This blog contains regular postings relating to the Traditional Latin Liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. It includes regular commentary on the saints days and the liturgical cycle, with brief background and extracts from the liturgy both in Latin and English. Much of the material has been extracted from the 'St Andrew's Daily Missal', Dom Gueranger's 'Liturgical Year', or similar sources.

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Friday 30 December 2016

29th December. Within the Octave of the Nativity.

Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity of Our Lord

This mass is said on the Sunday if it falls on December 29, 30 or 31. Otherwise it is said on December 30th.

The mass tells us that "the Word that came down from heaven during the night" (Introit) of Christmas is "the Son of God who has come that we might participate of His heritage and receive the adoption of sons" (Epistle). Before His coming, man was as "a child who during his minority differeth nothing from a servant" (Epistle). On the contrary, now that the New Law has emancipated him from the tutorship of the Old Law "he is no longer a servant but a son" (Epistle).

In revealing to us this supernatural filiation of Christ, which affects our souls more especially at this season of Christmas, the liturgy makes the Divinity under the aspect of Paternity resplendent in our eyes. Also, the worship of the sons of God is summed up in that word spoken with Jesus, "Father!" (Epistle).

The Gospel also discloses to us the glorious mission which the future has in store for this Child, the manifestation of which begins today in the Temple.

"It is the King" (Gradual), "whose reign" (Alleluia) "will reach the very depths of the heart" (Gospel). For all it will be a touchstone, a stumbling block for those who will persecute Him (Communion), a cornerstone "for many in Israel" (Gospel).

Dum medium silentium tenerent omnia, et nox in suo cursu medium iter haberet, omnipotens sermo tuus, Domine, de coelis, a regalibus sedibus venit. * Dominus regnavit, decorem indutus est: indutus est Dominus fortitudinem, et praecinxit se. 
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. * The Lord hath reigned, he is clothed with beauty: the Lord is clothed with strength, and hath girded himself.
(Wisdom 18:14-15 and Psalm 92:1 from the Introit of Mass)

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

Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem nativitas liberet, quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus tenet.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we who groan under the old captivity of sin, may be freed therefrom by the new Birth of thine Only Begotten Son.
(Commemoration of Christmas)

Sequel to the holy Gospel according to Luke.
At that time: Joseph, and Mary the Mother of Jesus, were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning him. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his Mother: Behold, this Child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel: and for a sign which shall be contradicted: and thine own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was far advanced in years, and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity. And she was a widow until four score and four years: who departed not from the temple, by fastings and prayers serving day and night. Now she at the same hour, coming in, confessed to the Lord, and spoke of him to all that looked for the redemption of Israel. And after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their city Nazareth. And the Child grew and waxed strong, full of wisdom: and the grace of God was in him.
(St Luke 2:33-40)

Thursday 29 December 2016

29th December, St Thomas of Canterbury, Bishop and Martyr

St Thomas of Canterbury, Bishop and Martyr

The season of Christmas, by manifesting to us the Divine Filiation of the Child in the crib as the Epistle of the day reminds us, shows that he is a priest. His priesthood consists in making the life of God penetrate our souls and in defending, even at the cost of His life, the divine rights of this beloved Spouse.

The Feast of St Thomas Becket shows us that in participating in the dignity of the Christ-Priest as Archbishop of Canterbury, he knew how to prove himself, like Christ, the shepherd who defends his flock against the ravages of the wolf (Gospel).

King Henry II wished him to sanction customs contrary to the liberties of the Church. St Thomas knew that to make this divine Society subservient to the secular power would be to violate her very constitution, and so he declared that "as a Priest of Jesus Christ he would willingly suffer death in defence of the Church of God." He was slain in his cathedral by the king's soldiers on 29th December 1170.

Against those who seek to enslave the Church, let us neither employ the craft of politics nor the weapons of warfare, but after the example of "the glorious Thomas who fell by the swords of the wicked in the defence of the Church" (Collect) let us know how to withstand them resolutely with all the moral strength that the defence of the rights of God inspires.

Gaudeamus omnes in Domino, diem festum celebrantes sub honore beati Thomae Martyris: de cujus passione gaudent Angeli, et collaudant Filium Dei. * Exsultate justi in Domino: rectos decet collaudatio.
Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a festal day in honour of the blessed Thomas the Martyr: at whose martyrdom the Angels rejoice, and praise the Son of God. *. Rejoice in the Lord, O ye just: praise becometh the upright.
(Psalm 32:1 from the Introit of Mass)

Deus, pro cujus Ecclesia gloriosus Pontifex Thomas gladiis impiorum occubuit: praesta, quaesumus; ut omnes qui ejus implorant auxilium, petitionis suae salutarem consequantur effectum.
O God, for the sake of Whose Church the glorious Bishop Thomas fell by the sword of ungodly men: grant, we beseech Thee, that all who implore his aid, may obtain the good fruit of their petition.

