TODAY, in the spirit of the season, we use this space and more to give a service to Catholics and other Christians who, for one reason or another have stopped being regular Holy Mass (or Protestant service) goers but who do remain Catholic and Christian in their hearts and sentiments.
Many of them remember with bittersweet nostalgia the Christmas Masses they attended long ago. For them, but also for our other readers, we print today the Holy Gospels in the Christmas Masses that are celebrated actually on December 24, including the first December 25 Mass which is the December 24 Midnight Mass, which in reality happens in many parishes, for practical reasons, not at midnight but as early as 8 or 9 pm of December 24.
Mass this morning of December 24 focuses on Our Lord Jesus Christ’s cousin, John (later to be known as John the Baptist), who is revered as “the precursor.”
The Alleluia of this morning Mass today is, as are the other readings, full of yearning and anticipation for the arrival of Our Lord. It goes: Alleluia, alleluia. / O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death. / Alleluia, alleluia.
The Holy Gospel is Luke 1:67-79: “Zechariah his [John’s] father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying:
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; / for he has come to his people and set them free. /
He has raised up for us a mighty Savior,
/ Born of the house of his servant David. / Through his prophets he promised of old / that he would save us from our enemies, / from the hands of all who hate us. / He promised to show mercy to our fathers / and to remember his holy covenant. / This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: / to set us free from the hand of our enemies, / free to worship him without fear, / holy and righteous in his sight / all the days of our life.
“You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, / for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, / to give his people knowledge of salvation / by the forgiveness of their sins. / In the tender compassion of our God / the dawn from on high shall break upon us, / to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, / and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
The Vigil Mass
The Vigil Mass of the Nativity or Birth of the Lord is celebrated in the afternoon today, before or after the first evening prayer of the day.
The Gospel for this Vigil Mass of The Nativity is Matthew 1:1-25.
This is the Gospel that lays out “the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. / Abraham became the father of Isaac, / Isaac the father of Jacob, [and so on….until]…Eleazar became the father of Matthan, / Matthan the father of Jacob, / Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. /
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. / Thus the total number of generations
from Abraham to David / is fourteen generations; / from David to the Babylonian exile, /
fourteen generations; / from the Babylonian exile to the Christ,
fourteen generations. /
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. /
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
/ but before they lived together, / she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. / Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, / yet unwilling to expose her to shame, / decided to divorce her quietly. /
Such was his intention when, behold, / the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, / ‘Joseph, son of David, / do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. /
For it is through the Holy Spirit / that this child has been conceived in her. / She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, / because he will save his people from their sins.”
“All this took place to fulfill / what the Lord had said through the prophet: / ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, / which means ‘God is with us.’ / When Joseph awoke,/ he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him / and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.”
The Midnight Mass
The Midnight Mass tonight, to most people, is the principal Mass of the Nativity. The Gospel is Luke 2:1-14.
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus / that the whole world should be enrolled. / This was the first enrollment, /
when Quirinius was governor of Syria. / So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. /
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth / to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, / because he was of the house and family of David, /
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. / While they were there, / the time came for her to have her child, /
and she gave birth to her firstborn son. / She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, / because there was no room for them in the inn. /
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields /
and keeping the night watch over their flock. / The angel of the Lord appeared to them / and the glory of the Lord shone around them, / and they were struck with great fear. /
The angel said to them, / “Do not be afraid; / for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy / that will be for all the people. /
For today in the city of David / a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord./
And this will be a sign for you: / you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes / and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, / praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Tomorrow, December 25, Christmas itself, there will be other Christmas Masses all day.
A BLESSED AND MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL.