Even if the celebration of many Masses on the same Sunday may be an ordinary experience for many parish priests too often, Christmas, with its three distinct Mass settings for three different times of the day, remains a unique liturgical occasion.
In the middle of the night, a great light surrounds the shepherds “watching over their flock” (Luke 2:8-14). Hymns of praise fill the air: Gloria in excelsis Deo! The Savior is announced: He is “Christ the Lord” in the shape of “a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger”. The paradox of the Incarnation shines forth as a star in the night: the Lord is in the manger; this Babe is our Savior; God is made flesh.
The Midnight Mass begins with the Gregorian Chant introit: “Dominus dixit ad me… The Lord said to me: You are my Son. It is I who have begotten you this day.” (Psalm 2:7). A childlike melody, perfectly simple and fittingly subdued – as if attuned to the silence of the sacred night – plunges us into an eternal dialogue. The divine Babe points to His Father. The night of Christmas is enlightened with the revelation of the Holy Trinity, not as an abstract dogma, but under the sweet appearance of the Holy Child whose origin is eternal.
The priest lifts up the Host and our faith adores the Son of God.
No night will be shut off from the light evermore. Our humanity is cared for at the very heart of the most sublime mystery of the Triune God.
At dawn, the shepherds make their way to Bethlehem where they find “Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger”. The little ones, the despised and outcast, have been given eyes to see the light and hearts to adore Christ. The “Wondrous God, Prince of Peace, Father of future ages”, of whom the introit Lux fulgebit sings with Isaiah’s words, shines over the world at this early hour of the day.
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