Concede, quaesumus omnipotens Deus, ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem Nativitas liberet; quos sub peccati iugo vetusta servitus tenet.
Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the new birth of Thine only-begotten Son in the flesh may set us free, who are held by the old bondage under the yoke of sin.
(Commemoration of Christmas)

Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. John.
At that time: Jesus said to the Pharisees: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and flieth: and the wolf catcheth, and scattereth the sheep: And the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling: and he hath no care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know mine, and mine know me. As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father: and I lay down my life for my sheep. And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.
(St John 10:11-16)

From the Catholic Encyclopaedia on St Thomas of Canterbury:

Wednesday 28 December 2016

28th December, The Holy Innocents, Martyrs

The Holy Innocents, Martyrs
(or Childermass)

The Feast of the Holy Innocents dates back to about the fifth century. The massacre of these infants manifests the royal character of Jesus. It is because Herod believed the words of the Magi and those of the High Priests whom he consulted that he sees a rival in the Infant of Bethlehem and jealously pursues Him "that is born King of the Jews." But as the Church sings, in the Hymn for Vespers of the Epiphany, "O cruel Herod, why thus fear, Thy King and God who comes below? No earthly crown comes He to take, who heavenly kingdoms doth bestow."

It is this God-King that the Innocents by dying confess (Collect). Their passion is the exaltation of Christ. And the praise that they render to God is a subject of confusion in the enemies of Jesus (Introit), for, far from attaining their object, they only served to fulfil the saying of the Prophet "out of Egypt have I called my son." (Gospel), and that at Bethlehem would be heard the lamentations of the mothers mourning for their children. To picture their desolation in more vivid colours, Jeremias recalls Rachel whose lamentations are heard in Rama, bewailing her children because they are not. Like a compassionate mother, the Church robes her priests today in vestments of mourning, and suppresses the Gloria and Alleluia.

The Stational mass in Rome is at St Paul-without-the-Walls because the bodies of several of these holy martyrs are venerated there.

Let us show forth in holiness of life, the divinity of Christ, that was confessed by the death of these innocent children.

Ex ore infántium Deus, et lacténtium perfecísti laudem propter inimícos tuos. * Dómine Dóminus noster: quam admirábile est nomen tuum in univérsa terra! 
Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings, O God, Thou hast perfected praise because of Thine enemies. * O Lord our God: how admirable is Thy name in the whole earth!
(Psalm 8:3,2 from the Introit of Mass)

Deus, cujus hodiérna die præcónium Innocentes Mártyres non loquéndo, sed moriéndo conféssi sunt: ómnia in nobis vitiórum mala mortífica; ut fidem tuam, quam lingua nostra lóquitur, étiam móribus vita fateátur.
O God, Whose praise the martyred innocents did this day proclaim, not by speaking, but by dying, do to death in us all the malice of sinfulness, that our lives may also proclaim Thy faith, which our tongues profess. 

Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut nos Unigeniti Tui nova per carnem nativitas liberet; Quos sub peccati jugo vetustat servitus tenet. 
Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the new birth of Thine only-begotten Son in the flesh may set us free, who are held by the old bondage under the yoke of sin.
(Commemoration of Christmas)

The continuation of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.

At that time an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and His mother, and fly into Egypt; and be there until I tell thee: for it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy Him. Who arose, and took the child and His mother by night, and retired into Egypt; and He was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called My Son. Then Herod, perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending, killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
(St Matt. 2:13-18)

Hymn from the Breviary

This marvellous hymn, which is sung at Lauds and Vespers of the Holy Innocents, was written by Prudentius in the early 5th century.

Salvéte, flores Mártyrum,
Quos lucis ipso in límine
Christi insecútor sústulit,
Ceu turbo nascéntes rosas.

Vos prima Christi víctima,
Grex immolatórum tener,
Aram sub ipsam símplices
Palma et corónis lúditis.

Jesu, tibi sit glória,
Qui natus es de Vírgine, 
Cum Patre et almo Spíritu, 
In sempitérna saecula.  Amen.

All hail! ye infant martyr flowers,
Cut off in life's first dawning hours:
As rosebuds snapt in tempest strife
When Herod sought your Saviour's life.

You, tender flock of Christ, we sing,
First victims slain for Christ your King:
Beneath the Altar's heavenly ray
With Martyr-palms and crowns ye play.

