Vigil of the Nativity of Our Lord
The Vigil of Christmas is impregnated with holy cheerfulness, and if it were not for the vestments of penance and fasting, one would imagine bit the feast had begun.
The Church joyfully awaits the twofold coming of her Redeemer, (Collect) who “saves His people from their sins" (Gospel) and who is the Shepherd of Israel (Gradual) that is the Church, of whom all are members who have faith in Jesus Christ. Thus Isaias foretells that “ all flesh shall see the salvation of God" and St. Paul adds that he has been chosen to be the Apostle of the Gospel, “for obedience to the faith in all nations for His name.”
With the help of to-day’s Mass, we may prepare to celebrate the anniversary of the “adorable birthday” of the only-begotten Son of God (Secret and Postcommunion), the son of David, whom the spouse of Joseph brought into the world (Gospel) and who, “ born as man” according to the seed of’ David, has by His Resurrection proved, beyond all question, that He was God (Epistle).
Since this resurrection was for Christ the prelude to His glorious reign, for us it is the pledge of our own glorification and resurrection at the end of time; thus, to-day’s liturgy prepares us for the second Coming of our Lord. “To-day", the Introit and the Gradual say, “you shall know that the Lord will come and save us and in the morning you shall see His glory.” “Sanctify yourselves and be ye ready,” says the first response at Matins, “for to-morrow, you shall see the Son of God in your midst.”
“By these two days, to-day and to-morrow,” explains St. Bernard, are meant that of the present life which is short and gloomy, and that of eternity amidst the splendours of the saints. Our learning here below consists in remembering that the Lord is coming; and it is the first Coming of the Son of God which enlightens us about His second Coming. It calls forth contrition, blazes forth in correction, shines through our zeal and renews us within and without.
Meditate on the marvels of the Lord’s mercy vouchsafed in His Incarnation, that when the last morning dawns, we may contemplate those of his glory.
“To-morrow” says the Alleluia, “shall the iniquity of the earth be abolished; and the Saviour of the world shall reign over us.” "Almighty God, the Creator of all things,” adds the psalmist, “is indeed the King of glory, having snatched man from the power of Satan, receives him into His heavenly Jerusalem. Then shall the glory of the Lord be manifested" (Com.). Let us, therefore, prepare ourselves “with holy joy, celebrating the coming of the only-begotten Son of God, who comes as Redeemer at Christmas, in order that we may be able to contemplate Him with assurance, when He shall come as Judge at the end of the world” (Collect).
Hodie scietis, quia veniet Dominus, et salvabit nos: et mane videbitis gloriam ejus. * Domini est terra et plenitudo ejus; orbis terrarum, et universi qui habitant in eo.
This day you shall know that the Lord will come, and save us: and in the morning you shall see his glory. * The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and all that dwell therein.
Deus, qui nos redemptionis nostrae annua exspectatione laetificas: praesta, ut Unigenitum tuum, quem redemptorem laeti suscipimus, venientem quoque Judicem securi videamus, Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum.
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 coming as our Judge.
Sequel 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 saying: Joseph, son of David, sleep, 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.
(St Matt. 1:18-21)