Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday Within the Octave of Christmas

This is the only day within the Christmas Octave which is not a Saint’s Feast. During the Octaves of the Epiphany, Easter, and Pentecost, the Church is so absorbed in the respective mysteries that she puts off everything that could share her attention; whereas during this of Christmas, there is only one day which does not celebrate the memory of some glorious Saint, and our Infant Jesus is surrounded by a choir of heroes who loved and served him. Thus, the Church—or, more correctly, God, for God is the first author of the Cycle of the Year—shows us how the Incarnate Word, who came to save mankind, desires to give mankind confidence by this his adorable familiarity.

We have already shown that the Birth of our Lord took place on a Sunday, the Day on which, in the beginning of the world, God created Light. We shall find, later on, that his Resurrection also was on a Sunday. This the first day of creation and the first day of the week was consecrated, by the old Pagans, to the Sun: with us Christians, it is most sacred and holy, on account of the two risings of our divine Sun of Justice—his Birth and his Resurrection. While the solemnity of Easter is always kept on a Sunday, that of Christmas falls, by turns, on each of the days of the week—we have already had this difference explained to us by the Holy Fathers: but the mystery of Jesus’ Birth is more aptly and strongly expressed when its anniversary falls on a Sunday. Other years, when the coincidence does not happen, the Faithful will at least be led by their Christian instincts to give especial honor to the Day within the Octave, which falls on the Sunday. The Church has honored it with a proper Mass and Office, and we of course insert them.

Mass.—It was at Midnight that the Lord delivered his people from bondage by the Passage of his destroying Angel over the land of the Egyptians: so also was it in the still hour of midnight that Jesus, the Angel of the Great Counsel, came down from his royal throne, bringing mercy to our earth. It is just that while commemorating this second Passage, the Church should sing the praises of her Emmanuel, who comes, clad in his strength and beauty, to take possession of his Kingdom.

INTROIT

Dum medium silentium tenerent omnia, et nox in suo cursu medium iter haberet, omnipotens sermo tuus, Domine, de cœlis, a regalibus sedibus venit.

While all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, thy Almighty Word, O Lord, came down from thy royal throne.

Ps. Dominus regnavit, decorem indutus est: indutus est Dominus fortitudinem, et præcinxit se. ℣. Gloria Patri. Dum medium.

Ps. The Lord hath reigned, he is clothed with beauty: the Lord is clothed with strength, and hath girded himself. ℣. Glory, &c. While all.

In the Collect, the Church prays to be directed by that divine rule which was taught us by our Savior, the Sun of Justice, who shone upon us in order to enlighten and guide our steps in the path of good works.

COLLECT

Omnipotens, sempiterne Deus, dirige actus nostros in beneplacito tuo: ut in nomine dilecti Filii tui mereamur bonis operibus abundare. Qui tecum.

O Almighty and Eternal God, regulate our actions according to thy divine will: that, in the name of thy beloved Son, we may abound in good works. Who liveth,&c.

The Child that is born of Mary and is couched in the Crib at Bethlehem raises his feeble voice to the Eternal Father, and calls him, My Father! He turns towards us, and calls us, My Brethren! We, consequently, when we speak to his Father, may call him Our Father! This is the mystery of Adoption, revealed to us by the great event we are solemnizing. All things are changed, both in heaven and on earth. God has not only one Son, he has many Sons; henceforth, we stand before this our God, not merely creatures drawn out of nothing by his power, but Children that he fondly loves. Heaven is now not only the throne of his sovereign Majesty, it is become our inheritance, in which we are joint heirs with our Brother Jesus, the Son of Mary, Son of Eve, Son of Adam, according to his Human Nature, and (in the unity of Person) Son of God according to his Divine Nature. Let us turn our wondering and loving thoughts first to this sweet Babe that has brought us all these blessings, and then to the blessings themselves, to the dear inheritance made ours by Him. Let our mind be seized with astonishment at creatures having such a destiny! and then, let our heart pour out its thanks for the incomprehensible gift!

GRADUAL

Speciosa forma præ filiis hominum: diffusa est gratia in labiis tuia.

Thou art beautiful above the sons of men: grace is poured abroad in thy lips.

℣. Eeructavit cor meum verbum bonum; dico ego opera mea Regi: lingua mea calamus scribæ velociter scribentis.

℣. My heart hath uttered a good word; I speak my works to the King: my tongue is the pen of a scrivener, that writeth swiftly.

Alleluia, alleluia.

Alleluia, alleluia.

℣. Dominus regnavit, decorem induit: induit Dominus fortitudinem, et præcinxit se virtute. Alleluia.

℣. The Lord hath reigned: he hath clothed himself with beauty: he hath clothed himself with strength, and armed himself with might. Alleluia.

The passage of the Gospel selected for this Mass, though bearing on the Divine Infancy, yet gives us, and we may almost say prematurely, the terrible prophecy of Simeon regarding the dear Babe of Bethlehem. The heart of Mary that was overflowing with joy at the miraculous Birth of her Child is here made to feel the sword spoken of by the venerable Priest of the temple. Her Son, then, is to be but a sign that shall be contradicted! The mystery of man’s being adopted by God is to cost this Child of hers his life!—We that are the Redeemed in his Blood, we may not yet dwell on the fatigues and the Passion and Death of our Emmanuel; the time will come for that; at present, we are forbidden to think of Him other than the sweet Child that is born to us, and the source of all our happiness, by his having come among us. Let us catch up the words of Anna, who calls him the Redemption of Israel. Let our eye delight in the sight of the earth regenerated by the birth of its Savior. Let us admire and study well this Jesus newly born among us, and adore, in humble love, the wisdom and grace that are in him.

During the Offertory, the Church celebrates the wonderful renovation wrought in the world, a renovation which saved it from destruction. She sings the praises of the great God who came down into the poor Stable of Bethlehem, yet left not his eternal throne.

OFFERTORY

Deus firmavit orbem terræ, qui non commovebitur; parata sedes tua, Deus, ex tunc: a seculo tu es.

God hath established the world, which shall not be moved; thy throne, O God, is prepared from of old; thou art from everlasting.

SECRET

Concede, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus; ut oculis tuæ majestatis munus oblatum, et gratiam nobis piæ devotionis obtineat, et effectum beatæ perennitatis acquirat. Per Dominum.

Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that this sacrifice, offered to thy divine majesty, may obtain for us the grace of true devotion, and a happy eternity. Through, &c.

The words chanted by the Church at the Communion are those spoken by the Angel to St. Joseph. She has given this Divine Infant to her Faithful children in holy Communion, in order that they may carry him in their hearts, and bids them guard him against the snares laid for him by his and their enemies. Let the Christian, therefore, take heed lest Jesus should be taken from him. Let him, by strict watchfulness and by good works, crush the tyrant sin that seeks the life of the Divine Guest of his soul. It is for this reason that in the Postcommunion, the Church prays that our vices may be destroyed, and our desires for a virtuous life be blessed.

COMMUNION

Tolle puerum, et matrem ejus, et vade in terram Israel; defuncti sunt enim qui quærebant animam pueri.

Take the Child and his Mother, and go in to the land of Israel: for they are dead, who sought the life of the Child.

POSTCOMMUNION

Per hujus, Domine, operationem mysterii, et vitia nostra pergentur, et justa desideria compleantur. Per Dominum.

May the efficacy of this sacrament, O Lord, cleanse us from our sins, and obtain for us the accomplishment of our just desires. Through, &c.

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