All honour, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin-Born, to thee;
Whom with the Father we adore,
And Holy Ghost, for evermore.  Amen.

From the Catholic Encyclopaedia:

Tuesday 27 December 2016

27th December, St John, Apostle and Evangelist

St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

The Stational Mass was held at St. Mary Major in honour of her to whom Jesus on the Cross entrusted St. John: "Woman, behold thy son."

It is God whom we adore at Bethlehem during Christmas time. Thus it was natural that St. John, the chief evangelist of the divinity of Christ, should be found beside the crib, to disclose the greatness of the Infant who reposes therein.

It is to him that Jesus wished to entrust His mother when Joseph will have passed away. The liturgy, therefore, loves to show together, beside the Child and His Mother, him whom the Gospel calls the apostle the Just Man, and whom the Church to-day honours with the same title (Offertory).

The Infant God in the crib gathers around Him pure souls : Mary is the Blessed .Virgin, Joseph the chaste spouse, St. Stephen the first martyr who washes his robe in the blood of the Lamb. Now behold St. John, the virgin apostle. Crowned with the halo of those who knew how to conquer their flesh, for this reason he became "the disciple whom Jesus loved, and who also leaned on His breast at supper" (Gospel). Thanks to his angelic purity, he imbibed that wholesome wisdom of which the Epistle speaks and which won for him the halo of Doctor. The Introit of his Mass is the one the Church uses in the Common of Doctors. It is to St. John who wrote a Gospel, three Espitles and the Apocalypse, that we owe the most beautiful pages on the Divinity of the Word made flesh; and it is for this reason that he is symbolised by the eagle which soars in the heights. Finally he received the halo of martyr, since he only escaped a violent death by that special protection of which the Gospel speaks and which made many believe that the beloved disciple would not die. Actually he did not depart this life until all the other Apostles had passed away. His name is mentioned with theirs in the Canon of the Mass (first list).

The desire to connect the great saints with the Feast of the Nativity was the cause of celebrating on this day, except at Rome, the feast of St James (the brother of St John), and on the 28th that of St Peter and St Paul.

"On this day, wine offered by the faithful is blessed in remembrance and in honour of St John, who without any ill effects drank a cup of poisoned wine." (Roman Ritual)

In medio Ecclesiae aperuit os ejus; et implevit eum Dominus Spiritu sapientiae et intellectus; stolam gloriae induit eum. * Bonum est confiteri Domino, et psallere nomini tuo, Altissime.
He opened his mouth in the midst of the Church, and the Lord filled him with the spirit of wisdom: he clad him with a robe of glory. * It is good to give praise to the Lord, and to sing to thy name, O Most High.
(Ecclus. 15:5 and Psalm 91:2 from the Introit of Mass)

Ecclesiam tuam, Domine, benignus illustra: ut beati Joannis, Apostoli tui et Evangelistae illuminata doctrinis, ad dona perveniat sempiterna.
Mercifully, O Lord, enlighten thy Church: that being taught by blessed John,  thine Apostle and Evangelist,  she may come to thy eternal rewards.

Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus, ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem nativitas liberet, quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus tenet.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we who groan under the old captivity of sin, maybe freed therefrom by the new Birth of thine Only Begotten Son.
(Commemoration of Christmas)

The Catholic Encyclopaedia on St John:

Adeste Fideles: O Come let us adore Him!

Adeste fideles, laeti, triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem!
Natum videte Regem Angelorum!
Venite adoremus! Venite adoremus!
Venite adoremus Dominum!

Deum de Deo, Lumen de Lumine,
Gestant Puellae viscera,
Deum verum, genitum non factum.
Venite adoremus! etc.

Cantet nunc Io chorus angelorum,
Cantet nunc aula coelestium:
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Venite adoremus! etc.

Ergo qui natus die hodierna,
Jesu, tibi sit gloria
Patris aeterni Verbum caro factum!
Venite adoremus etc.

Come, ye Faithful, in joy and triumph, to Bethlehem, and gaze on the new-born King of Angels! Come, let us adore the Lord!

The Virgin’s womb carries the God of God, the Light of Light, the true God that was born, not made. Come, let us adore the Lord!

Let the Angel choir now sing its hymns. Let the court of the Blessed give forth its Glory be to God in the highest! Come, let us adore the Lord!

To thee, O Jesus! who art this day born, be glory. Glory be to thee, O Word of the Eternal Father, that art now made Flesh! Come, let us adore!

