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The Liturgical Year

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Under this heading of Proper of the Time, we here comprise the movable Office of the Sundays and Ferias of Advent. Though anxious to give to the faithful the flowers of the Advent liturgy, yet were we to bring forward even those which might be considered as the choicest, four volumes would have barely sufficed. The fear of making our work too expensive to the faithful, persuaded us to limit it within much narrower bounds, and out of the abundant treasures before us, to give what we thought could be least dispensed with.

The plan we have adopted is this: We give the whole of the Mass and Vespers for the four Sundays of Advent. On the ferial days, we give one, at least, of the lessons from Isaias, which are read in the Office of Matins; adding to this a hymn or sequence, or some other poetic liturgical composition. All these have been taken from the gravest sources, for example, from the Roman and Mozarabic breviaries, from the Greek anthology and menæa, from the missals of the middle ages, &c. After this hymn or sequence, we have given a prayer from the Ambrosian, Gallican, or Mozarabic missal. So that the faithful will find in our collection an unprecedented abundance of liturgical formulæ, each of which carries authority with it, as being taken from ancient and approved sources.

We have not thought it desirable to give a commentary to each of the liturgical formulæ inserted in our work. It seemed to us that they would be rendered sufficiently intelligible by the general explanation which runs through our work, in which explanation we have endeavoured to excite the devotion of the reader, give unity to the several parts, and afford solid instruction. We shall thus avoid all those repetitions and commonplace remarks, which do little more than fatigue the reader.

We have inserted the Great Antiphons and the Office of Christmas Eve in the proper of the saints, because both of these have fixed days in the calendar, and to put them in the proper of the time, as they stand in the breviary and missal, would have required us to introduce into a book, destined for the laity, rubrics somewhat complicated, which would, perhaps, not have been understood.

For more information on the season of Advent, visit here.

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)

For more information on the season of Christmas, visit here.

This third section of the liturgical year is much shorter than the two preceding ones; and yet it is one of real interest. The season of Septuagesima has only three weeks of the Proper of the Time, and the feasts of the saints are far less frequent than at other periods of the year. The volume we now offer to the faithful may be called one of transition, inasmuch as it includes the period between two important seasons—viz., Christmas and Lent. We have endeavoured to teach them how to spend these three weeks; and our instructions, we trust, will show them that, even in this the least interesting portion of the ecclesiastical year, there is much to be learned. They will find the Church persevering in carrying out the one sublime idea which pervades the whole of her liturgy; and, consequently, they must derive solid profit from imbibing the spirit peculiar to this season.

Were we, therefore, to keep aloof from the Church during Septuagesima, we should not have a complete idea of her year, of which these three weeks form an essential part. The three preliminary chapters of this volume will convince them of the truth of our observation; and we feel confident that, when they have once understood the ceremonies, and formulas, and instructions, offered them by the Church during this short season, they will value it as it deserves.

For more information on the season of Septuagesima, visit here.

We begin, with this volume, the holy season of Lent; but such is the richness of its liturgy, that we have found it impossible to take our readers beyond the Saturday of the fourth week. Passion-week and Holy Week, which complete the forty days of yearly penance, require to be treated at such length, that we could not have introduced them into this volume without making it inconveniently large.

The present volume is a very full one, although it only comprises the first four weeks of the season of Lent. We have called it Lent; and yet the two weeks of the next volume are also comprised in Lent; nay, they are its most important and sacred part. But, in giving the name of Lent to this first section, we have followed the liturgy itself, which applies this word to the first four weeks only; giving to the two that remain the names of Passion-week and Holy Week. Our next volume will, therefore, be called Passiontide and Holy Week.

For more information on Lent, visit here.

After having proposed the forty-days’ fast of Jesus in the desert to the meditation of the faithful during the first four weeks of Lent, the holy Church gives the two weeks which still remain before Easter to the commemoration of the Passion. She would not have her children come to that great day of the immolation of the Lamb, without having prepared for it by compassionating with Him in the sufferings He endured in their stead.

