness of Christ.[6]

But be mindful, O glorious Martyr! be mindful of the Holy Church in those countries where it is the will of God that she resist even unto blood. May the number of thy fellow-martyrs be thus filled up, and let not one of the combatants grow faint-hearted. May every age and sex be staunch; that so the testimony may be perfect, and the Church, even in her old age, win immortal laurels and crowns, as in the freshness of her infancy, when she had such a champion as thyself. But pray too that the blood of these Martyrs may be fruitful, as it was in times past; pray that it be not wasted, but become the seed of abundant harvests. May infidelity lose ground, and heresy cease to canker those noble hearts who, once in the Truth, would be the glory and consolation of the Church. Our own dear Land has had her Martyrs, who in the hope that God would avenge their blood by restoring her to the Faith, gladly suffered and died: oh! Prince of Martyrs! pray that this their hope may be speedily fulfilled.

We must not end this second day of the Christmas Octave without visiting the Stable of Bethlehem, and adoring the divine Son of Mary. Two days have scarce elapsed since his Blessed Mother placed him in his humble Crib; but these two days are of more value for the salvation of the world than the four thousand years which preceded the Birth of this Babe. The work of our Redemption has made a great step; the cries and tears of the New-Born Child have begun the atonement of our sins. On this Feast of the First Martyr, let us consider how the cheeks of the Infant Jesus are moistened with tears, and how these tears are the first expression of his sufferings. 'Jesus weeps,' say St Bernard, 'but not like other children, certainly not for the same cause as other children. . . . They weep from passion; he from compassion. They weep because they are galled by the yoke that sits heavy on all the children of Adam; Jesus weeps because he sees the sins of the children of Adam.' (Third Sermon for the Nativity.) Oh! how dear to us ought to be these tears of a God who has made himself our Brother! Had we not sinned, God would not have wept. Ought not we too to weep over sin, which thus saddens, by the sufferings it causes to our sweet Infant Jesus, the heavenly joy of his Birth among us?

Mary also sees these tears, and her maternal heart is pained. She feels that her Child is to be the Man of Sorrows; and, before many days are over, the same awful truth will be told her in prophecy. With the consolation she offers to her Babe let us unite ours, by giving him our love. It is the one thing he seeks by all the humiliations he has taken upon himself. It is to gain our love that he has come down from heaven, and been born among us in the midst of the mysteries we are now celebrating. Let us love him, therefore, with all our love, and ask our Lady to present him our humble offering. The Psalmist has said: The Lord is great, and exceedingly to be praised: let us add, with St Bernard: The Lord is a Little Babe, and exceedingly to be loved.

We will honour the Birth of our Jesus to-day by this venerable Sequence of St Gall's Monastery, written by Blessed Notker. It recounts the combat of our Emmanuel against Satan, and his victory. This victory is the source of those won by Stephen and all the Martyrs.


Eia, recolamus
Laudibus piis digna,

Hujus diei carmina,
In quo nobis lux oritur Gratissima.

Noctis inter nebulosa,
Pereunt nostri criminis Umbracula.

Hodie sæculo
Maris stella Est enixa Novæ salutis gaudia.

Quem tremunt barathra, Mors cruenta pavet ipsa,
A quo peribit mortua.

Gemet capta Pestis antiqua,
Coluber lividus perdit spolia.

Homo lapsus,
Ovis obducta, Revocatur ad aeterna Gaudia.

Gaudent in hoc die
Agmina Angelorum coelestia,

Quia erat drachma decima Perdita,
Et est inventa.

O proles Nimium beata, Qua redempta
Est natura.

Deus, qui creavit omnia,
Nascitur ex femina.

Mirabilis natura, Mirifice induta,
Assumens quod non erat, Manens quod erat.

Induitur natura Divinitas humana:
Quis audivit talia, Dic, rogo, facta?

Quærere venerat
Pastor pius quod perierat.

Induit galeam,
Certat ut miles armatura.

Prostratus In sua propria
Ruit hostis spicula.

Auferuntur tela In quibus fidebat,
Divisa sunt illius spolia, Capta præda sua.

Christi pugna Fortissima
Salus nostra est vera,

Qui nos suam Ad patriam
Duxit post victoriam.

In qua sibi laus est Æterna. Amen.
Come! let us resume
our holy songs

of praise in strains worthy of this day,
Whereon the much-loved Light rises to the world.

It is in the gloomy hour of night
that the dark shadows of our sins are made to disappear.

This day did the Star of the sea bring forth to the world
the joy of its new salvation.

Her Child makes hell tremble;
nay, cruel Death is filled with fear at the sight of him who is to be its death.

Long-triumphant pestilence, now captive, mourns out her sighs;
and the crushed serpent lets go his prey.

Fallen man, the strayed sheep,
is carried back to the eternal joys.

The heavenly host of Angels
are full of joy to-day;

For the tenth groat was lost
and is fotind.

O Child! blessed above all!
by whom mankind was redeemed.

The God who created all things
is born of a Woman.

He whose nature is admirable, clothes himself by an admirable mystery,
assuming what he was not, and remaining what he had ever been.

A divine Person puts on human nature:
I beseech thee, tell me, was aught like this ever heard?

The Good Shepherd came to seek
that which was lost.

He puts on the helmet,
and as a soldier fights in armour.

The enemy is defeated
and falls upon his own arrows.

The weapons he trusted in are taken from him,
his booty is divided, his prey is taken from him.

Our true salvation comes of this
most glorious battle of Christ;

Who, after the victory,
led us to his own kingdom,

Where everlasting praise is given to him. Amen.


And now, turning towards his Blessed Mother, we will offer her the tribute of this beautiful Sequence, taken from the Cluny Missal of 1523.


Angelicæ nos respice,
O dignitatis Domina.

Cum Filio in solio
Cœlo regnas per sæcula.

Dulcis Maria,
Vere dulcis, vere pia, Vere mitissima.

Tota affluens pietate, Clementia,
Tota melliflua.

Tu flebili Theophili
Culpæ ades propitia.

Te auspice,
A fornice
Surgit rea Ægyptia.

O mater misericordiæ,
O lapsorum spes unica.

Votiva servorum
Hodie infer cœlo Suspiria.

Tu decus Israel,
Tu mundi gloria.

Nostro Emmanuel
Tu reconcilia,

Quem lactasti tua sacra mamilla.

Illa ejus membra
Fovens dulcia.

Mediatrix nostra,
Nobis hunc placa.

In illa oramus die

Oblaturi hic adsumus Deo
Patri tuæ prolis Pignora,

Quorum virtute, quæsumus,
Reos munda,

Trementes corrobora.
Tu bona, tu clemens,
Tu spes nostra,

O Maria.
Amen dicat mens devota.

Look down upon us,
O Queen of the Angel kingdom.

With thy Son, thou reignest
for ever on the heavenly throne.

Sweet Mother Mary!
truly sweet and loving and most gentle!

Thou art, as a fountain, full of love and clemency;
and as a land flowing with honey.

Thou mercifully aidest the sorrowing Theophilus
to obtain the forgiveness of his sin.

By thy prayers,
the guilty one of Egypt rises
from her abominations.

O Mother of Mercy!
O singular hope of the fallen!

Bear up this day to heaven
the prayers and sighs of thy clients.

Thou art the honour of Israel,
thou art the glory of the world.

Restore us
to the favour of our Emmanuel,

Whom thou didst feed at thy sacred breast,

And whose sweet Infant limbs
thou didst warm.

Do thou, our Mediatrix,
appease him in our regard,

On the dread Day,
we beseech thee.