Monday 26 December 2016

26th December, St Stephen, First martyr

St Stephen, First Martyr

Station at St Stephen's on the Coelian Hill

The Church was still in her infancy when Stephen, renowned for his virtues, received from the Apostles the mission to organise the meals where the poor were fed in common. He worked such "great wonders and signs among the people " (Epistle) that the Jews from five different synagogues became alarmed and summoned him before the Sanhedrin (Introit).

Jesus had upbraided the Jews "for having killed and stoned the Prophets" (Gospel); Stephen in his turn, addressing his judges declared that in crucifying Christ they had shown themselves worthy of their fathers who put to death the messengers of God. The holy deacon then lifting his eyes to heaven said that he saw the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God" (Gospel). What a splendid testimony to the Divinity of this Child whom we venerate in the crib.

On hearing these words, the Jews fulfilling once more the words of the Master (Gospel), "with one accord ran violently upon Stephen and stoned him," who, falling on his knees, commended his soul to Jesus (Epistle) and asked pardon for his executioners (Collect).

Stephen is the first of the witnesses of Christ, it is therefore only right that he should appear first in the glorious procession of saints who surround the cradle of the Saviour. It is a tendency noticeable in a Greek martyrology of the fourth century to connect the greatest of the New Testament saints with the feast of the Nativity. His name is inscribed in the Canon of the Mass (second list).

Following after the example of Stephen, may we "love by charity even those who wrong us" (Collect), and be ever ready to surrender our life for Christ.

Sederunt principes, et adversum me loquebantur: et iniqui persecuti sunt me: adjuva me, Domine Deus meus, quia servus tuus exercebatur in tuis justificationibus. * Beati immaculati in via, qui ambulant in lege Domini.
Princes sat, and spoke against me: and the wicked persecuted me: help me, O Lord my God, for Thy servant was employed in Thy justifications.* Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.  (Psalm 118:23,86, 23, 1 from the Introit of Mass)

Da nobis, quaesumus, Domine, imitari quod colimus: ut discamus et inimicos diligere; quia ejus natalitia celebramus, qui novit etiam pro persecutoribus exorare Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum.
Grant us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to imitate what we revere, that we may learn to love even our enemies : for we celebrate the day of his birth to immortality, who could even plead on behalf of his persecutors with Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ.

Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem nativitas liberet, quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus tenet.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we who groan under the old captivity of sin, may be freed therefrom by the new Birth of thine Only Begotten Son.
(Commemoration of Christmas Day)

Lesson from the Acts of the Apostles.
In those days, Stephen, full of grace and fortitude, did great wonders and signs among the people. Now there arose some of that which is called the Synagogue of the Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen; and they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit that spoke. Now hearing these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed with their teeth at him. But Stephen being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And he said: Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. And they crying out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and with one accord ran violently upon him. And casting him forth without the city, they stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, invoking and saying: Lord Jesus! receive my spirit. And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: Lord! lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord. 
(Acts 6 and 7)

The Catholic Encyclopaedia on St Stephen:

Sunday 25 December 2016



Laetabundus Exsultet fidelis chorus. Alleluia.

The Sequence Laetabundus, for the mass of Christmas, is not found in the Tridentine Roman Missal. It was found in all the Gallican Missals, including those of France, and the English Sarum Usage; and is also in the Dominican and Carmelite Missals.

For a long time it was thought to have been written by St Bernard: but Dom Gueranger notes that he had seen it in a Manuscript of the eleventh century, and consequently it must have been written earlier than the date usually assigned to it.

Exsultet fidelis chorus.
Regem regum
Intactae profudit torus:
Res miranda!
Angelus Consilii
Natus est de Virgine,
Sol de Stella.
Sol occasum nesciens,
Stella semper rutilans,
Semper clara.
Sicut sidus radium,
Profert Virgo Filium
Pari forma.
Neque sidus radio,
Neque Virgo Filium
Fit corrupta.
Cedrus alta Libani
Conformatur hyssopo
Valle nostra.
Verbum ens Altissimi
Corporari passum est,
Carne sumpta.
Esaias cecinit,
Synagoga meminit;
Numquam tamen desinit
Esse caeca.
Si non suis vatibus,
Credat vel gentilibus,
Sibyllinis versibus
Haec praedicta:
Infelix, propera,
Crede vel vetera:
Cur damnaberis, gens misera?
Quem docet littera
Natum considera:
Ipsum genuit puerpera.
Let the choir of all the faithful exult in their joy. Alleluia.The Virgin’s womb hath given us the King of Kings! O wonderful mystery!
The Angel of the great Counsel is born of the Virgin, the Sun is born of a Star!
The Sun knows no setting; the Star is ever shining, ever bright.
As a star gives forth its ray, so does the Virgin her Child.
The star loses naught of its purity by the ray it yields, so neither does the Virgin by her Child.
The lofty cedar of Libanus comes down into our valley, making itself little as the hyssop.
He that is the Word of the Most High God deigns to take a body unto himself; he assumes our flesh.
Isaias had foretold all this; and the Jews, though they knew the prophecy by heart, see not its accomplishment in this mystery.
If they will not believe their Prophets, let them believe the Sybils, who thus sang:
‘Unhappy people, delay not, believe, at least, the ancient oracles! Why wilt thou be cast off, O wretched nation?
This is the Child of whom thy books tell thee: he is the Son of a Virgin-Mother.’