(From Chapter 1: The History of Passiontide and Holy Week)

For more information on Passiontide and Holy Week, visit here.

WITH this volume we begin the season of Easter, wherein are accomplished the mysteries prepared for, and looked forward to, since Advent. Such are the liturgical riches of this portion of the Christian year, that we have found it necessary to devote three volumes to it.

The present volume is wholly taken up with Easter Week. A week is indeed a short period; but such a week as this, with the importance of the events it brings before us, and the grandeur of the mysteries it celebrates, is, at least, equivalent to any other section of our Liturgical Year. We have abridged our explanations as much as possible; and yet we have exceeded two-thirds of one of our ordinary volumes. Hence, it was out of the question to add the remaining weeks; the more so, as the saints’ feasts recommence on the Monday following the Easter Octave, and their insertion would have obliged us to have made our volume considerably more bulky than even that of Passiontide. We have, therefore, been satisfied with giving the Mass and Office of the Annunciation, already given in our volume for Lent, but which are needed for the Monday after Low Sunday, when Easter falls between March 22 and April 2, which is frequently the case.

For more information on Paschal Tide, visit here.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Prope est jam Dominus: venite adoremus.

De Isaia Propheta.

Cap. li.

Audite me, qui sequimini quod justum est, et quæritis Dominum: attendite ad petram unde excisi estis, et ad cavernam laci, de qua præcisi estis. Attendite ad Abraham patrem vestrum, et ad Saram, quæ peperit vos: quia unum vocavi eum, et benedixi ei, et multiplicavi eum. Consolabitur ergo Dominus Sion, et consolabitur omnes ruinas ejus, et ponet desertum ejus quasi delicias, et solitudinem ejus quasi hortum Domini. Gaudium et lætitia invenietur in ea, gratiarum actio, et vox laudis. Attendite ad me, popule meus, et tribus mea, me audite: quia lex a me exiet, et judicium meum in lucem populorum requiescet. Prope est Justus meus, egressus est Salvator meus, et brachia mea populos judicabunt: me insulæ expectabunt, et brachium meum sustinebunt. Levate in cœlum oculos vestros, et videte sub terra deorsum: quia cœli sicut fumus liquescent, et terra sicut vestimentum atteretur, et habitatores ejus sicut hæc interibunt: salus autem mea in sempiternum erit, et justitia mea non deficiet.
The Lord is now nigh: come, let us adore.

From the Prophet Isaias.

Ch. li.

Give ear to me, you that follow that which is just, and you that seek the Lord: look unto the rook whence you are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you are dug out. Look unto Abraham your father and to Sara that bore you; for I called him alone, and blessed him, and multiplied him. The Lord therefore will comfort Sion, and will comfort all the ruins thereof, and he will make her desert as a place of pleasure, and her wilderness as the garden of the Lord. Joy ana gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of praise. Hearken unto me, O my people, and give ear to me, O my tribes: for a law shall go forth from me, and my judgement shall rest to be a light of the nations. My just One is near at hand, my Saviour is gone forth, and my arms shall judge the people: the islands shall look for me, and shall patiently wait for my arm. Lift up your eyes to heaven, and look down to the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish like smoke, and the earth shall be worn away like a garment, and the inhabitants thereof shall perish in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my justice shall not fail.

O Jesus, Thou Flower of the field, Thou Lily of the valley, Thy visit is to change our barren parched earth into a garden of delights! We had lost Eden and all its lovely magnificence, by our sins; and lo! Eden is restored to us; Thou art coming, that Thou mayst set it in our hearts. O heavenly plant, tree of life, transplanted from heaven to earth, Thou first takest root in Mary, that fruitful soil; and thence Thou wilt come to us, and we must be to Thee a grateful land, cherishing the divine seed and making it fructify. Let it be so, O divine Husbandman! who didst appear to Magdalene under the form of a gardener. Thou knowest how far are our hearts from being ready for Thy working in them. Move, and break, and water this land; the season is come; our hearts long to be fertile, and to have growing within them that exquisite Flower which makes the beauty of all heaven, and comes down to hide its splendour for a time here below. O Jesus! let our souls be fertile; let them be crowned with the flowers of virtue; let them become flowers growing around Thee, O divine Flower, and forming to the heavenly Father a garden, which He may unite with that which He formed from all eternity. O Flower of heaven, Jesus! Thou art also the Dew, refresh us; Thou art the Sun, warm us; Thou art the fragrant Perfume, impart to us Thy sweetness; Thou art the sovereign Beauty, give us of Thy fair and ruddy bloom, and make us cluster round Thee in eternity, as a crown Thou hast wreathed to Thyself.

