What an unspeakably beautiful feast Christmas! Our Advent preparations are over, and whatever sacrifices were made in preparation for this grace-filled feast now seem as nothing and certainly well worth the effort! It seems a hallmark of God’s graces that while there is always a price to pay to obtain and hold on to them, this price – however costly – pales in comparison with the prize.
What is Christmas without Christ? What is the difference between it truly being a Holy Day instead of just a holiday?
Certainly it is a beautiful cultural celebration – but isn’t that rather empty and unfulfilling? There are only so many Christmas cookies and candy that one can eat (even if Mom makes them) before being filled to bursting and not able to eat another bite. There are only so many presents that one can open or give before it becomes tiresome. Even the beautiful Christmas music that stirs up so much nostalgia and so many beautiful memories of Christmas’ past – this too grows old.
We are more than just flesh and blood. Our nature yearns for God and as St. Augustine says, “our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee”. Nothing in this world can satisfy us. God alone will fill the void in our hearts.
What an endless source of wonder and admiration and what deep lessons do we reap from Christmas as a holy day! The love of God for us is shown in such a wonderful way. God Himself comes to save us! The Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. We can meditate for ages and ages upon the goodness, humility, patience, and poverty of the Christ Child.
Unlike the pleasures of the body – these beautiful truths can fill the soul and still leave it yearning for more. “They that eat of me shall yet hunger: and they that drink of me shall yet thirst.” (Ecclesiasticus 24:29)
Even in the simplest church or chapel, Christmas midnight Mass is one of the most beautiful experiences all year. Whether the Mass is sung or whether it is a simple low Mass in the candlelight, there is a beauty and grace present that truly cannot be explained.
The Church cannot wait till the morning to celebrate this feast, so the first Mass of Christmas begins at midnight. And how fitting this is! Christ comes down on the altar and the great mystery of transubstantiation takes place, and just like at the Incarnation when Christ was conceived in Mary’s womb, God comes down to earth!
The birth of Jesus Christ and his appearance among men was so humble and lowly. Yet, even this is not humble enough for God made man! At Mass, Jesus comes again to earth – but not as a humble child – rather, in the form of bread and wine. At the Incarnation He took on a human nature. At Mass, he takes on the form of food. What a great mystery this is.
The birth of Christ contains a beautiful prefigurement of the Holy Eucharist. In the Old Testament, God fed the Israelites in the desert with the manna, the miraculous bread that came down from heaven each day. In the Gospel of St. John, we read how Christ pointed to this when He first spoke of the Holy Eucharist. But in the Nativity of Christ, from the very beginning of Christ’s life on earth, we see a very clear sign of this future promise.
Bethlehem literally means, “house of bread”. And in this “House of Bread”, Christ was born and laid in a manger, that is, a feeding trough for animals. What an incredible sign He gives to us! It is as if Christ could not wait to let us know that not only would He become man to redeem us, but He would remain with us “all days, even to the consummation of the world.”
Truly the Holy Eucharist is a divine mystery. Could anyone but God have come up with such a thing? What man could invent such a thing and seriously expect others to believe it?
Words and their meanings are important. “Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14) Emmanuel means “God with us”.
Emmanuel was born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread, to show that He would not only become man to redeem us, but that He would be with us always under the appearance of Bread to be our spiritual food to be our strength and comfort.
This mystery of the Eucharist is so closely bound with the feast of the Nativity of Christ, that our English name Christmas is taken from the words “Christ’s Mass”.
How great is the goodness and love of God that He would thus humble Himself for us, His sinful creatures! Let us truly take this to heart and from the example of the Christ Child, learn the great value of humility and sacrifice.
If we often think and meditate on these great truths of our Faith, then the lessons will bear fruit in our lives.
“Dearly beloved, the grace of God our Savior 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 an dour Savior Jesus Christ: who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and might cleanse to himself an acceptable people, pursuing good works. These things speak and exhort, in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
– The Epistle for Christmas Midnight Mass, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to Titus, Chapter II
Taken from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.