25th December, 3rd Mass of Christmas

Christmas Day - Mass during the Day

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God ... All things were made by Him" (Gospel). "Thou in the beginning, O Lord, didst found the earth, and the works of Thy hands are the heavens" (Epistle). "Thine are the Heavens and thine is the earth, the world and the fulness thereof Thou hast founded" (Offertory). Since man was made by Him, by Him also, will he be restored to his first dignity. Therefore "the Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us" (Gospel). "God ... last of all in these days (i.e., the age of the Messias), hath spoken to us by His Son who is the brightness of His glory" (Epistle). And the Church sings that "this day a great light hath descended upon the earth" (Alleluia). This Light shone in the darkness, but the darkness did not receive it, for "the Word came into the world but His own received Him not, but as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the Sons of God" (Gospel). In short, it was to free us from the bondage of sin, to cleanse us from our faults (Secret) and to cause us to be born anew to the divine life (Postcommunion) that the only-begotten Son of God was born, according to the flesh (Epistle).

More than seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, Isaias already extolled the power of this Infant-God. "A child is born to us ... whose government is upon His shoulder" (Introit); while His miracles are foreshadowed by almighty God in delivering the Hebrews from the Egyptian captivity (Versicle of Introit). Now, as then, "all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation that God has brought to His people" (Gradual and Communion).

The Redemption accomplished by Christ at His first coming will be completed by Him at the end of time. As St. Paul explains "(our Lord) making purgation of sins, sitteth on the right hand of the Majesty on High" (Epistle), so that His glorified humanity shares the throne of the Eternal God. "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of justice is the sceptre of Thy Kingdom (Epistle). Justice and judgment are the preparation of Thy throne" (Offertory). "One day," St. Luke tells us, the Son of Man will come in His glory and that of His Father and His angels, to give to each one according to his works." When (at the end of the world) He bringeth His first-begotten into the world, He saith: "And let all the angels of God adore Him" (Epistle). Then will take place a transformation of all created things, since the Son of God, Himself unchanging, "shall change them as a vesture" (Epistle).

Again, the Apostle, quoting for the seventh time from the passage from which this epistle is taken, adds that almighty God will make of the enemies of Christ a "footstool" for His feet. This will be the final triumph of the Incarnate Word who, at His second coming will punish those who did not receive Him at His first coming on earth, while He will give a share in His immortality to those who, like the Magi, come to worship from afar, received Him with faith and love and so were made sons of God. Since also Christ is as really present in the Holy Eucharist as He was at Bethlehem, let us adore Him on the altar, that true manger where lies the Infant God; for at this Christmas tide the liturgy through the Missal, shows us the Sacred Host, in the setting of Bethlehem. Besides, it is in the great Church of our Lady which represents Bethlehem in Rome that the day-time Mass of Christmas as well as the midnight Mass is sung.

Puer natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis: cujus imperium super humerum ejus: et vocabitur nomen ejus, magni consilii Angelus. * Cantate Domino canticum novum: quia mirabilia fecit.
A child is born to us, and a Son is given to us : whose government is upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called, the Angel of great counsel. * Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: because He hath done wonderful things.
(Isaias 9:6 and Ps. 97:1 from the Introit)

Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem nativitas liberet; quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus tenet.
Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the new birth in the flesh of Thine only-begotten Son may set us free, whom the old bondage doth hold under the yoke of sin. Through the same Lord.

The beginning of the holy  Gospel according to John.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life; and the life was the Light of men; and the Light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the Light, that all men might believe through him. He was not the Light, but was to give testimony of the Light. That was the true Light. which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him; and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them he gave power to be made the sons of God: to them that believe in his name, who are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH, and dwelt among us: and we saw his glory, as it were the glory of the Only-Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
(St John ch. 1)

25th December, 2nd Mass of Christmas

Christmas Day - Second Mass at Dawn

The Mass at dawn was celebrated in Rome in the very old church of St. Anastasia, this parish being the only one situated in the centre of Rome in the patrician quarters. Its position at the foot of the Palatine where the Caesars resided made St. Anastasia's the church of the great court functionaries. For this reason it was chosen as the station for the Second Mass on Christmas Day.

