et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in præsepio.
Beata virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt
portare Dominum Christum, Alleluia!
|OCTAVO KALENDAS JANUARII||THE EIGHTH OF THE CALENDS OF JANUARY|
|Anno a creatione mundi, quando in principio Deus creavit cœlum et terram, quinquies millesimo centesimo nonagesimo nono: A diluvio vero, anno bis millesimo nongentesimo quinquagesimo septimo: A nativitate Abrahæ, anno bis millesimo quintodecime: A Moyse et egressu populi Israel de Ægypto, anno millesimo quingentesimo decimo: Ab unctiono David in regem, anno mullesimo trigesimo secundo: Hebdomada sexagesima quinta juxta Danielis prophetiam: Olympiade centesima nonagesima quarta: Ab urbe Roma condita, anno septingentesimo quinquagesimo secundo: Anno imperii Octaviani Augusti quadragesimo secundo: toto orbe in pace composito, sexta mundi ætate, Jesus Christus æternus Deus, æternique Patris Filius, mundum volens adventu suo piissimo consecrare, de Spiritu sancto conceptus, novemque post conceptionem decursis mensibus, in Bethlehem Judæ nascitur ax Maria Virgine factus homo: NATIVITAS DOMINI NOSTRI JESU CHRISTI SECUNDUM CARNEM !||The year from the creation of the world, when in the beginning 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. 5 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, O 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 ! 6 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 ! 7
|Hodie scietis, quia veniet Dominus, et salvabit nos: mane videbitis gloriam ejus. Ps. Domini est terra et plenitudo ejus; orbis terrarum, et universi qui habitant in eo. V. Gloria.||This day ye shall know at that the Lord will come, and save us: and in the morning ye shall see his glory. Ps. The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world and all that dwell therein. V. Glory.|
In the Collect, the Church makes a last allusion to the coming of Jesus as our Judge at the end of the world. But after this, she can look upon her Jesus only as the Prince of peace, and as the Spouse who comes to her. Her children must imitate her confidence.
|Deus, qui nos redemptionis nostræ annua exspectatione lætifcas: præsta, ut Unigeniturn tuum, quem Redemptorem læti suscipimus, venientem quoque Judicem securi videamus, Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum. Qui tecum.||O God, who makest us rejoice in the yearly expectation of the feast of our redemption: grant that we who joyfully receive thy only - begotten Son as a Redeemer, may behold, without fear, the same Lord Jesus Christ corning as our Judge. Who liveth, &c.|
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.
|Lectio Epistolæ beati Pauli Apostoli ad Romanos.||Lesson of the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Romans.|
Paulus, servus Jesu Christi, vocatus apostolus, segregatus in Evangelium Dei, quod ante promiserat per prophetas suos in Scriptunis sanctis, de Filio suo, qui factus est ei ex semine David secundum carnem, qui prædestinatus eat Filius Dei in virtute, secundum Spiritum sanctificationis, ex resurrectione mortuorum Jesu Christi Domini nostri: per quem accepimus gratiam et apostolatum, ad obediendum fidei in omnibus gentibus pro nomine ejus, in quibus estis et vos vocati Jesu Christi Domini nostri.
Paul, a 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.
|Hodie scietis quia veniet Dominus, et salvabit nos: et mane videbitis gloriam ejus.||This day ye shall know that the Lord will come, and save us: and in the morning ye shall see his glory.|
|V. Qui regis Israël intende: qui deducis velut ovem Joseph: qui sedes super Cherubim, appare coram Ephraim, Benjamin et Manàsse.||V. Thou who rulest Israel, hearken: thou who leadest Joseph like a sheep: thou who sittest on the Cherubim, show thyself to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasses.|
If the vigil of Christmas fall on a Sunday, the following is added:
|Alleluia, alleluia.||Alleluia, alleluia.|
|V. Crastina die delebitur iniquitas terræ, et regnabit super nos Salvator mundi. Alleluia.||V. To-morrow the sins of the earth shall be cancelled, and the Saviour of the world shall reign over us. Allelula.|
The Gospel of to-day’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 Saviour, 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.
|Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthæum||Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew|
Quum esset desponsata Mater Jesu Maria Joseph, antequam convenirent, inventa est in utero habens de Spinitu sancto. Joseph autem vir ejus, quurn esset justus, et nollet eam traducere, voluit occulte dirnittere eam. Hæc autem eo cogitante, ecce angelus Domini apparuit in somnis ei, dicens: Joseph, fili David, noli timere accipere Mariam conjugem tuam: quod enim in ea natum est, de Spiritu sancto est. Pariet autem Filium : et vocabis nomen ejus Jesum: ipse enim salvum faciet populum suum a peccatis eorum.