We are here to offer up to God
our Father the merits of our Jesus;

By their virtue do thou, we beseech thee,
obtain forgiveness for the guilty,

and bring courage to them that fear.
Thou art our good, our merciful Mother;
thou art our hope,

O Mary!
Let every devout soul respond: Amen!




[1] Ps. xliv 3.
[2] Acts vi 8.
[3] St Luke x 3.
[4] 1 Cor. i 24.
[5] In the Monastic Breviary, it is as follows: ℟. breve. Posuisti, Domine, * Super caput ejus. Posuisti. ℣. Coronam de lapide pretioso. * Super. Gloria Patri. Posuisti. Deus, tuorum militum Sors, et corona, præmium, Laudes canentes Martyris Absolve nexu criminis. Hic nempe mundi gaudia Et blandimenta noxia Caduca rite deputans, Pervenit ad cœlestia. Pœnas cucurrit fortiter, Et sustulit viriliter: Pro te effundens sanguinem Æterna dona possidet. Ob hoc precatu supplici Te poscimus, Piissime, In hoc triumpho Martyris Dimitte noxam servulis. Gloria tibi Domine, Qui natus es de Virgine, Cum Patre, et Sancto Spiritu, In sempiterna sæcula. Amen.
[6] Eph. iv 13.






From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

NEAREST to Jesus' Crib, after Stephen, stands John, the Apostle and Evangelist. It was only right that the first place should be assigned to him, who so loved his God that he shed his blood in his service; for, as this God himself declares, greater love than this hath no man, that he lay down his life for his friends,[1] and Martyrdom has ever been counted by the Church as the greatest act of love, and as having, consequently, the power of remitting sins, like a second Baptism. But next to the sacrifice of Blood, the noblest, the bravest sacrifice, and that which most wins the heart of him who is the Spouse of souls, is the sacrifice of Virginity. Now just as St Stephen is looked upon as the type of Martyrs, St John is honoured as the Prince of Virgins. Martyrdom won for Stephen the Crown and palm; Virginity merited for John most singular prerogatives, which, while they show how dear to God is holy Chastity, put this Disciple among those who by their dignity and influence are above the rest of men.

St John was of the family of David, as was our Blessed Lady. He was consequently a relation of Jesus. This same honour belonged to St James the Greater, his brother; as also to St James the Less and St Jude, both sons of Alpheus. When our Saint was in the prime of his youth, he left not only his boat and nets, not only his Father Zebedee, but even his betrothed, when everything was prepared for the marriage. He followed Jesus, and never once looked back. Hence the special love which our Lord bore him. Others were Disciples or Apostles, John was the Friend of Jesus. The cause of this our Lord's partiality was, as the Church tells us in the Liturgy, that John had offered his Virginity to the Man-God. Let us, on this his Feast, enumerate the graces and privileges that came to St John from his being the Disciple whom Jesus loved.

This very expression of the Gospel, which the Evangelist repeats several times—The Disciple whom Jesus loved[2]—says more than any commentary could do. St Peter, it is true, was chosen by our Divine Lord to be the Head of the Apostolic College, and the Rock whereon the Church was to be built: he, then, was honoured most; but St John was loved most. Peter was bid to love more than the rest loved, and he was able to say, in answer to Jesus' thrice repeated question, that he did love him in this highest way: and yet, notwithstanding, John was more loved by Jesus than was Peter himself, because his Virginity deserved this special mark of honour.

Chastity of soul and body brings him who possesses it into a sacred nearness and intimacy with God. Hence it was that at the Last Supper—that Supper which was to be renewed on our Altars to the end of the world, in order to cure our spiritual infirmities and give life to our souls—John was placed near to Jesus, nay, was permitted, as the tenderly loved Disciple, to lean his head upon the Breast of the Man-God. Then it was that he was filled, from their very Fountain, with Light and Love: it was both a recompense and a favour, and became the source of two signal graces, which make St John an object of special reverence to the whole Church.

Divine wisdom wishing to make known to the world the Mystery of the Word, and commit to Scripture those profound secrets which, so far, no pen of mortal had been permitted to write, the task was put upon John. Peter had been crucified, Paul had been beheaded, and the rest of the Apostles had laid down their lives in testimony of the Truths they had been sent to preach to the world; John was the only one left in the Church. Heresy had already begun its blasphemies against the Apostolic Teachings; it refused to admit the Incarnate Word as the Son of God, Consubstantial to the Father. John was asked by the Churches to speak, and he did so in language heavenly above measure. His Divine Master had reserved to this his Virgin-Disciple the honour of writing those sublime Mysteries which the other Apostles had been commissioned only to teach—the Word was God, and this Word was made Flesh for the salvation of mankind. Thus did our Evangelist soar, like the Eagle, up to the Divine Sun, and gaze upon him with undazzled eye, because his heart and senses were pure, and therefore fitted for such vision of the uncreated Light. If Moses, after having conversed with God in the cloud, came from the divine interview with rays of miraculous light encircling his head: how radiant must have been the face of St John, which had rested on the very Heart of Jesus, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge![3] how sublime his writings! how divine his teaching! Hence the symbol of the Eagle, shown to the Prophet Ezechiel,[4] and to St John himself in his Revelations,[5] has been assigned to him by the Church: and to this title of The Eagle has been added, by universal tradition, the other beautiful name of Theologian.

This was the first recompense given by Jesus to his Beloved John—a profound penetration into divine Mysteries. The second was the imparting to him of a most ardent charity, which was equally a grace consequent upon his angelic purity, for purity unburdens the soul from grovelling egotistic affections, and raises it to a chaste and generous love. John had treasured up in his heart the Discourses of his Master: he made them known to the Church, and especially that divine one of the Last Supper, wherein Jesus had poured forth his whole Soul to his own, whom he had always tenderly loved, but most so at the end.[6] He wrote his Epistles, and Charity is his subject: God is Charity—he that loveth not, knoweth not God—perfect Charity casteth out fear—and so on throughout, always on Love. During the rest of his life, even when so enfeebled by old age as not to be able to walk, he was for ever insisting upon all men loving each other, after the example of God, who had loved them and so loved them! Thus, he that had announced more clearly than the rest of the Apostles the divinity of the Incarnate Word, was par excellence the Apostle of that divine Charity which Jesus came to enkindle upon the earth.

But our Lord had a further gift to bestow, and it was sweetly appropriate to the Virgin-Disciple. When dying on his cross, Jesus left Mary upon this earth. Joseph had been dead now some years. Who then shall watch over his Mother? who is there worthy of the charge? Will Jesus send his Angels to protect and console her? for, surely, what man could ever merit to be to her as a second Joseph? Looking down, he sees the Virgin-Disciple standing at the foot of the Cross: we know the rest, John is to be Mary’s Son: Mary is to be John’s Mother. Oh! wonderful Chastity, that wins from Jesus such an inheritance as this! Peter, says St Peter Damian, shall have left to him the Church, the Mother of men; but John shall receive Mary, the Mother of God, whom he will love as his own dearest Treasure, and to whom he will stand in Jesus’ stead; whilst Mary will tenderly love John, her Jesus’ Friend, as her Son.