‘At length,’ says St. Peter Damian, in his Sermon for this holy Eve, ‘at length we have got from the stormy sea into the tranquil port; hitherto it was the promise, now it is the prize; hitherto labor, now rest; hitherto despair, now hope; hitherto the way, now our home. The heralds of the divine promise came to us; but they gave us nothing but rich promises. Hence, our Psalmist himself grew wearied, and slept, and, with a seeming reproachful tone, thus sings his lamentation to God: “But thou hast rejected and despised us; thou hast deferred the coming of thy Christ.” At another time he assumes a tone of demand, and thus prays: “O thou that sittest upon the Cherubim, show thyself!” Seated on thy high throne, with myriads of adoring Angels around thee, look down upon the children of men, who are victims of that sin, which was committed indeed by Adam, but permitted by thy justice. Remember what my substance is; thou didst make it to the likeness of thine own; for though every living man is vanity, yet inasmuch as he is made to thy Image, he is not a passing vanity. Bend thy heavens and come down, and turn the eyes of thy mercy upon us thy miserable suppliants, and forget us not unto the end!
Isaias, also, in the vehemence of his desire, thus spoke: “For Sion’s sake I will not hold my peace, and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not rest, till her Just One come forth as brightness. Oh! that thou wouldst rend the heavens, and wouldst come down!” So, too, all the Prophets, tired of the long delay of the coming, have prayed to thee, now with supplication, now with lamentation, and now with cries of impatience. We have listened to these their prayers; we have made use of them as our own, and now, nothing can give us joy or gladness, till our Saviour come to us, and, kissing us with the kiss of his lips, say to us: “I have heard and granted your prayers.”
But, what is this that has been said to us: “Sanctify yourselves, ye children of Israel, and be ready; for on the morrow, the Lord will come down”? We are, then, but one half day and night from the grand visit, the admirable Birth of the Infant-God! Hurry on your course, ye fleeting hours, that we may the sooner see the Son of God in his crib, and pay our homage to this world-saving Birth. You, Brethren, are the Children of Israel, that are sanctified, and cleansed from every defilement of soul and body, ready, by your earnest devotion, for to-morrow’s mysteries. Such, indeed, you are, if I may judge from the manner in which you have spent these sacred days of preparation for the Coming of your Savior.
‘But if, notwithstanding all your care, some drops of the stream of this life’s frailties are still on your hearts, wipe them away and cover them with the snow-white robe of Confession. This I can promise you from the mercy of the divine Infant: he that shall confess his sins and be sorry for them, shall have born within him the Light of the World; the darkness that deceived him, shall be dispelled; and he shall enjoy the brightness of the true Light. For how can mercy be denied to the miserable this night, in which the merciful and compassionate Lord is so mercifully born? Therefore, drive away from you all haughty looks, and idle words, and unjust works; let your loins be girt, and your feet walk in the right paths; and then come, and accuse the Lord, if this night he rend not the heavens, and come down to you, and throw all your sins into the depths of the sea.’
This holy Eve is, indeed, a day of grace and hope, and we ought to spend it in spiritual joy. The Church, contrary to her general practice, prescribes, that if Christmas Eve fall on a Sunday, the fasting alone should be anticipated on the Saturday; but that the Office and Mass of the Vigil should take precedence of the Office and Mass of the fourth Sunday of Advent. How solemn, then, in the eyes of the Church, are these few hours which separate us from the great Feast! On all other Feasts, no matter how great they may be, the solemnity begins with first Vespers, and until then the Church restrains her joy, and celebrates the Divine Office and Sacrifice according to the Lenten rite. Christmas, on the contrary, seems to begin with the Vigil; and one would suppose that this morning’s Lauds were the opening of the Feast; for the solemn intonation of this portion of the Office is that of a Double, and the Antiphons are sung before and after each Psalm or Canticle. The purple Vestments are used at the Mass, but all the genuflections peculiar to the Advent Ferias are omitted; and only one Collect is said, instead of three, which always denote that the Mass is not that of a solemnity. Let us enter into the spirit of the Church, and prepare ourselves, in all the joy of our hearts, to meet the Savior who is coming to us. Let us observe with strictness the fast which is prescribed; it will enable our bodies to aid the promptness of our spirit. Let us delight in the thought, that before we again lay down to rest, we shall have seen Him born, in the solemn midnight, who comes to give light to every creature. For, surely, it is the duty of every faithful this happy Night, when, in spite of all the coldness of devotion, the whole universe keeps up its watch for the arrival of its Savior. It is one of the last vestiges of the piety of ancient days, and God forbid it should ever be effaced!