In the liturgy at this mass we are made to greet with joy the "Holy King who comes" (Communion), "the Lord who is born to us " (Introit), "the Infant lying in the manger " (Gospel). We are told that "He who was born Man" on this day shines forth also," in our eyes "as God" (Secret). For He is the "Word made Flesh" (Collect), "He is called God" (Introit), and He exists "from everlasting" (Offertory).

If, truly, He is come it is to save us (Epistle and Communion) and to make us "heirs of life everlasting" (Epistle), which we shall possess in heaven when this "Prince of Peace" shall return at the end of the world "clothed with strength" (Introit, Alleluia). Thus it is, that "the King of heaven who has condescended to be born for us of a virgin in order to recall man to the heavenly Kingdom from which he had fallen" (1st resp.) "will reign without end " (Introit) over men of good-will (Gloria) whom, in His first coming they welcomed with faith and love. The purpose of the Christmas celebrations is to prepare us for the second coming, justifying us by the grace of Christ Jesus (Epistle), overcoming the old man in us (Postcommunion), making us partakers of the divine nature (Secret) and helping us to show forth in our actions that which by faith shineth in our minds" (Collect).

Let us make haste to go with the shepherds to whom almighty God showed forth the Incarnation of His Son (Gospel), to adore at the altar, our manger, the Word born from all eternity of His heavenly Father, born of Mary upon earth, and who should be born more and more by grace in our hearts, while we await the time when He will cause us to be born into His glorious life in heaven.

Lux fulgebit hodie super nos: quia natus est nobis Dominus: et vocabitur Admirabilis, Deus, Princeps pacis, Pater futuri saeculi: cujus regni non erit finis. * Dominus regnavit, decorem indutus est: indutus est Dominus fortitudinem, et praecinxit se.
A light shall shine upon us this day: for the Lord is born to us: and He shall be called Wonderful, God, the Prince of Peace, the Father of the world to come: of whose reign there shall be no end. * The Lord hath reigned, He is clothed with beauty: the Lord is clothed with strength, and hath girded Himself.
(Isaias 9:2 and Ps. 92:1 from the Introit of Mass)

Da nobis, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus, ut qui nova incarnati Verbi tui luce perfundimur, hoc in nostro resplendeat opere, quod per fidem fulget in mente.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that as we are enlightened by the new light of thy Word become flesh, we may show, in our actions the effects of that faith which shineth in our minds.

Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.
At that time: The Shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that has come to pass, which the Lord hath showed to us. And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph and the Infant lying in a manger. And seeing, they understood of the word, that had been spoken to them concerning this Child. And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the Shepherds. But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. And the Shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
(St Luke, ch 2)

St. Anastasia was burnt alive at Sirmium (Mitrowitz, in Serbia), on this very day, the 25th of December, during the Diocletian Persecution in the beginning of the 4th century. This Saint's name occurs in the Canon of the Mass (second list).

Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus, ut qui beatae Anastasiae, Martyris tuae, solemnia colimus, ejus apud te patrocinia sentiamus.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that as we celebrate the solemnity of blessed Anastasia thy Martyr, we may be sensible of the effects of her prayers to thee in our behalf. 
(Commemoration of St Anastasia)

25th December, 1st Mass of Christmas

Christmas Day - Midnight Mass

The Word, begotten from all eternity by the Father, has raised into personal union with Himself the blessed Fruit of the virginal womb of Mary; in other words the human and divine natures are joined in our Lord in the unity of a single Person - the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Further, since when we speak of a son we mean a person, Jesus must be called the Son of God, because as the Son of God He is a Divine Person. From this it follows, that our Lady is called the Mother of God; not that she has begotten the Word but because from her is derived the humanity that the Word has united to Himself in the mystery of the Incarnation.

Of this mystery the first manifestation to the world was the birth of our Lord at Bethlehem. Whence we see the reason why every year at Christmas the Church says "Puer natus est nobis et Filius datus est nobis" - Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given - It is the Son of God, God begotten of the Father in the one day of eternity (Ego hodie genui te), who is now begotten of the Father as Man in the day of the Incarnation: Ego hodie genui te. " By the taking of the Manhood into God," says St. Athanasius, the Son of Mary is born to the divine Life. As it was at midnight that our Lady brought her first-born Son into the world and laid Him in a cradle, so Mass is celebrated at midnight in St. Mary Major, where the relics of the crib are kept.