Can we be surprised after this, that St John is looked upon by the Church as one of her greatest glories? He is a Relative of Jesus in the flesh; he is an Apostle, a Virgin, the Friend of the Divine Spouse, the Eagle, the Theologian, the Son of Mary; he is an Evangelist, by the history he has given of the Life of his Divine Master and Friend; he is a Sacred Writer, by the three Epistles he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; he is a Prophet, by his mysterious Apocalypse, wherein are treasured the secrets of time and eternity. But is he a Martyr? Yes, for if he did not complete his sacrifice, he drank the Chalice of Jesus,[7] when, after being cruelly scourged, he was thrown into a caldron of boiling oil before the Latin Gate at Rome. He was therefore a Martyr in desire and intention, though not in fact. If our Lord, wishing to prolong a life so dear to the Church, as well as to show how he loves and honours Virginity, miraculously stayed the effects of the frightful punishment, St John had, on his part, unreservedly accepted Martyrdom.

Such is the companion of Stephen at the Crib, wherein lies our Infant Jesus. If the Protomartyr dazzles us with the robes he wears of the bright scarlet of his own blood; is not the virginal whiteness of John’s vestment fairer than the untrod snow? The spotless beauty of the Lilies of Mary’s adopted Son, and the bright vermilion of Stephen’s Roses—what is there more lovely than their union? Glory, then, be to our New-Born King, whose court is tapestried with such heaven-made colours as these! Yes, Bethlehem’s Stable is a very heaven on earth, and we have seen its transformation. First we saw Mary and Joseph alone there: they were adoring Jesus in his Crib; then, immediately, there descended a heavenly host of Angels singing the wonderful Hymn; the Shepherds soon followed, the humble, simple-hearted Shepherds; after these entered Stephen the Crowned, and John the Beloved Disciple; and even before there enters the pageant of the devout Magi, we shall have others coming in, and there will be each day grander glory in the Cave, and gladder joy in our hearts. Oh! this birth of our Jesus! Humble as it seems, yet how divine! What King or Emperor ever received in his gilded cradle, honours like these shown to the Babe of Bethlehem? Let us unite our homage with that given him by these the favoured inmates of his court. Yesterday the sight of the Palm in Stephen’s hand animated us, and we offered to our Jesus the promise of a stronger Faith: to-day the Wreath that decks the brow of the Beloved Disciple breathes upon the Church the heavenly fragrance of Virginity: an intenser love of Purity must be our resolution, and our tribute to the Lamb.


The Church commences her chants of the holy Sacrifice with words taken from the Book of Ecclesiasticus, which she applies to St John. Our Lord has proclaimed his mysteries to the Church by the teaching of his Beloved Disciple. He favoured him with his divine intimacy, which filled him with the spirit of wisdom. He clad him with a robe of glory, in reward for his virginal purity.


In medio Ecclesiæ aperuit os ejus; et implevit eum Dominus Spiritu sapientiæ et intellectus; stolam gloriæ induit eum.

Ps. Bonum est confiteri Domino, et psallere nomini tuo, Altissime.

℣. Gloria. In medio.

He opened his mouth in the midst of the Church, and the Lord filled him with the spirit of wisdom; he clad him with a robe of glory.

Ps. It is good to give praise to the Lord, and to sing to thy name, O Most High.

℣. Glory, etc. He opened.

In the Collect the Church asks for the Light, that is for the Word of God, of whom St John was the propagator by his sublime writings. She aspires to the eternal possession of this Emmanuel who is come to enlighten the world, and who has revealed to his Beloved Disciple the secrets of heaven.


Ecclesiam tuam, Domine, benignus illustra: ut beati Joannis Apostoli tui et Evangelistæ illuminata doctrinis, ad dona perveniat sempiterna. Per Dominum.
Mercifully, O Lord, enlighten thy Church: that being taught by blessed John, thine Apostle and Evangelist, she may come to thy eternal rewards. Through, etc.

Commemoration of Christmas Day

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


Lectio libri Sapientiæ.

Eccli. cap.

Qui timet Deum, faciet bona; et qui continens est justitiæ, apprehendet illam, et obviabit illi quasi mater honorificata. Cibabit illum pane vitæ et intellectus, et aqua sapientiæ salutaris potabit illum; et firmabitur in illo, et non flectetur; et continebit illum, et non confundetur; et exaltabit illum apud proximos suos; et in medio Ecclesiæ aperiet os ejus, et adimplebit illum Spiritu sapientiæ et intellectus, et stolam gloriæ vestiet illum; jucunditatem et exsultationem thesaurizabit super illum, et nomine aeterno haereditabit illum Dominus Deus noster.

Lesson from the Book of Wisdom.

Ecclus. ch. XV.

He that feareth God, will do good; and he that possesseth justice, shall lay hold on her, and she will meet him as an honourable mother. With the bread of life and understanding she shall feed him, and give him the water of wholesome wisdom to drink, and she shall be made strong in him, and he shall not be moved; and she shall exalt him among his neighbours; and in the midst of the Church she shall open his mouth, and shall fill him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, and shall clothe him with the robe of glory; she shall heap upon him a treasure of joy and gladness, and our Lord God shall cause him to inherit an everlasting name.

The Wisdom here spoken of is Jesus the Eternal Word, who came to St John and called him to the Apostolate. The Bread of life wherewith she fed him is the divine Bread of the Last Supper, the Body and Blood of Jesus; the wholesome Water is that promised by our Saviour to the Samaritan Woman, of which St John drank so abundantly from its very source when he rested his head on the Heart of Jesus. The immovable Strength is the Saint’s close and resolute custody of the treasure of his Virginity, and the courageous profession of the religion of Christ before the Proconsuls of Domitian. The Treasure which Wisdom heaped upon him is the magnificence of the prerogatives granted to him. Lastly, the everlasting Name is that glorious title given him of John the Beloved Disciple.


Exiit sermo inter fratres, quod discipulus ille non moritur; et non dixit Jesus: Non moritur;

. Sed: Sic eum volo manere, donee veniam; tu me sequere.

Alleluia, alleluia.

. Hic est discipulus ille, qui testimonium perhibet de his; et scimus quia verum est testimonium ejus. Alleluia.

A report was spread among the brethren, that that Disciple should not die; but Jesus said not: He should not die;

. But: So I will have him remain till I come; follow thou me.

Alleluia, alleluia.

. This is the Disciple that beareth testimony of these things; and we know his testimony is true. Alleluia.


Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.

Cap. XXI.

In illo tempore, dixit Jesus Petro: Sequere me. Conversus Petrus vidit illum discipulum quem diligebat Jesus sequentem, qui et recubuit in cœna super pectus ejus, et dixit: Domine, quis est qui tradet te? Hunc ergo cum vidisset Petrus, dixit Jesu: Domine, hic autem quid? Dicit ei Jesus: Sic eum volo manere donec veniam, quid ad te? Tu me sequere. Exiit ergo senno iste inter fratres, quia discipulus ille non moritur. Et non dixit ei Jesus: Non moritur; sed: Sic eum volo manere donec veniam, quid ad te? Hic est discipulus ille, qui testimonium perhibet de his, et scripsit hæc; et scimus quia verum est testimonium ejus.
Sequel of the Holy Gospel according to John.

Ch. XXI.

At that time: Jesus said to Peter: Follow me. Peter turning about, saw that Disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also leaned on his breast at supper, and said: Lord, who is he that shall betray thee? Him therefore, when Peter had seen, he saith to Jesus: Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith to him: So I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee?Follow thou me. This saying, therefore, went abroad among the brethren, that that Disciple should not die. And Jesus did not say to him: He should not die; but: So I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee? This is that Disciple who giveth testimony of these things, and hath written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.

