Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A BLESSED CHRISTMAS TO ALL: THE HOLY FATHER'S LATIN SOLEMN MASS AT MIDNIGHT OR 10:00 PM

The Christmas Mass at Night is mostly in Latin and quite beautiful with traditional Latin Chants. The Credo is the Jubilatio Deo version (Chant III) but when it came time for all to kneel for the "Incarnatus est..." the Gregorian Chant stopped and a operatic soprano soloist sang an elaborate version of it and quite effectively.



And the following is Christmas Day's Urbi et Orbi message. The pope appears at about minute 9. And not since the night of his election, Pope Francis uses the ornate papal stole for the actual blessing which is placed upon him at minute 21:12. It truly is papal looking. Now if only the mozzetta and other papal trappings, but alas even small gifts are something.

The Following is the homily for the Midnight Mass:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Is 9:1). “An angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Lk 2:9). This is how the liturgy of this holy Christmas night presents to us the birth of the Saviour: as the light which pierces and dispels the deepest darkness. The presence of the Lord in the midst of his people cancels the sorrow of defeat and the misery of slavery, and ushers in joy and happiness.

We too, in this blessed night, have come to the house of God. We have passed through the darkness which envelops the earth, guided by the flame of faith which illuminates our steps, and enlivened by the hope of finding the “great light”. By opening our hearts, we also can contemplate the miracle of that child-sun who, arising from on high, illuminates the horizon.

The origin of the darkness which envelops the world is lost in the night of the ages. Let us think back to that dark moment when the first crime of humanity was committed, when the hand of Cain, blinded by envy, killed his brother Abel (cf. Gen 4:8). As a result, the unfolding of the centuries has been marked by violence, wars, hatred and oppression. But God, who placed a sense of expectation within man made in his image and likeness, was waiting. God was waiting. He waited for so long that perhaps at a certain point it seemed he should have given up. But he could not give up because he could not deny himself (cf. 2 Tim 2:13). Therefore he continued to wait patiently in the face of the corruption of man and peoples. The patience of God. How difficult it is to comprehend this: God’s patience towards us.

Through the course of history, the light that shatters the darkness reveals to us that God is Father and that his patient fidelity is stronger than darkness and corruption. This is the message of Christmas night. God does not know outbursts of anger or impatience; he is always there, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, waiting to catch from afar a glimpse of the lost son as he returns; and every day, with patience. The patience of God.

Isaiah’s prophecy announces the rising of a great light which breaks through the night. This light is born in Bethlehem and is welcomed by the loving arms of Mary, by the love of Joseph, by the wonder of the shepherds. When the angels announced the birth of the Redeemer to the shepherds, they did so with these words: “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). The “sign” is in fact the humility of God, the humility of God taken to the extreme; it is the love with which, that night, he assumed our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations. The message that everyone was expecting, that everyone was searching for in the depths of their souls, was none other than the tenderness of God: God who looks upon us with eyes full of love, who accepts our poverty, God who is in love with our smallness.

On this holy night, while we contemplate the Infant Jesus just born and placed in the manger, we are invited to reflect. How do we welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close? “But I am searching for the Lord” – we could respond. Nevertheless, what is most important is not seeking him, but rather allowing him to seek me, find me and caress me with tenderness. The question put to us simply by the Infant’s presence is: do I allow God to love me?

More so, do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near to us, or do we prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps effective but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel? How much the world needs tenderness today! The patience of God, the closeness of God, the tenderness of God.

The Christian response cannot be different from God’s response to our smallness. Life must be met with goodness, with meekness. When we realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us, we cannot help but open our hearts to him, and beseech him: “Lord, help me to be like you, give me the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life, give me the grace of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict”.

Dear brothers and sisters, on this holy night we contemplate the Nativity scene: there “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1). People who were unassuming, people open to receiving the gift of God, were the ones who saw this light. This light was not seen, however, by the arrogant, the proud, by those who made laws according to their own personal measures, who were closed off to others. Let us look to the crib and pray, asking the Blessed Mother: “O Mary, show us Jesus!”.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Father McDonald,

Thank you for your tireless efforts to help your flock gain salvation. I would consider myself blessed to have you as my pastor. Maybe I'll cruise through Macon one day and get a chance to attend a Mass at St. Joesph.

Merry Christmas

Mike

John Nolan said...

Re the Papal Mass: It's good to see that the Mass setting was Mass IX (Cum Jubilo), traditional for Christmas and feasts of Our Lady. This is a fairly recent restoration and reflects an overall improvement in musical standards at St Peter's over the past 20 years.

What was remarkable last night was that Credo III was interrupted for a performance of the 'Et Incarnatus', for soprano solo and orchestra, from Mozart's incomplete C Minor Mass. It lasts for over eight minutes and everyone knelt throughout.

This piece happens to be a favourite of Pope Francis (he mentioned it in an interview last year) and its inclusion must have been his doing. The soloist, conductor and orchestra are for some reason not credited in the official booklet.



quicumquevult said...

"...but alas even small gifts are something."

Indeed! I got a Christmas gift from the good Lord at last night's midnight Mass, an answer to Rosaries I had prayed for quite a while: the altar boys, who henceforth have worn the alb, came out in cassock and surplice last night! I had no idea it was going to happen, so it was quite a (pleasant) surprise. And two of them were torchbearers, too (or if not torchbearers in the strict sense, they carried nice candles). I was also informed the change away from the alb would be permanent!

It certainly gives me an incentive to keep praying for other things, too. God is willing to give us so many gifts; we just need to ASK for them.

Merry Christmas!