"With great devotion," says St. Leo, "has the Incarnate Word given Himself to win for us the fight against Satan, for not in His divine Majesty but in the weakness of our flesh He waged war against this cruel enemy"."The victory which He has gained, in spite of His weakness, shows Him to be God. It is God of God, Light of Light," (Credo) who disperses the darkness of sin. "Christ is the true Light who comes to enlighten the world, plunged in darkness" (Collect). "By the mystery of the Word made Flesh," says the Preface, "the light of Thy glory hath shone anew upon the eyes of our mind: so that while we acknowledge Him as God seen by men, we may be drawn by Him to the love of things unseen." "The grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires ... that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and might cleanse to Himself a people acceptable, and zealous in good works." (Epistle). He is made like unto us that we may become like unto Him (Secret), and by His example may be enabled to live a holy life (Postcommunion). Thus shall we "live soberly, justly, and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ " (Epistle).

As we saw in Advent, the first Coming of our Lord prepares us for the second.

(Chapel of the Nativity, Bethlehem)

Dominus dixit ad me: Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te. * Quare fremuerunt gentes: et populi meditati sunt inania?
The Lord hath said to me: Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee. * Why have the Gentiles raged, and the people devised vain things?
(Psalm 2:7,1 from the Introit of Mass)

Deus, qui hanc sacratissimam noctem veri luminis fecisti illustratione clarescere: da, quaesumus, ut cujus lucis mysteria in terra cognovimus, ejus quoque gaudiis in coelo perfruamur.
O God, who hast enlightened this most sacred Night by the brightness of him who is the true Light: grant, we beseech thee, that we who have known the mysteries of this Light on earth, may likewise come to the enjoyment of it in heaven.

Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.
At that time, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first born Son, and wrapt him up in swaddling-clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country Shepherds watching and keeping the night-watches over their flock. And behold an Angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them, and they feared with a great fear. And the Angel said to them: Fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: for this day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you: You shall find the Infant wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.
(St Luke chapter 2)

St Leo the Great - Sermon for Christmas

Taken from the 2nd Nocturn of Matins of Christmas. 

Sermon of Saint Leo, Pope. 

On this day, dearly Beloved, is born our Saviour: let us be glad: for, surely, it is a sin to be sad on the Birthday of that Life, which, ridding us of the fear of death, gladdened us with the promise of immortality. From a share in this gladness, not one of us is excluded. To all, there is the one same cause of joy: for, our Lord, the destroyer of sin and death, came to deliver all, seeing that all were slaves to guilt. Let the saint exult, because he is now brought near to his crown; let the sinner rejoice, because he is invited to his pardon; let the Gentile be of good heart, because he is called to life. For, when there had come the fulness of time, fixed by the inscrutable depths of the divine counsel, the Son of God assumed to himself the nature of man, in order to restore it to the favour of its Maker; that thus, the Devil, the author of death, might be conquered by that very nature, whereby himself had conquered.

In the conflict thus entered into for our sakes, the combat was fought by our omnipotent God with great and admirable equity: inasmuch as it is not in His own Majesty, but in our lowliness, that he attacks our bitter foe; opposing him with the self-same form, and self-same nature as ours, man like us in everything save sin: for, that which is written of all men, had no place in this Nativity: "Not one is free from defilement, no, not the child whose life on earth is but one day." Into this admirable birth, then, there passed nothing pertaining to the concupiscence of the flesh, there entered not aught of the law of sin. A virgin of the royal family of David is chosen, who, having to be made mother of the Divine Child, the God-Man, conceived Him in her soul, before she conceived Him in her womb. And lest the ineffable mystery should make her fear, were she left ignorant of the Divine plan, she is told by the Angel of that which was to be done in her by the Holy Ghost, and was given to see how she could be Mother of God, yet remain a pure Virgin.

Let us, therefore, dearly Beloved, give thanks to God the Father: through His Son, in the Holy Ghost: because, through His exceeding charity, wherewith He hath loved us, He has had compassion upon us; and when we were dead in our sins, quickened us unto life together with Christ, that we might be a new creature in Him, and a new substance. Therefore, let us put off the old man with his acts, and, having been made partakers of the generation of Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh. Learn thy own worth, O Christian! and, having been made a partaker of the divine nature, scorn to become again the vile thing of old. Remember of what Head and of what body thou art a member. Remember how thou, having been snatched from the power of darkness, hast been translated into the Light and Kingdom of God.


This extract forms the lessons in the 2nd nocturn of Matins of Christmas. It is broken into 3 parts, as indicated. After each lesson, there is a responsory sung by the schola. These are magnificent texts of great power and antiquity, and have often been set to polyphonic notes.