This passage of the holy Gospel has been much commented upon. Some of the Fathers and Commentators interpret it as signifying that St John was to be exempt from death, and that he is still living in the flesh, awaiting the coming of the Judge of the living and the dead. It is certain that this opinion regarding our Apostle has been entertained; and one of the arguments in its favour was this very passage. But the general opinion of the Holy Fathers is that nothing further is implied by it than the difference between the two vocations of St Peter and St John. The former shall follow his divine Master, by dying, like him, on a cross; the latter shall remain—he shall live to a venerable old age—and at length Jesus shall come and take him out of this world by sending him a sweet and peaceful death.

During the Offertory, the Church makes a remembrance of the flourishing Palms which grew up around the Beloved Disciple; she tells us of the spiritual children he had trained, and of the Churches he had founded; all which, like young cedars round the venerable parent-tree on Libanus, multiplied under the fostering care of their Father.


Justus ut palma florebit; sicut cedrus quæ in Libano est multiplicabitur.
The just shall flourish like the palm-tree; he shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus.


Suscipe, Domine, munera quæ in ejus tibi solemnitate deferimus, cujus nos confxdimus patrocinio liberari. Per Dominum.
Receive, O Lord, the offerings we make to thee, on his feast, by whose intercession we hope to be delivered. Through, etc.

Commemoration of Christmas Day

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

The Preface as on page 64: but on the Octave-Day it is as below.[8]

The mysterious words of the Gospel are repeated in the Communion, that is, at the moment when Priest and people have partaken of the Victim of salvation; they convey this teaching—that he who eats of this Bread, though he must die the death of the body, will yet live for the coming of the supreme Judge and Rewarder.


Exiit senno inter fratres quod discipulus ille non moritur. Et non dixit Jesus: Non moritur; sed: Sic eum volo manere donec veniam.
A report was spread among the brethren, that that disciple should not die. But Jesus said not: He should not die; but: So I will that he remain till I come.


Refecti cibo potuque cœ lesti, Deus noster, te supplices deprecamur; ut in cujus hæc commemoratione percepimus, ejus muniamur et precibus. Per Dominum.
Being refreshed, O Lord, with this heavenly meat and drink, we humbly beseech thee that we may be assisted by his prayers, on whose feast we have received these sacred mysteries. Through, etc.

Commemoration of Christmas Day

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



The Antiphons and Psalms are sung as yesterday, the Feast of St Stephen: they are given on page 210. After the last Psalm, the Office of St John is resumed, commencing as follows:

(Ecclus. xv)

Qui timet Deum, faciet bona: et qui continens est justitiæ apprehendet illam, et obviabit illi quasi mater honorificata.
He that feareth God, will do good; and he that possesseth justice shall lay hold on her, and she shall meet him as an honourable mother.


Exsultet orbis gaudiis:
Cœlum resultet laudibus;
Apostolorum gloriam
Tellus et astra concinunt.

Vos sæculorum judices,
Et vera mundi lumina:
Votis precamur cordium,
Audite voces supplicum.

Qui tempia cœli clauditis,
Serasque verbo solvitis,
Nos a reatu noxios
Solvi jubete, quæsumus.

Præcepta quorum protinus
Languor salusque sentiunt;
Sanate mentes languidas,
Augete nos virtutibus.

Ut cum redibit Arbiter
In fine Christus sæculi,
Nos sempiterni gaudii
Concedat esse compotes.

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


℣. Valde honorandus est beatus Joannes.
. Qui supra pectus Domini in cœna recubuit.

Let the earth exult with joy:
let the heavens re-echo with praise:
the glory of the Apostles
is sung by both earth and heaven.

O ye, the Judges of the world,
and the true Lights of the earth!
we pray to you with all earnestness of heart:
hear the prayers of your clients.

’Tis ye that have power,
by your word, to shut and open
the gates of heaven: we beseech you,
loosen us from the bonds of sin.

Sickness and health promptly
do your bidding;
oh! heal our languid souls,
bring us growth in virtue;

That so, when Jesus our judge
shall come again at the end of the world,
he may grant us to be
partakers of neverending bliss.

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


℣. Most worthy of honour is the blessed John.
. Who leaned upon the Lord’s breast at the supper.

Antiphon of the Magnificat

Ant. Exiit sermo inter fratres, quod discipulus ille non moritur: et non dixit Jesus: Non moritur; sed: Sic eum volo manere donec veniam.
Ant. There went abroad among the brethren this saying, that that disciple should not die: and Jesus did not say to him: He should not die; but: So I will have him to remain till I come.

Ecclesiam tuam, Domine, benignus illustra, ut beati Joannis Apostoli tui et Evangelistæ illuminata doctrinis, ad dona perveniat sempiterna. Per Dominum.
Let Us Pray
Mercifully, O Lord, enlighten thy Church; that being taught by blessed John, thine Apostle and Evangelist, she may come to thy eternal rewards. Through, etc.

Commemoration of the Holy Innocents

Ant. Hi sunt, qui cum mulieribus non sunt coinquinati: virgines enim sunt, et sequuntur Agnum quocumque ierit.

℣. Herodes iratus occidit multos pueros.

. In Bethlehem Judæ, civitate David.


Deus cujus hodierna die præconium Innocentes martyres non loquendo, sed moriendo confessi sunt, omnia in nobis vitiorum mala mortifica: ut fidem tuam, quam lingua nostra loquitur, etiam moribus vita fateatur.

Ant. These are they who were not defiled with women: for they are virgins, and follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.

. Herod, being angry, killed many children.

. In Bethlehem of Juda, the city of David.

Let Us Pray

O God, whose praise the holy Martyrs, the Innocents, published this day, not by speaking, but by dying; mortify in us all our vicious inclinations: that we may show forth in our actions thy faith, which we profess with our lips.

Commemoration of Christmas Day

Ant. Hodie Christus natus est: hodie Salvator apparuit: hodie in terra canunt Angeli, lætantur Archangeli: hodie„ exsultant justi, dicentes: Gloria in excelsis Deo. Alleluia.

. Notum fecit Dominus, alleluia.

. Salutare suum, alleluia.


Concede, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus, ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem Nativitas liberet, quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus tenet. Per eundem.
Ant. This day Christ is born; this day the Saviour hath appeared; this day the Angels sing on earth; the Archangels rejoice; this day the just exult, saying: Glory be to God in the highest, alleluia.

. The Lord hath made known, alleluia.

℟. His salvation, alleluia.

Let Us Pray

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

Now let us listen to the several Churches, proclaiming in their liturgical praises the glory of St John. We begin with the Church of Rome, from which we take this beautiful Preface of the Leonine Sacramentary.


Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi gratias agere, Pater omnipotens, beati Apostoli tui Joannis Evangelistæ natalitia venerantes. Qui Domini nostri Jesu Christi Filii tui vocatione suscepta, terrenum respuit patrem, ut posset invenire coelestem: retia sæculi, quibus implicabatur, abjecit, ut æternitatis dona mente libera sectaretur: nutantem fluctibus navem reliquit, ut in ecclesiasticæ gubernationis tranquilitate consisteret: a piscium captione cessavit, ut animas mundanis gurgitibus immersas, calamo doctrinæsalutaris abstraheret: destitit pelagi profundari mari, secretorum scrutatorredditus divinorum. Eo usque procedens, ut et in cœna mystica sacrosanto convivio in ipsius recumberet pectore Salvatoris; et eum in cruce Dominus constitutus, vicarium sui, Matri Virgini Filium subrogaret, et in principio Verbum, quod Deus erat apud Deum, pra cateris ostenderet prædicandum.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should give thanks to thee, O Almighty Father! now that we are celebrating the Feast of thy blessed Apostle, John the Evangelist. Having received the vocation of our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son, he left his earthly father, that he might find one in heaven. He threw down the nets of this world, wherein he was entangled, that he might, with a free soul, pursue the goods that are eternal. He abandoned his boat which was ever tossing on the waves, that he might calmly steer a spiritual bark in the Church. He gave up his trade of fishing, that by the hook of saving doctrine he might draw out souls ingulfed in the surges of the world. He ceased his searchings in the deep waters of the sea, that he might be made worthy to penetrate into secrets divine. Even thus was he favoured—he leaned his head on the Saviour’s breast, in the most holy banquet of the mystic supper; our Lord, when hanging on the cross, gave him to the Virgin-Mother to be her Son in his own stead; and it was he, above all others, that showed how this was to be preached: In the beginning was the Word, who was God with God.