Let us, in a spirit of prayer, look at the principal portions of the Office of this beautiful Vigil. First, then, the Church makes a mysterious Announcement to her children. It serves, as the Invitatory of Matins, and as the Introit and Gradual of the Mass. They are the words which Moses addressed to the people of God, when he told them of the heavenly Manna, which they would receive on the morrow. We, too, are expecting our Manna, our Jesus, the Bread of life, who is to be born in Bethlehem, which is the House of Bread.
This day ye shall know that the Lord will come, and in the morning ye shall see his glory.
The Responsories are full of sublimity and sweetness. Nothing can be more affecting than their lyric melody, sung to us by our Mother the Church, on the very night which precedes the night of Jesus’ Birth.
R. Sanctify yourselves this day, and be ye ready: for on the morrow ye shall see * The Majesty of God amongst you.
V. This day ye shall know that the Lord will come, and in the morning ye shall see * The Majesty of God amongst you.
R. Be ye constant; ye shall see the help of the Lord upon you: fear not, Judea and Jerusalem: * To-morrow ye shall go forth, and the Lord shall be with you:
V. Sanctify yourselves, ye children of Israel, and be ye ready. * Tomorrow ye shall go forth, and the Lord shall be with you.
R. Sanctify yourselves, ye children of Israel, saith the Lord: for on the morrow, the Lord shall come down: * And shall take from you all that is languid.
V. Tomorrow the iniquity of the earth shall be cancelled, and over us shall reign the Savior of the world. * And he shall take from you all that is languid.
At the Office of Prime, in Cathedral Chapters and Monasteries, the announcement of to-morrow’s Feast is made with unusual solemnity. The Lector, who frequently is one of the dignitaries of the Choir, sings, to a magnificent chant, the following Lesson from the Martyrology. All the assistants remain standing during it, until the Lector comes to the word Bethlehem at which all genuflect, and continue in that posture until all the glad Tidings are told.
The year from the creation of the world, when in the be ginning God created heaven and earth, five thousand one hundred and ninety-nine: from the deluge, the year two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seven: from the birth of Abraham, the year two thousand and fifteen: from Moses and the going out of the people of Israel from Egypt, the year one thousand five hundred and ten: from David’s being anointed King, the year one thousand and thirty-two: in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel: in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad: from the building of the city of Rome, the year seven hundred and fifty-two: in the forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus: the whole world being in peace: in the sixth age of the world: Jesus Christ, the eternal God, and Son of the eternal Father, wishing to consecrate this world by his most merciful coming, being conceived of the Holy Ghost, and nine months since his conception having passed, in Bethlehem of Juda is born of the Virgin Mary, being made man: THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO THE FLESH.