Hymn of Preparation for Christmas
(Composed by St. Ambrose. It is in the Ambrosian breviary for first Vespers of Christmas, and in the ancient RomanFrench breviaries)

Veni, Redemptor gentium,
Ostende partum Virginis;
Miretur omne sæculum,
Talis decet partus Deum.

Non ex virili semine,
Sed mystico spiramine,
Verbum Dei factum est caro
Fructusque ventris floruit.

Alvus tumescit Virginis,
Claustra pudoris permanent,
Vexilla virtutum micant,
Versatur in templo Deus.

Procedit e thalamo suo,
Pudoris aula regia,
Geminæ gigas substantiae,
Alacris ut currat viam.

Egressus ejus a Patre,
Regressus ejus ad Patrem;
Excursus usque ad inferos,
Recursus ad sedem Dei.

Æqualis æterno Patri,
Carnis trophæo cingere;
Infirma nostri corporis
Virtute firmans porpeti.

Præsepe jam fulget tuum,
Lumenque nox spirat novum,
Quod nulla nox interpolet,
Fideque jugi luceat.

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

Come, O Redeemer of mankind!
reveal to us the Virgin’s delivery:
let all ages be in admiration:
for what other birth would have been worthy of God?

Not of man,
but of the Holy Ghost,
was the Word of God made flesh,
and the fruit of the womb ripened.

The Virgin has become Mother,
and yet the Mother is still a Virgin.
It is the banner of omnipotence which here shines;
God has come into his temple.

He comes forth from the royal palace of virginity,
as from his bride-chamber,
that he may exultingly run the way,
as a giant, who is both God and Man.

He comes forth from the Father;
he returns to the Father;
he descends into hell;
he ascends to the throne of God.

Coequal Son of the eternal Father,
gird thee with the trophy of the flesh;
strengthening the weaknesses of our flesh
by thy unfailing power.

Thy crib is already resplendent,
and the night breathes forth a new light,
the light of faith;
let no night interrupt it, let its brightness be incessant.

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


Prayer from the Mozarabic Missal
(Second Sunday of Advent)

Domino Deus omnipotens, qui pro humani generis redemptione coætemum tibi coæqualemque Filium angeli annuntiatione per Mariæ Virginis uterum usque ad nos voluisti transmittere; da nobis hoc tempore adventus tui Unigeniti eamdem pacis gratiam, quam in præterita largiri dignatus es sæcula, et illi nos in occursum fidei socios numerandos, quos in fidei primordia a Joanne pœnitentiæ undis aquarum ablutos, a te postremo per Filium in Spiritu sancto et igni cognoscimus baptizatos.
Lord God omnipotent! who, for the redemption of the human race, didst deign to send even unto us, by the message of an angel and by the Virgin Mary’s womb, thy coeternal and coequal Son; grant us, in this time of the advent of thy only Son, that same grace of peace which thou hast mercifully bestowed upon the past ages, and number us among those who, at the first beginning of the faith, were acceptable to him by embracing the faith; and who, being washed in the water of penance by John, were afterwards baptized by thee, through thy Son, in the Holy Ghost and fire.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Prope est jam Dominus: venite adoremus.

De Isaia Propheta.

Cap. lxiv.

Utinam dirumperes cœlos, et descenderes; a facie tua montes defluerent; sicut exustio ignis tabescerent: aquæ arderent igni, ut notum fleret nomen tuum inimicis tuis; a facie tua Gentes turbarentur. Quum feceris mirabilia, non sustinebimus: descendisti, et a facie tua montes defluxerunt. A sæculo non audierunt, neque auribus perceperunt: oculus non vidit, Deus, absque te, quae præparasti exspectantibus te. Occurristi lactanti, et facienti justitiam: in viis tuis recordabuntur tui: ecce tu iratus es, et peccavimus; in ipsis fuimus semper, et salvabimur. Et facti sumus ut immundus omnes nos, et quasi pannus menstruatae universae justitiae nostræ: et cecidimus quasi folium universi, et iniquitates nostrae quasi ventus abstulerunt nos. Non est qui invocet nomen tuum; qui consurgat, et teneat te: abscondisti faciem tuam a nobis, et allisisti nos in manu iniquitatis nostrae. Et nunc, Domine, Pater noster es tu, nos vero lutum: et fictor noster tu, et opera manuum tuarum omnes nos. Ne irascaris, Domine, satis, et ne ultra memineris iniquitatis nostræ: ecce, respice, populus tuus omnes nos. Civitas sancti tui facta est deserta, Sion deserta facta est, Jerusalem desolata est. Domus sanctificationis nostræ, et gloriæ nostræ, ubi laudaverunt te patres nostri, facta est in exustionem ignis: et omnia desiderabilia nostra versa sunt in ruinas.
The Lord is now nigh: come, let us adore.

From the Prophet Isaias.

Ch. lxiv.

O that thou wouldst rend the heavens, and wouldst come down; the mountains would melt away at thy presence; they would melt as at the burning of fire; the waters would bum with fire; that thy name might be made known to thy enemies: that the nations might tremble at thy presence. When thou shalt do wonderful things, we shall not bear them: thou didst come down, and at thy presence the mountains melted away. From the beginning of the world they have not heard, nor perceived with the ears: the eye hath not seen, O God, besides thee, what things thou hast prepared for them that wait for thee. Thou hast met him that rejoiceth, and doth justice: in thy ways they shall remember thee: behold thou art angry, and we have sinned; in them we have been always, and we shall be saved. And we are all become as one unclean, and all our justices as the rag of a menstruous woman: and we have all fallen as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. There is none that calleth upon thy name, that riseth up and taketh hold of thee: thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast crushed us in the hand of our iniquity. And now, O Lord, thou art our Father, and we are clay: and thou art our maker, and we all are the works of thy hands. Be not very angry, O Lord, and remember no longer our iniquity: behold, see, we are all thy people. The city of thy sanctuary is become a desert, Sion is made a desert, Jerusalem is desolate. The house of our holiness, and of our glory, where our fathers praised thee, is burnt with fire, and all our lovely things are turned into ruins.

O Jesus, Thou Flower of the field, Thou Lily of the valley, Thy visit is to change our barren parched earth into a garden of delights! We had lost Eden and all its lovely magnificence, by our sins; and lo! Eden is restored to us; Thou art coming, that Thou mayst set it in our hearts. O heavenly plant, tree of life, transplanted from heaven to earth, Thou first takest root in Mary, that fruitful soil; and thence Thou wilt come to us, and we must be to Thee a grateful land, cherishing the divine seed and making it fructify. Let it be so, O divine Husbandman! who didst appear to Magdalene under the form of a gardener. Thou knowest how far are our hearts from being ready for Thy working in them. Move, and break, and water this land; the season is come; our hearts long to be fertile, and to have growing within them that exquisite Flower which makes the beauty of all heaven, and comes down to hide its splendour for a time here below. O Jesus! let our souls be fertile; let them be crowned with the flowers of virtue; let them become flowers growing around Thee, O divine Flower, and forming to the heavenly Father a garden, which He may unite with that which He formed from all eternity. O Flower of heaven, Jesus! Thou art also the Dew, refresh us; Thou art the Sun, warm us; Thou art the fragrant Perfume, impart to us Thy sweetness; Thou art the sovereign Beauty, give us of Thy fair and ruddy bloom, and make us cluster round Thee in eternity, as a crown Thou hast wreathed to Thyself.