The Church of Milan, in her Ambrosian Missal, thus sings forth the praises of the Beloved Disciple:

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi gratias agere, æterne Deus: beati Joannis Evangelistæ merita recolentes, quem Dominus Jesus Christus non solum peculiari semper decore ornavit; sed et in cruce positus, tamquam hæreditario munere prosecutus, vicarium pro se Matri Filium dementer attribuit. Quem ad eum usque dignitatis gradum divina benignitas evexit, ut et factus ex piscatore Discipulus, et humanædispensationis modum excedens, ipsam Verbi tui sine initio Deitatem præcæteris et mente conspiceret, et voce perferret.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, that we should give thanks to thee, O Eternal God! whilst celebrating the merits of blessed John the Evangelist, whom our Lord Jesus Christ not only adorned with every peculiar grace, but to whom also he, when fastened to the cross, lovingly granted, as though it were the gift of inheritance, to take his own place and be the Son of Mary. Even unto this grade of honour did thy divine goodness raise him, that being changed from a fisherman into a Disciple, and, in dispensing thy Truth, going beyond the measure of other men, he, above all others, both saw and preached the very Divinity of thy Eternal Word.

The Mozarabic Missal has the following prayer to our holy Apostle and Evangelist:


Genite ingeniti Filius Dei summi; qui sacrum illud arcanum pectoris tui dilecto tuo Joanni Apostolo reserasti; cum in sinu tuo recubans Evangelii sui fluenta ex ipso pectoris tui fonte haurire promeruit. Tu nos intuere propitius, ut per te abdita cognoscamus, per te bona quæ manifesta sunt impleamus. Reserans nobis pectoris tui occulta, quibus possimus cognoscere et conditionis nostræ infirmitatem, et ad tuæ divinitatis pervenire cognitionem. Manifestans de te quid amemus, indicans de nobis quid corrigamus. Quo hujus dilecti tui suffragiis, moribus nostris in melius commutatis, aufugiat pestis, dispereat languor, pellatur mucro. Quidquid adversum est fidei christianæ intereat; quidquid prosperum, convalescat. Arceantur fames, sedentur lites, hæresum obtrudantur fautores. Fœcundetur frugibus terra, vestiatur virtutibus anima; atque cuncta nobis in commune proveniant bona. Quo tibi Deo nostro fideliter servientes, et his sine peccato utamur concessis, et post deliciis fruamur æternæ possessionis. Amen.
O Son of God, Begotten of the Unbegotten infinite God! who didst open the sacred treasury of thy Breast to thine Apostle, when he, reclining on thy Bosom, merited to drink in from the very fountain of thy Heart the streams of his own Gospel: look upon us with an eye of pity, that so by thee we may know thy mysteries, and do the good thou hast manifested unto us. Reveal unto us the hidden things of thy Heart, whereby we may be taught both the weakness of our own nature, and the Divinity which is thine. Show us thyself, that we may love thee; show us in ourselves what we must correct. That thus, by the prayers of thy beloved Disciple, our evil ways being converted, pestilence may flee from us, sickness disappear, and the sword be sheathed. May all that is adverse to Christian faith perish; may all that prospers it be strengthened. May famines cease, may dissensions be appeased, may the upholders of heresy be confounded. May the earth be pregnant with fruits, our souls be clad with virtues, and all good things come unto us all. That thus, faithfully serving thee our God, we may both use these gifts without sin, and, hereafter enjoy the bliss of possessing thee for eternity. Amen.

The following Hymn, which we have taken from the Milan Liturgy, is attributed to St Ambrose; it certainly bears a resemblance to his style—sublime thoughts, majestically told.


Amore Christi nobilis
Et filius Tonitrui,
Arcana Joannes Dei
Fatu revelavit sacro.

Captis solebat piscibus
Patris senectam pascere;
Turbante dum natat salo
Immobilis fide stetit.

Hamum profundo merserat,
Piscatus est Verbum Dei;
Jactavit undis retia,
Vitam levavit hominum.

Piscis bonus pia est Fides,
Mundi supernatans salum,
Subnixa Christi pectore,
Sancto locuta Spiritu:

'In principio erat Verbum,
Et Verbum erat apud Deum,
Et Deus erat Verbum. Hoc erat
In principio apud Deum.

‘Omnia per ipsum facta sunt.’
Sed ipse laude resonet;
Et laureatus Spiritu,
Scriptis coronetur suis.

Commune multis passio,
Cruorque delictum lavans;
Hoc morte præstat Martyrum
Quod fecit esse Martyres.

Vinctus tamen ab impiis,
Calente olivo dicitur
Tersisse mundi pulverem,
Stetisse victor æmuli.

Gloria tibi, Domine,
Qui natus es de Virgine;
Cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu
In sempiterna sæcula.


John, the honoured loved one of Jesus,
named by him the Son of Thunder,
revealed in sacred words
the hidden things of God.

He was a fisherman,
and supported his aged parent by his toil:
whilst sailing on the troubled waves, he received the faith,
and firmly did he hold to it.

He throws his hook into the deep,
and takes the Word of God;
he lets down his nets into the waters,
he draws in him who is the Light of the world.

His fervent Faith is the good Fish
which swam through the briny flood of this world;
it rested on the Breast of Christ,
and thus spoke in the Holy Spirit:

‘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.'
Then let us sing the praises of this Disciple,
and since he bears the laurels of the Spirit,
let his writings be his crown.

Martyrdom has been granted to many,
and this shedding of their own blood purifies them from every sin;
but John did what was better than Martyrdom:
he taught to the world that which made the Martyrs.

Yet we are told that he was bound by wicked men,
and plunged into boiling oil;
it did but cleanse him from this world's dust,
and give him victory over the enemy.

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


We will now give a few stanzas from the Hymns which the Greek Church, in her accustomed pomp of language, sings in honour of St John. She keeps his Feast on September 26.
XXVI Septembris, in magno Vespertino, et passim

Venite, sapientiæ abyssum et orthodoxorum scriptorem dogmatum, Fideles, hymnis coronemus divinis hodie, Joannem, gloriosum et dilectum: is enim intonuit: Verbum crat in principio. Ideo voce tonitru similidemonstratus est, quasi Evangelio mundum illuminans, multisapiens et celeberrimus.

Vere aperteque tu manifestatus es amicus ex corde magnus Christi magistri; pectori enim illius incubuisti, unde hausisti sapientiæ dogmata, Quitos tamquam Bei præco divinum, ditas omnem terræ circuitum, quam Poseidons Jukunda Christi Ecclesia nunc gaudens exornat.

Garde, Vene theologe, Garde, Matrix Domini fili amabilissime: tu enim stans juxta crucem Christi, divinam audisti vocem Magistri: Ecce nunc mater tua, ad te clamantis. Ideo digne te omnes ut Christi Apostolum magnum et dilectum beatificamus.