R. O magnum mysterium, et admirabile sacramentum! ut animalia viderent Dominum natum jacentem in praesepio: * Beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum.
V. Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. * Beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum.

O great Mystery, and wonderful secret! brute beasts to see their newborn Lord laid in a manger! * Blessed is the Virgin, that deserved to carry in her womb, Christ our Lord!
V. Hail Mary! full of grace, the Lord is with thee. * Blessed is the Virgin, that deserved to carry in her womb, Christ our Lord!

R. Beata Dei genitrix Maria, cujus viscera intacta permanent: * Hodie genuit Salvatorem saeculi.
V. Beata quae credidit, quoniam perfecta sunt omnia quae dicta sunt ei a Domino. * Hodie genuit Salvatorem saeculi.

R The Blessed Mother of God. Mary, remaining ever the spotless Virgin, * Hath this day given birth to the Saviour of the world.
V. Blessed in that she believed, for all those things have been done in her, that were said unto her by the Lord. * Hath this day given birth to the Saviour of the world.

R. Sancta et immaculata Virginitas, quibus te laudibus efferam, nescio: * Quia quem coeli capere non poterant, tuo gremio contulisti.
V. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui. * Quia quem coeli capere non poterant, tuo gremio contulisti.
Gloria Patri ... * Quia quem coeli capere non poterant, tuo gremio contulisti.
R. O holy and immaculate Virginity, I know not with what praises I shall extol thee: * For thou didst bear in thy womb Him whom the heavens cannot contain.
V. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. * For thou didst bear in thy womb Him whom the heavens cannot contain.
Glory be ... * For thou didst bear in thy womb Him whom the heavens cannot contain.

Saturday 24 December 2016

Proclamation of Christmas

"At the Office of Prime, in cathedral chapters and monasteries, the announcement of tomorrow'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." Dom Gueranger

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.

Octavo Kalendas Januarii
Anno a creatione mundi, quando in principio Deus creavit caelum et terram, quinquies millesimo centesimo nonagesimo nono; a diluvio vero, anno bis millesimo nongentesimo quinquagesimo septimo; a nativitate Abrahae, anno bis millesimo quintodecimo; a Moyse et egressu populi Israel de Aegypto, anno millesimo quingentesimo decimo; ab unctione David in regem, anno millesimo 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 aetate, Jesus Christus, aeternus Deus aeternique Patris Filius, mundum volens adventu suo piissimo consecrare, de Spiritu Sancto conceptus, novemque post conceptionem decursis mensibus, in Bethlehem Judae nascitur ex Maria Virgine factus homo: NATIVITAS DOMINI NOSTRI JESU CHRISTI SECUNDUM CARNEM!

For further information on the chant, see:

24th December, Vigil of the Nativity of Our Lord

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)

Reading from St Jerome for Christmas Eve

This is taken from the Breviary readings for Matins of Christmas Eve.

Homily by St Jerome, Priest
(Book of Commentaries, on St Matthew 1)

Why was the Lord conceived of an espoused virgin rather than of a free? First, for the sake of the genealogy of Mary, which we have obtained by that of Joseph. Secondly, because she was thus saved from being stoned by the Jews as an adulteress. Thirdly, that Himself and His mother might have a guardian on their journey into Egypt. To these, Ignatius, the martyr of Antioch, has added a fourth reason namely, that the birth might take place unknown to the devil, who would naturally suppose that Mary had conceived by Joseph.

Before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. She was found, that is, by Joseph, but by no one else. He had already almost an husband's privilege to know all that concerned her. Before they came together. This doth not imply that they ever did come together the Scripture merely showeth the absolute fact that up to this time they had not done so.

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. If any man be joined to a fornicatress they become one body; and according to the law they that are privy to a crime are thereby guilty. How then can it be that Joseph is described as a just man, at the very time he was compounding the criminality of his espoused? It must have been that he knew her to be pure, and yet understood not the mystery of her pregnancy, but, while he wondered at that which had happened, was willing to hold his peace.

R. Sanctificamini hodie et estote parati: quia die crastina videbitis * Majestatem Dei in vobis.
V. Hodie scietis, quia veniet Dominus, et mane videbitis. R. Majestatem Dei in vobis.

R. Sanctify yourselves to-day, and be ready for on the morrow ye shall see * The majesty of God upon you.
V. This day ye shall know that the Lord cometh, and in the morning, then ye shall see R. The majesty of God upon you.
(1st Responsory of Matins of Christmas Eve).

For the Office of the Day, refer to