O God of our fathers! delay not, but show Thyself unto us. The city which Thou lovest is desolate; come and raise up Jerusalem; avenge the glory of her temple. This was the cry of the prophet; Thou hast heard it, and hast come to deliver Sion from her captivity, giving her a new era of glory and holiness. Thou hast come, not to destroy but to fulfil the law; and, by Thy visit, Sion has been changed into the Church, Thy bride. But why, O Thou her beloved Saviour! why hast Thou turned away Thy face? Why is this Church of Thy love left in the wilderness, weeping like Jeremias over the ruins of the sanctuary, and as Rachel over her children that had been taken from her? Why has her inheritance been delivered to the stranger? By Thy power, she had become the mother of countless children; she had nourished them; she had taught them, in Thy name, the things that pertain to the present and the future life; and these ungrateful children have turned against her. She has been driven from nation to nation, bearing away with her the heavenly treasure of faith; her mysteries have ceased to be celebrated where once they were the glory and happiness of the people; and from Thy throne above, O divine Word, Creator of the universe, Thou seest everywhere, throughout the earth, altars overturned and temples profaned. Oh! come, then, and rekindle the smouldering fire of faith.

Remember Thy apostles and Thy martyrs; remember Thy saints who have founded Churches, and honoured them by their virtues and miracles; remember Thy bride the Church, and support her during her earthly pilgrimage, until the number of Thy elect is filled up. She longs to possess Thee in the eternal light of the vision; but Thou hast given her a heart with such mother’s love, that she will not leave her children as long as there is one to save, nor cease to save until that day come when there shall no more be a militant Church, but the one sole triumphant Church, inebriated with the enjoyment of the sight and embraces of her God. But that last day has not yet come, O Jesus! there is yet time for Thee to descend from heaven and visit Thy vineyard. Restore to the branches of the tree the leaves which have fallen in the storm of iniquity. Let this tree of Thy predilection bud forth new branches; and the old ones, which have separated from it, and have seemed to force Thy justice to cast them in the fire, let them be once more grafted on the parent trunk, so torn by their rupture from her. Come, O Jesus, for the sake of Thy Church; she is dearer to Thee than was the Jerusalem of old.

Hymn Taken from the Anthology of the Greeks
(December 21)

Acervus areæ uterus tuus, Dei Mater, dignoscitur; spicam inexcultam, omnem sensum superantem, Verbum ferens ineffabiliter, quod in spelunca Bethlehem paries, eum qui omnem creaturam divina agnitione aliturus est in charitate, et a fame lethifera humanum genus liberaturus.
Innupta Virgo, unde venis? Quis te genuit? Quæ mater tua? Quomodo Creatorem fers in brachiis? Quomodo non corrupta fuisti utero? Magnas in te gratias, in terra stupenda adimpleta cernimus mysteria, o omnipancta. Prout decet speluncam adornamus, et a cœlo petimus sidus; Magi progrediuntur ab oriente orbis ad usque occidentem, salutem visuri mortalium, tuis in brachiis sicut facem prælucentem.
Lucidum Magistri palatium, quomodo venis in exiguissimam speluncam, Regem paritura Dominum, omnisancta, Virgo Dei sponsa.
Eva quidem per inobedientiæ nocumentum exsecrationem subintroduxit; tu autem, Virgo Dei Mater, per tuæ gestationis germinationem mundo florere fecistibenedictionem; unde omnes te magnificamus.Ne contristeris, Joseph, meum intuens uterum; videbis enim qui ex me nasciturus est atque gaudebis, eumque sicut Deum adorabis, aiebat Dei Mater suo sponso, dum Christum paritura veniret. Illam commemoremus dicentes: Gaude, gratia plena, Dominus tecum, et per te nobiscum.
Thy womb, O Mother of God, is the heap of wheat of the Canticle; carrying, in an ineffable manner, the ear of com, which, like no other, grew without being sown; thy Child is the Word, and thou wilt give him birth in Bethlehem’s cave: he it is will lovingly feed every creature with the knowledge of God, and free the human race from deadly hunger.
Whence comest thou, O pure Virgin? Thy father and mother, who are they? How dost thou carry thy Creator in thy arms? Mother, and yet a Virgin! These are great graces, and stupendous mysteries, which have been done in thee, all-holy creature! We adorn the cave as it behoves us, and we look for the star in the heavens: the Magi are coming from the east to our western world, to see the Saviour of men shining in thy arms as a bright torch.
O Mary! fair palace of our Master, how is it thou comest into so poor a cave, there to give birth to the King our Lord, O all-holy Virgin, bride of God?
Eve, indeed, by the crime of disobedience brought a curse into the world: but thou, Virgin-Mother of God, by the flower thou bearest, hast made blessing bloom inthe world; therefore do we all magnify thee.The Mother of God, when the birth of Christ was near, spoke thus to her spouse: Be not sad, Joseph, finding that I am Mother; for thou shalt see him who is to be born of me, and thou shalt rejoice and adore him as thy God. Let us commemorate this divine Mother, saying: Be glad, O full of grace! the Lord is with thee, and with us by thee.