Contemplator ineffabilium revelationum, et interpres supernorum Dei mysteriorum, Zebedæi hlius, scribens nobis Christi Evangelium divine loqui Patrem et Filium et Spiritum nos docuit.
Lyra a Deo mota cœlestium odarum, mysticus ille scriptor, os divina loquens, Canticum canticorum dulciter decantat, et precatur salvari nos.

Tonitru filium, divinorum sermonum fundamentum, theologiæ ducein et primum præconem veræ sapientiæ dogmatum, Joannem dilectum et virginem, o mortalium genus, multis laudemus acclamationibus.

Flumina theologæ ex venerando ore tuo salierunt, Apostole, quibus Ecclesia Dei potata adorat orthodoxe Trinitatem consubstantialem; et nunc deprecare, Johannes theologe, stabiliri et saivari animas nostras.

Virgultum puritatis, boni odoris unguentum apparuit nobis in hodierna festivitate; ad ipsum igitur clamemus: Tu qui supra pectus recubuisti Dominicum, tu qui mundo stillare fecisti Verbum, Joannes Apostole; qui Virginem custodivisti ut pupillam oculi, postula pro nobis apud Christum magnani misericordiam.

Apostolorum celsitudinem, theologiæ tubam, spiritalem ducem, qui orbem terrarum Deo subegit, venite, fideles, beatificemus Joannem illustrissimum, e terra sublatum et non ablatum, sed viventem et exspectantem terribilem Domini secundum adventum; cui ut inculpabiliter assistamus deprecare, amice mystice Christi pectori ejus innixe cum amore, tuam memoriam celebrantes.

Come, ye Faithful, let us this day crown with sacred hymns the glorious and Beloved John, an abyss of wisdom, and the writer of orthodox dogmas: for it was he that uttered, In the beginning was the Word. Therefore did he appear as with the voice of thunder, enlightening the world with his Gospel—he the exceeding wise and world-wide famed Disciple.

Thou wast truly and manifestly the great bosom-friend of Jesus thy Master; for thou didst recline upon his Breast, imbibing thence the dogmas of wisdom, wherewith, as God's sublime herald, thou enriches the earth’s circuit, and which the glad Church of Christ, now possessing it, exultingly honours.

Rejoice, thou true Theologian! rejoice, thou most lovable Son of our Lord’s Mother! for when standing nigh the Cross of Jesus, thou didst hear his divine voice saying unto thee: Behold now thy Mother. Therefore do we all bless thee, as the great and Beloved Apostle of Christ.

The contemplator of ineffable revelations, the interpreter of God’s most high mysteries, the son of Zebedee, wrote us the Gospel of Christ, and thereby taught us how to speak theologically of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
This heaven-hymned Harp attuned by God, this mystic writer, this mouth that speaks divine things, is now sweetly singing the Canticle of Canticles, and prays for our salvation.

Let us, O ye mortals! proclaim his many praises: John, the Son of Thunder, the source of divine language, the Prince of Theology, the first preacher of true wisdom's dogmas, the Beloved and Virgin Disciple.

The streams of Theology gushed from thy venerable lips, O Apostle! the Church of God has drunk them in, O teacher of truth! and adores the consubstantial Trinity. O holy Theologian John! now pray that our souls may be unwavering and saved.

The flower of purity, the fragrant perfume, breathes upon this day’s least; let us therefore pray to him: Blessed Apostle John! who didst recline upon Jesus’ Breast! who didst pour out The Word upon the earth! who didst guard the Virgin as the apple of thine eye! Oh! ask Jesus to show his great mercy unto us.

Come, ye faithful! let us bless the most renowned John, the exalted one among the Apostles, the trumpet of theology, the spiritual guide—he that brought the world into subjection to God—he that was raised above the earth, not taken away from it, and is living and awaiting the dread second coming of our Lord. O thou the mystic Friend of Christ, that didst lovingly lean upon his Breast, help us who celebrate thy memory, help us by thy prayers to present ourselves guiltless before our judge.

As usual, we will close these liturgical praises of our dear Saint by a Prose of the Western Churches in the Middle Ages, which we have taken from the collection of the Monastery of St Gall. It was composed by Blessed Notker, and was for centuries in the Roman-French Missals.


Joannes, Jesu Christo
Multum dilecte virgo.

Tu ejus amore Carnalem in navi
Parentem liquisti.

Tu leve conjugis
Pectus respuisti,

Messiam secutu
Ut ejus pectoris Sacra meruisses Fluenta potare.

Tuque in terris positus,
Gloriam conspexisti Filii Dei,

Quæ solum sanctis In vita creditur
Contuenda esse perenni.

Te Christus In cruce triumphans,
Matri suæ dedit custodem;

Ut Virgo
Virginem servares, Atque curam suppeditares.

Tute carcere Flagrisque fractus,
Testimonio pro Christo Es gavisus.

Idem mortuos suscitas, Inque Jesu nomine
Venenum forte vincis.

Tibi summus tacitum
Præ cæteris Verbum suum Pater revelat.

Tu nos omnes Sedulis precibus
Apud Deum Semper commenda, Joannes, Christi care.


O John! the dearly
Beloved Virgin Disciple of Jesus!

For love of him thou didst
leave thy father Zebedee and his boat.

Thou didst disdain
the caresses of thy young betrothed,

and didst follow the Messias,
That thou mightest merit to drink at the sacred fount of his heart.

Thou too, when on this earth,
didst behold the transfiguration of the Son of God,

Which vision, as we are taught,
is not granted save to the Saints in life eternal.

Jesus, when conquering on his cross,
entrusted his Mother to thy keeping;

That thou, a Virgin,
mightest protect and care for the Virgin in his stead.

Imprisoned and torn by scourges,
thou didst rejoice, for it was thy bearing testimony to Christ.

Thou raisest, too, the dead to life, and in the name of Jesus
breakest the poison's power.

To thee, above the rest,
the Almighty Father reveals his own embosomed Word.

Do thou ever commend us all to God by unwearied intercession.
O John, Disciple dear to Christ!


Beloved Disciple of the Babe of Bethlehem! how great is thy happiness! how wonderful is the reward given to thy love and thy purity! In thee was fulfilled that word of thy Master: Blessed are the clean of heart; for they shall see God. Not only didst thou see this GodMan: thou wast his Friend, and on his Bosom didst rest thy head. John the Baptist trembles at having to bend the head of Jesus under the water of Jordan; Magdalen, though assured by his own lips that her pardon was perfect as her love, yet dares not raise her head, but keeps clinging to his feet; Thomas scarce presumes to obey him when he bids him put his finger into his wounded Side; and thou, in the presence of all the Apostles, sittest close to him, leaning thy head upon his Breast! Nor is it only Jesus in his Humanity that thou seest and possessest; but, because thy heart is pure, thou soarest like an eagle up to the Sun of Justice, and fixest thine eye upon him in the light inaccessible wherein he dwelleth eternally with the Father and the Holy Ghost.

Thus was rewarded the fidelity wherewith thou didst keep intact for Jesus the precious treasure of thy Purity. And now, O worthy favourite of the great King! forget not us poor sinners. We believe and confess the Divinity of the Incarnate Word whom thou hast evangelized unto us; but we desire to draw nigh to him during this holy season, now that he shows himself so desirous of our company, so humble, so full of love, so dear a Child, and so poor! Alas! our sins keep us back; our heart is not pure like thine; we have need of a Patron to introduce us to our Master's crib.[10] Thou, O Beloved Disciple of Emmanuel! thou must procure us this happiness. Thou hast shown us the Divinity of the Word in the bosom of the Eternal Father; lead us now to this same Word made flesh. Under thy patronage Jesus will permit us to enter into the Stable, to stand near his Crib, to see with our eyes and touch with our hands[11] this sweet Fruit of eternal Life. May it be granted us to contemplate the sweet Face of him that is our Saviour and thy Friend; to feel the throbs of that Heart which loves both thee and us, which thou didst see wounded by the Spear, on Calvary. It is good for us to fix ourselves here near the Crib of our Jesus, and share in the graces he there lavishes, and learn, as thou didst, the grand lesson of this Child’s simplicity: thy prayers must procure all this for us.