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.
|Tollite portas, principes, vestras, et elevarnini portæ æternales: et introibit Rex gloriæ.||Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates; and the King of glory shall enter in.|
|Da nobis, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut sicut adoranda Filii tui natalitia prævenimus; sic ejus munera capiamus sempiterna gaudentes. Qui tecum.||Grant, we beseech thee, O almighty God, that as we celebrate the eve of the adorable birth of thy Son; we may one day receive with joy his eternal rewards. Who liveth, &c.|
During the Communion, the Church expresses her joy at receiving, in the Eucharistic Sacrament, Him whose flesh purifies and nourishes ours. She is strengthened by the consolation given to her by the divine Food, to wait yet a little longer for that happy moment, in which angels will come and invite her to the crib of the Messias.
|Revelabitur gloria Domini: at videbit omnis caro salutare Eei nostri.||The glory of the Lord shall be revealed: and all flesh shall see the salvation of our God.|
|Da nobis, quæsumus, Domine, unigeniti Filii tui recensita Nativitate respirare: cujus cœlesti mysterio pascimur, at potamur. Per eumdem.||Grant us, we beseech thee, O Lord, relief by celebrating the birth of thy only Son, whose sacred mystery is our meat and drink. Through, &c.|
The Ambrosian and Mozarabic liturgies have nothing in their Office and Mass for this vigil which we deem telling enough for insertion here. In the anthology of the Greeks there is a hymn, which will assist our devotion, and from which we take the following stanzas. It is called : The beginning of the Hours of the Nativity: Tierce, Sext, and None.
HYMN FOR THE VIGIL OF CHRISTMAS
(Taken from the Anthology of the Greeks)
|Inscribebatur die quadam cum sene Joseph, tanquam ax semine David, in Bethlehem, Maria, sine semine fœtum utero gestans; advenerat pariendi tempus, at nullus erat in diversorio locus, sed pro splendido palatio spelunca Reginæ aderat.||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.|
|Adimpleri nuno urget propheticum præconium mystice nuncians: Et tu Bethlehem, terra Juda, nequaquam minima es in principibus, prima adornans speluncam. Ex te enim mihi veniet dux gentium, per carnem ex puella Virgine, Christus Deus qui reget populum suum novum Israël. Demus ei omnes magnificentiam.||The moment has 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.|
|Iste Deus noster, præter eum non numerabitur alius, natus ex Virgine, et cum hominibus conversatus: in pauperculo jacens peæsepio Filius Unigenitus mortalis apparet, et fasciis implicatur gloriæ Dominus: stella Magis indicat ut ilium adorent, nosque canamus: Trinitas sancta, salva animas nostras.||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!|
|Venite, fideles: divinitus extollamur, Deumque videamus ex alto in Bethlehem manifeste descendentem, et sursum mentem elevantes, pro myrrha vitæ afferamus virtutes, præordinantes cum fide natalitium introitum, et dicamus: Gloria in excelsis Deo qui trinus est, cujus erga homines manifestatur benevolentia! qui Adam redimens et plasma tuum elevasti, philanthrope!||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!|
|Audi, cœlum, et auribus percipe, terra: commoveantur fundamenta orbis, tremorem apprehendant terrestria; quia Deus et auctor carnis plasmatis formam induit, et qui creaturam creatrice corroboravit manu, misericordia motus videtur forma indutus. O divitiarum sapientiæ scientiæque Dei abyssus! quam inscrutabilia illius judicia, et investigabiles viæ ejus!||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. Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judge meats, and how unsearchable his ways!|
|Venite, Christiferi populi, videamus prodigium omnem stupefaciens et cohibens cogitationem, et pie procumbentes cum fide hymnificemus. Hodie ad Bethlehem puella advenit paritura Dominum; præcurrunt angelorum choni: illamque videns Joseph sponsus ejus clamabat: Quidnam in te predigiosum mysternium, Virgo? Et quomodo parturire debes, jugi expers juvenca?||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 the 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?|
|Hodie nascitur ex Virgine qui pugillo omnem creaturam continet: panniculis sicut mortalis fasciatur qui essentia intactibilis est; Deus in præsepio reclinatur, qui olim in principio cœlos stabilivit; ex ubenibus lacte nutritur per quem in deserto manna pluebat populo; Magos advocat Sponsus Ecclesiæ; dona iilorum accipit Virginis Filius, Adoramus tuam Nativitatem, Christe; ostende nobis tuas divinas Theophanias.||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, has 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! O 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 !' 8 O Saviour of men, Emmanuel, Jesus! we, too, will go to this stable of Bethlehem. Thy new birth, which is to-night, 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 looks of the drops of the night !‘ 9 Ah I 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 ! 10
(Photo: Neapolitan presepe by mcitl.)