Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Mass

If, peradventure, someone reading this is unable to attend Mass today (I myself am at the hotel today for 11 or 12 hours, so I know the feeling), it might be of some spiritual benefit to meditate upon a few of the propers for today's Mass, that of the Vigil of the Nativity. At this blog you shall be treated to the sacred scriptures not in some modern translation, but in the classic liturgical texts of the King James Version, Coverdale, and for those who know, are learning, or desire to learn Latin, you will find that as well. By the way, if you are new to Latin, just try reading it, and listening to it. It's an experience in sheer beauty (same for the classic English texts). And if you know a student, he will benefit from practicing reading and praying these propers.

The Mass begins with an Introit which, like so many of the antiphons of the last part of Advent, continue the sense of anticipation of the approaching sacred and solemn Octave. The antiphon, from Exodus 16, connects the celebration of the coming of our Savior in the flesh with the flesh and bread with which God fed His covenant people. The Church innately knows the eucharistic nature of a text like Exodus even if most of the scholars are blind to it, just as the Church knows the eucharistic nature of the birth of the One Who is born in the house of bread.

Hodie scietis, quia veniet Dominus, et salvabit nos: et mane videbitis gloriam eius. Domini est terra, et plenitudo eius: orbis terrarum, et universi, qui habitant in eo. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen. Hodie scietis, quia veniet Dominus, et salvabit nos: et mane videbitis gloriam eius.

At even, then ye shall know that the LORD hath brought you out from the land of Egypt: and in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the LORD. The earth is the Lord's, and all that therein is, the compass of the world, and they that dwell therein. 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. At even, then ye shall know that the LORD hath brought you out from the land of Egypt: and in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the LORD.

The first lesson is from the Epistle of blessed Paul the Apostle to the Romans.

Paulus, servus Iesu Christi, vocatus Apostolus, segregatus in Evangelium Dei, quod ante promiserat per prophetas suos in Scripturis sanctis de Filio suo, qui factus est ei ex semine David secundum carnem: qui praedestinatus est Filius Dei in virtute secundum spiritum sanctificationis ex resurrectione mortuorum Iesu Christi Domini nostri: per quem accepimus gratiam et apostolatum ad obediendum fidei in omnibus gentibus pro nomine eius, in quibus estis et vos vocati Iesu Christi Domini nostri.

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: by whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ.


The Gradual plays off the same initial theme as that of the Introit, then riffs on Psalm 79.

Hodie scietis, quia veniet Dominus, et salvabit nos: et mane videbitis gloriam eius. Qui regis Israel, intende: qui deducis, velut ovem, Joseph: qui sedes super cherubim, appare coram Ephraim, Benjamin, et Manasse.

At even, then ye shall know that the LORD hath brought you out from the land of Egypt: and in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the LORD. Hear, O Thou Shepherd of Israel, Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; show Thyself also, Thou that sittest upon the cherubim. Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, stir up Thy strength, and come and help us.

The Holy Gospel continues according to Saint Matthew.

Cum esset desponsata mater Iesu Maria Ioseph, antequam convenirent, inventa est in utero habens de Spiritu Sancto. Joseph autem vir eius, cum esset iustus, et nollet eam traducere, voluit occulte dimittere eam. Haec autem eo cogitante, ecce Angelus Domini apparuit in somnis ei, dicens: Joseph, fili David, noli timere accipere Mariam coniugem tuam: quod enim in ea natum est, de Spiritu Sancto est. Pariet autem filium: et vocabis nomen eius Iesum: ipse enim salvum faciet populum suum a peccatis eorum.

When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

The scripture above stands on its own. I will just end with the thought that the Word of God is endlessly rich. One could preach thousands of years worth of sermons on this Gospel. Of course the Church has produced just that. But think, for example, of that little evangelical Word of comfort that the angel gives to Joseph, Fear not. Noli timere. This is also the Gospel that the great Angel of the Lord, ie, the eternal Word of the Father, gives to us today as well. In the midst of all the spiritual turmoil of our age, in the midst of the war that rages in the battleground of our minds, and hearts, between the wicked foe on the one hand, who would keep us content in the comfortable darkness, and Christ on the other hand, Who fights for us, and would bring us to the true light of His grace, Our Lord comes to us with the Christmas message of true comfort and joy. For our Redemption draws near.

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