Then too, as Son and Guardian of Mary, thou hast to present us to thine own and our Mother. Ask her to give us somewhat of the tender love wherewith she watches over the Crib of her Divine Son; to see in us the Brothers of that Child she bore; and to admit us to a share of the maternal affection she had for thee, the favoured confidant of the secrets of her Jesus.

We also pray to thee, O holy Apostle! for the Church of God. She was planted and watered by thy labours, embalmed with the celestial fragrance of thy virtues, and illumined by thy sublime teachings; pray now that these graces may bring forth their fruit, and that to the end of her pilgrimage faith may be firm, the love of Jesus fervent, and Christian morals pure and holy. Thou tellest us in thy Gospel of a saying of thy Divine Master: I will not now call you my Servants, hut my Friends:[12] pray, dear Saint, that there may come to this, from our hearts and lips, a response of love and courage, telling our Emmanuel that, like thyself, we will follow him whithersoever he leads us.

Let us, on this second day after our Divine Infant’s Birth, meditate upon the Sleep he deigns to take. Let us consider how this God of all goodness, who has come down from heaven to invite his creature man to come to him and seek rest for his soul, seeks rest himself in our earthly home, and sanctifies by his own divine sleep that rest which to us is a necessity. We have just been dwelling with delighted devotion on the thought of his offering his Breast as a resting-place for the Beloved Disciple, and for all souls that imitate John in his love and devotedness: now let us look at this our God, sweetly sleeping in his humble Crib, or on his Mother's lap.

St Alphonsus Liguori, in one of his delicious Canticles, thus describes the sleep of Jesus, and the enraptured love of the Mother:

Mary sings—the ravished heavens
Hush the music of their spheres;
Soft her voice, her beauty fairer
Than the glancing stars appears:
While to Jesus slumbering nigh,
Thus she sings her lullaby.
Sleep, my Babe! my God! my Treasure!
Gently sleep: but ah! the sight
With its beauty so transports me,
I am dying of delight:
Thou canst not thy Mother see,
Yet thou breathest flames to me.
If within your lids unfolded,
Slumbering eyes! you seem so fair;
When upon my gaze you open,
How shall I your beauty bear?
Ah! I tremble when you wake,
Lest my heart with love should break.
Cheeks than sweetest roses sweeter,
Mouth where lurks a smile divine—
Though the kiss my Babe should waken,
I must press those lips to mine.
Pardon, Dearest, if I say,
Mother's love will take no nay.
As she ceased, the gentle Virgin
Clasped the Infant to her breast,
And upon his radiant forehead
Many a loving kiss impressed:
Jesus woke, and on her face
Fixed a look of heavenly grace.
Ah! that look, those eyes, that beauty,
How they pierce the Mother's heart;
Shafts of love from every feature
Through her gentle bosom dart.
Heart of stone! can I behold
Mary's love, and still be cold?
Where, my soul! thy sense, thy reason?
When will these delays be o'er?
All things else, how fair soever,
Are but smoke—resist no more!
Yes! 'tis done! I yield my arms
Captive to those double charms.
If, alas, O heavenly beauty!
Now so late those charms I learn,
Now at least, and ever, ever,
With thy love my heart will burn
For the Mother and the Child,
Rose and Lily undefiled.
Plant and fruit, and fruit and blossom,
I am theirs, and they are mine:
For no other prize I labour,
For no other bliss I pine;
Love can every pain requite,
Love alone is full delight.[13]


Let us, then, adore the Divine Babe in this state of Sleep to which he voluntarily subjects himself, and contrast it with the cruel fatigues which are one day to be his. When he is grown up, and come to the age of manhood, he will go through every toil and suffering in search of us his Lost Sheep. But these first slumbers shall not be troubled by anything of ours which could pain this loving wakeful Heart; and the Blessed Mother shall not be disturbed in the blissful contemplation of her Sleeping Child, over whom she is at a future time to shed such bitter tears. The day is not far distant when he will say: The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.[14]

‘Christ has had three resting-places,’ says Peter of Celles. ‘The first was in the Bosom of his Eternal Father. He says, I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.[15] What repose could be compared to this, of the Father's complacency in the Son, and the Son's complacency in the Father? It is a mutual and ineffable love, and they are happy in the union. But whilst maintaining this place of his eternal rest, the Son of God has sought a second in the womb of the Virgin Mary. He overshadowed her with the Holy Ghost, and slept a long sleep in her chaste womb, whilst his Body was there being formed. The holy Virgin troubled not the sleep of her Child: she kept all the powers of her soul in a silence like that of heaven; and rapt in self-contemplation, she heard mysteries which it is not permitted to man to utter. The third restingplace of Christ is in man. Jesus dwells in a heart that is purified by faith, enlarged by charity, raised above earth by contemplation, and is renewed by the Holy Ghost. Such a heart as this offers to Jesus not an earthly but a heavenly dwelling; and the Child who is born unto us will not refuse to enter it, and take his rest within it.’[16]

To this Eternal Word made flesh for our salvation let us offer up this Hymn of our great ecclesiastical Poet, Prudentius:


Corde natus ex parentis
Ante mundi exordium;
A et O cognominatus:
Ipse fons et clausula
Omnium quæ sunt, fuerunt,
Quæque post futura sunt.

Ipse jussit, et creata,
Dixit ipse, et facta sunt;
Terra, cœlum, fossa ponti,
Trina rerum machina,
Quæque in his vigent sub alto
Solis et lunæ globo.

Corporis formam caduci,
Membra morti obnoxia
Induit, ne gens periret
Primoplasti ex germine,
Merserat quem lex profundo
Noxialis Tartaro.

O beatus ortus ille,
Virgo cum puerpera
Edidit nostram salutem,
Fœta Sancto Spiritu,
Et puer Redemptor orbis
Os sacratum protulit.

Psallat altitudo cœli,
Psallite, omnes Angeli,
Quidquid est virtutis usquam,
Psallat in laudem Dei:
Nulla linguarum silescat,
Vox et omnis consonet.

Ecce quem vates vetustis
Concinebant sæculis,
Quem Prophetarum fideles
Paginæ spoponderant,
Emicat promissus olim;
Cuncta collaudent eum.

Te senes et te juventus.
Parvulorum te chorus,
Turba matrum, virginumque,
Simplices puellulæ,
Voce concordes pudicis
Perstrepant concentibus.

Fluminum lapsus, et undæ
Littorum crepidines,
Imber, æstus, nix, pruinæ,
Silva et aura, nox, dies,
Omnibus te concelebrent
Sæculorum sæculis.

Born from the bosom of the Father
before the world began,
his name is Alpha and Omega.
He is the beginning and end
of all things
present, past, and future.

He commanded and they were created,
he spoke and they were made;
earth, heaven, and sea,
the triple kingdom,
and all things that are in them,
under the sun and moon.

He clothes himself with a frail Body,
and with members subject to death;
lest the human race, the offspring of Adam,
should perish together with their first Parent,
whom a terrible sentence had condemned
to the depth of hell.