Prayer from the Ambrosian Missal
(In the Mass of the first Sunday of Advent)

Deus, qui Unigenito tuo novam creaturam nos tibi esse fecisti, respice propitius in opera misericordiae tuae, et in ejus adventu ab omnibus nos maculis vetustatis emunda. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
O God, who, by thine onlybegotten Son, hast made us to be a new creature unto thyself, mercifully look on the works which thy mercy has produced, and cleanse us, in the coming of thy Son, from all the stains of our old habits. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

Prope est jam Dominus: venite adoremus.

De Isaia Propheta.

Cap. lxvi.

Audite verbum Domini, qui tremitis ad verbum ejus. Dixerunt fratres vestri odientes vos, et abjicientes propter nomen meum: Glorificetur Dominus, et videbimus in lætitia vestra: ipsi autem confundentur. Vox populi de civitate, vox de templo, vox Domini reddentis retributionem inimicis suis. Antequam parturiret, peperit; antequam veniret partus ejus, peperit masculum. Quis audivit unquam tale? Et quis vidit huic simile? Numquid parturiet terra in die una? aut parietur gens simul, quia parturivit et peperit Sion filios suos? Numquid ego qui alios parere facio, ipse non pariam, dicit Dominus? Si ego, qui generationem cæteris tribuo, sterilis ero, ait Dominus Deus tuus? Lætamini cum Jerusalem, et exsultate in ea omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum ea gaudio universi, qui lugetis super eam: ut sugatis et repleamini ab ubere consolationis ejus: ut mulgeatis, et deliciis affluatis ab omnimoda gloria ejus. Quia haec dicit Dominus: Ecce ego declinabo super eam quasi fluvium pacis, et quasi torrentem inundantem gloriam Gentium, quam sugetis: ad ubera portabimini, et super genua blandientur vobis. Quomodo si cui mater blandiatur, ita ego consolabor vos, et in Jerusalem consolabimini. Videbitis, et gaudebit cor vestrum, et ossa vestra quasi herba germinabunt: et cognoscetur manus Domini servis ejus, et indignabitur inimicis suis. Quia ecce Dominus in igne veniet, et quasi turbo quadrigæ ejus: reddere in indignatione furorem suum, et increpationem suam in flamma ignis: quia in igne Dominus dijudicabit: et in gladio suo ad omnem carnem; et multiplicabuntur interfecti a Domino.
The Lord is now nigh: come, let us adore.

From the Prophet Isaias.

Ch. lxvi.