Thus have passed before us, in succession, all the generations of the world. Each of them is asked if it have seen Him whom we are expecting, and each is silent; until the name of Mary is pronounced, and then, is proclaimed the Nativity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, made Man. St. Bernard speaking of this announcement, says: ‘The voice of joy has gone forth in our land, the voice of rejoicing and of salvation is in the tabernacles of the just. There has been heard a good word, a word that gives consolation, a word that is full of gladsomeness, a word worthy of all acceptance. Resound with praise, ye mountains, and all ye trees of the forests clap your hands before the face of the Lord, for he is coming. Hearken, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth! be astounded and give praise, O all ye creatures! but thou, man, more than all they! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Juda! Who is there, that is so hard of heart, that this word does not touch him? Could anything be told us sweeter than this? Could any news delight us like this? Was such a thing ever heard, or anything like it ever told to the world? Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Juda! O brief word of the Word abridged! and yet how full of heavenly beauty! The heart, charmed with the honeyed sweetness of the expression, would fain diffuse it and spread it out into more words; but no, it must be given just as it is, or you spoil it: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Juda! [Second sermon for Christmas eve.]
In the Epistle, the Apostle St. Paul, addressing himself to the Romans, makes known to them the dignity and holiness of the Gospel, that is, of those Good Tidings, which the Angels are to bring to us this very night. Now, the subject of this Gospel is Jesus, the Son that is born unto God, of the family of David, according to the flesh. This Jesus comes that he may be, to his Church, the source of grace and apostleship. It is by these two gifts that we are still associated, after so many ages, to the joys of the great Mystery of his Birth in Bethlehem.
Lesson of the Epistle of Saint Paul the Apostle to the Romans.
Paul, the Servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an Apostle, separated unto the Gospel of God, which he had promised before by his Prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning his Son, who was made to him of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was predestinated the Son of God in power, according to the spirit of sanctification, by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead: by whom we have received Grace and Apostleship for obedience to the faith in all nations for his name, among whom are you also the called of Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Gospel of today’s Mass is the passage which relates the trouble of St. Joseph and the visit he received from the Angel. This incident, which forms one of the preludes to the Birth of our Savior, could not but enter into the Liturgy for Advent; and so far, there was no suitable occasion for its insertion. The Vigil of Christmas was the right day for this Gospel, for another reason: the Angel, in speaking to St. Joseph, tells him, that the name to be given to the Child of Mary is Jesus, which signifies that he will save his people from their sins.
Continuation of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.
When Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately. But while he thought on these things, behold the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, 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.
Taken from the Anthology of the Greeks
On a certain day, there was enrolled at Bethlehem, together with the old man Joseph, as being of the family of David, Mary, who bore in her virginal womb the divine fruit. The time of her delivery was come, and there was no place in the inn; and instead of a splendid palace for the Queen, there was but a cave.
The moment is come for the accomplishment of the mystic prophecy: “And thou Bethlehem, land of Juda, art not the least among the princes, for thou art the first to adorn the Cave. For there shall come to me from thee the leader of the Nations, born of a Virgin-Maid according to the flesh; it is Christ, who is God, and he shall rule his new people of Israel.” Let us all give him highest praise.
This is our God, and there is none other; he was born of a Virgin, and he conversed with men; the Only Begotten Son becomes Mortal, and is laid in a poor crib; the Lord of glory is wrapped in swaddling-clothes: the star invites the Magi to adore him, and let us sing: O Holy Trinity, save our souls!
Come, all ye faithful: let us be transported with divine enthusiasm; let us look at God coming in a visible form from on high and descending into Bethlehem – then raising up our minds, let us bring to him our virtues as the myrrh we offer him, thus preparing, with faith, for his Birth among us: let us sing, Glory in the highest be to God, one in three Persons, whose good-will to man is thus made manifest! for thou, O Jesus! the Lover of man, hast redeemed Adam and restored the work of thy hands!
Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth! let the foundations of the earth be moved, and all the earth tremble: for God the maker of man has himself put on a created form, and He whose creative hand upheld his creatures, has by mercy moved, clothed himself with a body. O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways!