O that happy Birth,
when a Virgin-Mother,
having conceived of the Holy Ghost,
brought forth the Child that was our salvation;
and the Babe, the Redeemer of the world,
showed unto us his divine Face!

Let high heaven sing,
and sing all ye Angels!
Let every living creature
sing to the praise of God!
Let every tongue proclaim it,
and every voice join in the hymn of praise.

Behold the Promised Messias,
of whom sang the Seers in the ancient times,
and whom the Prophets foretold
in their truthful oracles!
Praise be to him
from every creature.

May the aged and the young,
and children,
mothers and virgins
and innocent maidens, sing to thee,
O Jesus! and with concordant voice
chastely hymn thy praise!

May the flowing river
and the sea-shore wave,
rain and heat, snow and frost,
forest and zephyr, day and night,
for ever and for ever
give thee praise.


Let us now honour and invoke the ever Blessed and most Merciful Mother of our God, and use the words of this beautiful Hymn of the ancient Roman-French Missals:


Lætare, puerpera,
Læto puerperio,
Cujus casta viscera
Fœcundantur Filio.

Lacte fluunt ubera
Cum pudoris lilio;
Membra foves tenera,
Virgo, lacte proprio.

Patris Unigenitus,
Per quem fecit sæcula,
Hic degit humanitus,
Sub Matre paupercula.

Ibi sanctos reficit
Angelos lætitia:
Hic sitit et esurit
Degens ab infantia.

Ibi regit omnia,
Hic a Matre regitur:
Ibi dat imperia,
Hie ancillæ subditur.

Ibi summi culminis
Residet in solio;
Hie ligatus fasciis
Vagit in præsepio.

O homo! considera,
Revocans memoriae,
Quanta sint hæc opera
Divinae clementiæ.

Non desperes veniam,
Si multum deliqueris,
Ubi tot insignia
Charitatis videris.

Sub Matris refugio
Fuge, causa veniæ:
Nam tenet in gremio
Fontem indulgentiæ.

Hanc salutes sæpius
Cum spei fiducia,
Dicens, flexis genibus:
Ave plena gratia.

Quondam flentis lacrymas
Sedabas uberibus:
Nunc iratum mitigas
Pro nostris excessibus.

Jesu, lapsos respice,
Piæ Matris precibus;
Emendatos effice
Dignos cœli civibus.

Rejoice, O Virgin-Mother!
in thy joy-giving delivery,
for thy chaste womb was made
fruitful of the very Son of God.

O wondrous sight
—Jesus feeding from the Lily of Purity!
Yea, most pure Virgin,
thou feedest at thy breasts his infant life.

The Only-Begotten of the Father,
by whom he made this world,
is dwelling here
the Babe of a poor Mother.

There he is feeding
the holy Angels with joy:
here he is in hunger
and thirst from his cradle.

There he holds all things in subjection:
here he is in subjection to a Mother.
There he commands:
here he obeys his Handmaid.

There he is seated
on the throne of highest majesty:
here he is lying
swathed and weeping in a manger.

Think on this, O man!
and to thy memory recall
these stupendous works
of God's mercy.

And though thy sins be great,
yet canst thou not despair,
for the proofs thou seest here
of Jesus' love speak but of pardon.

Thou wouldst have pardon?
fly to the Mother for protection,
for she holds on her lap
the Infinite Fountain of Mercy.

Often bend thy knee before her,
and with hopeful love
salute her thus:
Hail!full of grace!

As thou of old didst feed
thy Jesus and stay his infant tears;
so now, dear Mother,
appease him angered by our sins.

Hear, O Jesus! thy sweet Mother's prayers,
and with an eye of pity look upon us sinners!
Correct and change us,
and make us worthy to be citizens of heaven.




[1] St John xv 13.
[2] St John xiii 23; xix 26; xxi 7; xxi 20.
[3] Col. ii 3.
[4] Ezech. i 10; x 14.
[5] Apoc. iv 7.
[6] St John xiii 1.
[7] St Matt, xx 22.
[8] Preface. For the Octave-Day.

Vere dignum et justum est, æquum et salutare, te Domine suppliciter exorare, ut gregem tuum, Pastor æterne, non deseras, sed per beatos Apostolos tuos continua proteotione custodias. Ut iisdem rectoribus guberuetur, quos operis tui vicarios eidem contulisti præesse Pastores. Et ideo cum Angelis et Archangelis, cum Thronis et Dominationibus, cumque omni militia coelestis exercitus, hymnum gloriæ tua canimus, sine fine dicentes: Sanctus, etc.
It is truly meet and just, right and available to salvation, humbly to beseech thee that thou, O Lord, our eternal Shepherd, wouldst not forsake thy flock, but keep it under thy continual protection, by thy blessed Apostles. That it may be governed by those whom thou hast appointed its vicars and pastors. And therefore with the Angels and Archangels, with the Thrones and Dominations, and with all the heavenly host, we sing an everlasting hymn to thy glory, saying: Holy, etc.

[9] According to the Monastic Rite, it is as follows: ℟.. Breve. Constitues eos principes, * Super oranem terram. Constitues. ℣. Meraores erunt Pnominis tui, Domine. * Super. Gloria atri. Constitues. Exsultet coelum laudibus, Resultet terra gaudiis; Apostolorum gloriam Sacra canunt solemnia. Vos sæcli justi judices Et vera mundi lumina, Votis precamur cordium, Audite preces supplicum. Qui cœlum verbo clauditis, Serasque ejus solvitis, Nos a peccatis omnibus Solvite jussu, quæsumus. Quorum præcepto subditur Salus et languor omnium, Sanate ægros moribus, Nos redden tes virtutibus. Ut cum judex advenerit Christus in fine sæculi, Nos sempiterni gaudii Faciat esse compotes. Gloria tibi, Domine, Qui natus es de Virgine, Cum Patre, et Sancto Spiritu, In. sempiterna sæcula. Amen.
[10] Isa. i 3.
[11] St John i 1.
[12] St John xv 15.
[13] Translation by the Very Rev. R. A. Coffin. We subjoin the original:
Fermarono i cieli
La loro armonia,
Cantando Maria
La nanna a Gesù.

Con voce divina
La Virgine bella,
Più vaga che stella,
Diceva cosi:

Mio figlio, mio Dio,
Mio caro tesoro,
Tu dormi, ed io moro
Per tanta beltà.

Dormendo, mio bene,
Tua Madre non miri,
Ma l' aura che spiri,
E foco per me.

Cogli occhi serrati
Voi pur mi ferite;
Or quando li aprite,
Per me che sara?

Le guance di rose
Mi rubano il core:
O Dio! che si more
Quest’ alma per te.

Mi sforza a baciarti
Un labbro si raro:
Perdonami, caro,
Non posso più, no.

Si tacque, ed al petto
Stringendo il Bambino,
Al volto divino
Un baci donò.

E tu non languisci,
O dur’ alma mia,
Vedendo Maria
Languir per Gesù.

Si desta il diletto;
E tutto amoroso,
Con occhio vezzoso
La Madre guardò.

Se tardi v' amai,
Bellezze divine,
Ormai senza fine
Per voi arderò.

Ah Dio! ch’ alla Madre
Quegli occhi, quel guardo
Fu strale, fu dardo,
Che l’alma feri.

Il Figlio e la Madre,
La Madre col Figlio,
La rosa col giglio
Quest’ alma vorrà.
[14] St Matt, viii 20.
[15] St John xiv 11.
[16] Fourth Sermon On our Lord’s Nativity.