Hear the word of the Lord, you that tremble at his word. Your brethren that hate you, and cast you out for my name’s sake, have said: Let the Lord be glorified, and we shall see in your joy: but they shall be confounded. A voice of the people from the city, a voice from the temple, the voice of the Lord that rendereth recompense to his enemies. Before she was in labour, she brought forth; before her time came to be delivered, she brought forth a man-child. Who hath ever heard such a thing? And who hath seen the like of this? Shall the earth bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be brought forth at once, because Sion hath been in labour, and hath brought forth her children? Shall not I that make others to bring forth children, myself bring forth, saith the Lord? Shall I, that give generation to others, be barren, saith the Lord thy God? Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all you that mourn for her: that you may suck and be filled with the breasts of her consolations: that you may milk out and flow with delights, from the abundance of her glory. For thus saith the Lord: Behold I will bring upon her as it were a river of peace, and as an overflowing torrent the glory of the Gentiles, which you shall suck: you shall be carried at the breasts and upon the knees they shall caress you. As one whom the mother caresseth, so will I comfort you, and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You. shall sec and your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb, and the hand of the Lord shall be known to his servants, and he shall be angry with his enemies. For behold the Lord will come with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind: to render his wrath in indignation, and his rebuke with flames of fire: for the Lord shall judge by fire: and by his sword unto all flesh; and the slain of the Lord shall be many.

Thy. presence, O Jesus, will give fruitfulness to her that was barren, and the despised Sion shall suddenly bring forth a people which the world is too small to hold. But all the glory of this fruitfulness belongs to Thee, O divine Word! The psalmist had foretold it when, speaking to Jerusalem as to a queen, he said to her: ‘Instead of thy fathers, sons are born to thee; thou shalt make them princes over all the earth: they shall remember thy name throughout all generations; therefore shall people praise thee for ever and ever, yea for ever and ever.’[1] But for this end it was necessary that God Himself should come down in person. He alone could make a Virgin-Mother; He alone could raise up children to Abraham out of the very stones. 'Yet. one little while,’ as He says by one of His prophets, 'and I will move heaven and earth, and I will move all nations.’[2] And by another ‘From the rising of the sun even to the going down, My name is great among the Gentiles; and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to My name a clean oblation.’[3] There will soon be, then, but one sacrifice; for the Lamb, who is to be offered therein, will be born a few hours hence; and since sacrifice is the bond of union among men, when there shall be but one sacrifice there will be but one people.

Come then quickly, O Church of God, that art to unite us all into one; come and be born into our world. And since for us thy children thou art already born, may the Lamb, thy Spouse, pour out upon thee the river of peace announced by the prophet: may He open out upon thee the glory of the Gentiles, as an overflowing torrent; may the nations cluster round thee as their common mother, and be filled with the abundance of thy glory, with the breasts of thy consolations; and thou carry them on thy heart and caress them in thy tender love. O Jesus! it is Thou that hast inspired our mother with this wonderful love; it is Thou that consolest us, and enlightenest us, by her. Come to her and visit her; come, and, by the new birth Thou art about to take among us, renew her life within her. Give her, during this year also, firmness of faith, the grace of the Sacraments, the efficacy of prayer, the gift of miracles, the succession of her hierarchy, power of government, fortitude against the princes of the world, love of the cross, victory over satan, and the crown of martyrdom. During this new year make her, as ever, Thy beautiful bride; make her faithful to Thy love, and more than ever successful in the great work Thou hast entrusted to her; for each year brings us nearer to the day when Thou wilt come for the last time, not in the swathing bands of infancy, but on a cloud with great majesty, to render Thy rebuke with flames of fire, and destroy those that have despised or have not loved Thy Church, which Thou wilt then raise up and admit into Thy eternal kingdom.

Hymn of the Birth of Christ
(Taken from the poet Prudentius. VIII, kal. januArias)

Emerge, dulcis Pusio,
Quem Mater edit castitas,
Parens et expers conjugis,
Mediator, et duplex genus.

Ex ore quamlibet Patris
Sis ortus, et verbo editus,
Tamen paterno in pectore
Sophia callebas prius.

Quæ prompta cœlum condidit,
cœlum, diemque et cætera,
Virtute Verbi effecta sunt
Hæc cuncta: nam Verbum Deus.

Sed ordinatis sæculis,
Rerumque digesto statu,
Fundator ipse et artifex
Permansit in Patris sinu.

Donec rotata annalium
Trans volverentur millia,
Atque ipse peccantem diu
Dignatus orbem viseret.

Nam cæca vis mortalium
Venerans inanes naenias,
Vel æra, vel saxa algida,
Vel ligna credebat Deum.

Hæc dum sequuntur, perfidi
Prædonis in jus venerant,
Et mancipatam fumido
Vitam barathro immerserant.

Stragem sed istam non tulit
Christus cadentum gentium
Impune; ne forsan sui
Patris periret fabrica.

Mortale corpus induit,
Ut, excitato corpore,
Mortis catenam frangeret,
Hominemque portaret Patri.

Sentisne, Virgo nobilis,
Matura per fastidia,
Pudoris intactum decus
Honore partus crescere?

O quanta rerum gaudia
Alvus pudica continet;
Ex qua novellum sæculum
Procedit et lux aurea.
Come forth, sweet Babe!
Child of chastity, Child of a Virgin Mother!
Come, O thou, our Mediator,
Man and God.

Though thou didst come, in time,
from the mouth of the most high Father, and becamest incarnate at the angel’s word;
yet hadst thou, O eternal Wisdom, dwelt for ever in the bosom of thy Father.

This eternal Wisdom manifested itself
when it made heaven, light, and the other creatures;
by the power of the Word were all these made,
for the Word is God.

But having thus created the world,
and fixed the laws of the universe,
this creator and maker
still left not his Father’s bosom.

Until at length thousands of years
rolled on,
and then he deigned to visit
the world grown old in sin.

For man, blinded with passion,
paid adoration to empty vanities,
and believed that brass,
or stiff blocks of stone and wood, were God.

Abandoned to idolatry,
they became the slaves of the treacherous enemy,
and plunged their enslaved souls
into the dark abyss.

But the Son of God compassionated
this destruction of his fallen creatures;
for it was the ruin
of his Father’s image.

He took to himself a mortal body,
that by the resurrection of that body
he might break the chain of death,
and raise up man to his Father.

Thou forebodest his sufferings,
O noble Virgin! and yet to give birth to this thy Son
is an honour which adds
fresh lustre to thy spotless purity.

Oh that Virgin Mother,
what joy for the world does she contain within her
A new age, a golden light,
will come by her.

Prayer from the Gallican Sacramentary
(In Adventu Domini, Contestatio)

Vere dignum et justum est, nos tibi hic et ubique semper gratias agere, omnipotens Deus, per Christum Dominum nostrum, quem Joannes fidelis amicus, præcessit nascendo, praecessit in desertis eremi praedicando, praecessit baptizando, viam quoque praeparans Judici ac Redemptori. Convocavit peccatores ad pœnitentiam; et populum Salvatori acquirens, baptizavit in Jordano peccata propria confitentes;non hominis innovandi plenam conferens gratiam, sed piissimi Salvatoris admonens exspectare præsentiam: non remittens ipse peccata ad se venientibus, sed remissionem peccatorum ad futurum pollicens esse credentibus: ut descendentes in aquam poenitentiae ab illo sperarent remedium indulgentiae, quem venturum audiebant plenum dono veritatis et gratiae, Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum.
It is truly meet and just that we should here and in all places ever give thee thanks, O almighty God, through Christ our Lord, of whom John, the faithful friend, was the precursor in birth, the precursor in preaching in the wilderness, the precursor in baptism, preparing thus the way to the Judge and Redeemer. Ho called sinners to repentance; and purchasing a people for the Saviour, ho baptized in the Jordan them that confessed their sins. He conferred not the full grace which regenerates man, but taught him to look for the coming of the most merciful Saviour. He remitted not the sins of them that came unto him, but he promised the future remission of sins to believers; that thus they who went down into the waters of penance, might hope for a merciful cure and forgiveness from him, who, they were told, was to come full of the gift of truth and grace, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Vigil of Christmas is given below in the proper of saints, December 24, p. 506.

[1] Ps. xliv.
[2] Agg. ii. 7, 8.
[3] Malach. i. 11.

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.