O come, ye Christian people! let us see the prodigy that stupefies all thought and holds it in suspense; then let us devoutly adore, and sing our hymns with hearts full of faith. This day there hath come to Bethlehem a Maid that is to give birth to God! Choirs of Angels are already there! Joseph, her Spouse, seeing her, has already received his answer to his question: What is this mystery which I see in thee, pure Virgin? How canst thou bring forth, that never hast borne a mother’s humiliation?
This day, there is born of a Virgin, He that holds in his hand the whole creation. He whose very essence ’tis to be intangible, is become mortal and is bound in swathing-bands. He who, of old, in the beginning, poised and set the heavens, is laid in a manger. He who rained down Manna on his people in the desert, is fed with milk at his Mother’s breast. The Spouse of the Church invites the Magi; the Son of the Virgin accepts their gifts. We adore thy Nativity, O Jesus! show unto us thy divine manifestations.
Let us contemplate our Blessed Lady, and her faithful Spouse Joseph, leaving the city of Jerusalem, and continuing their journey to Bethlehem, which they reach after a few hours. In obedience to the will of heaven, they immediately repair to the place where their names are to be enrolled, as the Emperor’s edict requires. There is entered in the public register, Joseph, a carpenter of Nazareth in Galilee. To his name, there is, doubtless, added that of Mary, Spouse of the above-named Joseph. Perhaps they enter her as a young woman, in the ninth month of her pregnancy. And this is all! – Incarnate Word! thou art not yet counted by men! Thou art upon this earth of thine, and men set thee down as nothing! And yet, all this excitement of the enrolment of the world is to be for nothing else but this: that Mary, thy august Mother, may come to Bethlehem, and there give thee Birth! O ineffable Mystery! how grand is this apparent littleness! how mighty this divine weakness! But God has still lower to descend than merely coming on our earth. He goes from house to house of his people; not one will receive him. He must go and seek a crib in the stable of poor dumb beasts. There, until such time as the Angels sing to him their hymn, and the Shepherds and the Magi come with their offerings, he will meet ‘the ox that knoweth its Owner, and the ass that knoweth its Master’s crib!‘ Saviour of men, Emmanuel, Jesus! we, too, will go to this stable of Bethlehem. Thy New Birth, which is tonight, shall not be without loving and devoted hearts to bless it. At this very hour, thou art knocking at the doors of Bethlehem, and who is there that will take thee in? Thou sayest to my soul in the words of the Canticle: ‘Open to me, my sister, my beloved! for my head is full of dew, and my locks of the drops of the night!’ Ah! sweet Jesus! thou shalt not be refused here! I beseech thee, enter my house. I have been watching and longing for thee. Come, then, Lord Jesus! come!
Taken from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.
The Lord is now nigh; come, let us adore.
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.
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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 de- lights, 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 Gen- tiles, which you shall suck: you shall be carried at the breasts and upon the knecs they shall caress you. As one whom the mother caress- eth, so will I comfort you, and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. You shall see 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.” But for this end it was necessary that God Himself should come down in He alone could make a Virgin-Mother; He alone could raise up children to Abraham out of the person. 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.” 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.’ 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.
Taken from the poet Prudentius
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 honor which adds fresh luster 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.
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 pre- cursor in preaching in the wilderness, the precursor in baptism, preparing thus the way to the Judge and Redeemer. He called sinners to repentance; and purchasing a people for the Saviour, he 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.
Taken from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.
The Lord is now nigh; come, let us adore.
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 burn 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 what 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 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 fulfill the law; and, by Thy visit, Sion has been changed into the Church, Thy bride. But why, O Thou her beloved Savior! 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 smoldering fire of faith.
Remember Thy apostles and Thy martyrs; re-member Thy saints who have founded Churches, and honored 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.
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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.
Thy womb, O Mother of God, is the heap of wheat of the Canticle; carrying, in an ineffable manner, the ear of corn, 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 behooves us, and we look for the star in the heavens: the Magi are coming from the east to our western world, to see the Savior 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 in the 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.
O God, who, by thine only- begotten 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 Amen. our Lord.