JANUARY 1
THE CIRCUMCISION OF OUR LORD AND OCTAVE OF CHRISTMAS DAY

Our new-born King and Saviour is eight days old to-day; the Star that guides the Magi is advancing towards Bethlehem, and five days hence will be standing over the Stable where our Jesus is being nursed by his Mother. To-day the Son of Man is to be circumcised; this first sacrifice of his innocent Flesh must honour the eighth day of his mortal life. To-day also a Name is to be given him: the Name will be Jesus, and it means Saviour. So that mysteries abound on this day: let us not pass one of them over, but honour them with all possible devotion and love.

But this day is not exclusively devoted to the Circumcision of Jesus. The mystery of this Circumcision forms part of that other great mystery, the Incarnation and Infancy of our Saviour - a mystery on which the Church fixes her heart not only during this Octave, but during the whole forty days of Christmastide. Then, as regards our Lord’s receiving the Name of Jesus, a special Feast, which we shall soon be keeping, is set apart in honour of it. There is another object that shares the love and devotion of the Faithful on this great Solemnity. This object is Mary, the Mother of God. The Church celebrates to-day the august prerogative of this divine Maternity which was conferred on a mere creature, and made her the co-operatrix with Jesus in the great work of man’s salvation.

The holy Church of Rome used formerly to say two Masses on the first of January; one was for the Octave of Christmas Day, the other was in honour of Mary. She now unites the two intentions in one Sacrifice, in the same manner as, in the rest of this Day’s Office, she unites together the acts of her adoration of the Son, and the expressions of her admiration for and confidence in the Mother.

The Greek Church does not wait for this eighth day, in order to pay her tribute of homage to her who has given us our Emmanuel. She consecrates to Mary the first day after Christmas, that is December 26, and calls it the Synaxis of the Mother of God, making the two days one continued Feast. She is thus obliged to defer the Feast of St Stephen to December 27.

But it is to-day that we, the children of the Roman Church, must pour forth all the love of our hearts for the Virgin-Mother, and rejoice with her in the exceeding happiness she feels at having given birth to her and our Lord. During Advent we contemplated her as pregnant with the world’s salvation; we proclaimed the glory of that Ark of the New Covenant, whose chaste womb was the earthly paradise chosen by the King of Ages for his dwelling-place. Now she has brought him forth, the Infant-God; she adores him, him who is her Son. She has the right to call him her Child; and he, God as he is, calls her in strictest truth his Mother.

Let us not be surprised, therefore, at the enthusiasm and profound respect wherewith the Church extols the Blessed Virgin and her prerogatives. Let us on the contrary be convinced that all the praise the Church can give her, and all the devotion she can ever bear towards her, are far below what is due to her as Mother of the Incarnate God. No mortal will ever be able to describe, or even comprehend, how great a glory accrues to her from this sublime dignity. For, as the glory of Mary comes from her being the Mother of God, one would have first to comprehend God himself in order to measure the greatness of her dignity. It is to God that Mary gave our human nature; it is God whom she had as her Child; it is God who gloried in rendering himself, inasmuch as he is Man, subject to her: hence, the true value of such a dignity, possessed by a mere creature, can only be appreciated in proportion to our knowledge of the sovereign perfections of the great God, who thus deigns to make himself dependent upon that favoured creature. Let us therefore bow down in deepest adoration before the Majesty of our God; let us therefore acknowledge that we cannot respect as it deserves the extraordinary dignity of her whom he chose for his Mother.

The same sublime Mystery overpowers the mind from another point of view: what were the feelings of such a Mother towards such a Son? The Child she holds in her arms and presses to her heart is the Fruit of her virginal womb, and she loves him as her own; she loves him because she is his Mother, and a Mother loves her Child as herself, nay, more than herself: but when she thinks upon the infinite majesty of him who has thus given himself to her to be the object of her love and her fond caresses, she trembles in her humility, and her soul has to turn, in order to bear up against the overwhelming truth, to the other thought of the nine months she held this Babe in her womb, and of the filial smile he gave her when her eyes first met his. These two deep-rooted feelings - of a creature that adores, and of a Mother that loves - are in Mary’s heart. To be Mother of God implies all this: and may we not well say that no pure creature could be exalted more than she? and that in order to comprehend her dignity, we should first have to comprehend God himself? and that only God’s infinite wisdom could plan such a work, and only his infinite power accomplish it?

A Mother of God! It is the mystery whose fulfilment the world, without knowing it, was awaiting for four thousand years. It is the work which, in God’s eyes, was incomparably greater than that of the creation of a million new worlds, for such a creation would cost him nothing; he has but to speak, and all whatsoever he wills is made. But that a creature should become Mother of God, he has had not only to suspend the laws of nature by making a Virgin Mother, but also to put himself in a state of dependence upon the happy creature he chose for his Mother. He had to give her rights over himself, and contract the obligation of certain duties towards her. He had to make her his Mother, and himself her Son.

It follows from all this, that the blessings of the Incarnation, for which we are indebted to the love where with the Divine Word loved us, may and ought to be referred, though in an inferior degree, to Mary herself. If she be the Mother of God, it is because she consented to it, for God vouchsafed not only to ask her consent, but moreover to make the coming of his Son into this world depend upon her giving it. As this his Son, the Eternal Word, spoke his FIAT over chaos, and the answer to his word was creation; so did Mary use the same word FIAT: let it be done unto me [St Luke i. 38], she said. God heard her word, and immediately the Son of God descended into her virginal womb. After God, then, it is to Mary, his ever Blessed Mother, that we are indebted for our Emmanuel.

The divine plan for the world’s salvation included the existence of a Mother of God: and as heresy sought to deny the mystery of the Incarnation, it equally sought to deny the glorious prerogative of Mary. Nestorius asserted that Jesus was only man; Mary consequently was not Mother of God, but merely Mother of a Man called Jesus. This impious doctrine roused the indignation of the Catholic world. The East and West united in proclaiming that Jesus was God and Man, in unity of Person; and that Mary, being his Mother, was, in strict truth, Mother of God’ [Deipara, Theotókos, are the respective Latin and Greek terms.] This victory over Nestorianism was won at the Council of Ephesus. It was hailed by the Christians of those times with an enthusiasm of faith which not only proved the tender love they had for the Mother of Jesus, but was sure to result in the setting up of some solemn trophy that would perpetuate the memory of the victory. It was then that the pious custom began, in both the Greek and Latin Churches, of uniting during Christmas the veneration due to the Mother with the supreme worship given to the Son. The day assigned for the united commemoration varied in the several countries, but the sentiment of religion which suggested the Feast was one and the same throughout the entire Church.

The holy Pope Xystus III ordered an immense mosaic to be worked into the chancel-arch of the Church of St Mary Major, in Rome, as a monument to the holy Mother of God. The mosaic still exists, bearing testimony as to what was the faith held in the fifth century. It represents the various scriptural types of our Lady, and the inscription of the holy Pontiff is still legible in its bold letters: XYSTUS EPISCOPUS PLEBI DEI (Xystus Bishop to the people of God): for the Saint had dedicated to the faithful this his offering to Mary, the Mother of God.

Special chants were also composed at Rome for the celebration of the great mystery of the Word made Man through Mary. Sublime Responsories and Antiphons, accompanied by appropriate music, were written to serve the Church and her children as the expression of their faith, and they are the ones we now use. The Greek Church makes use of some of these very Antiphons for the Christmas Solemnity; so that with regard to the mystery of the Incarnation there is not only unity of faith, there is also oneness of devotional sentiment.


FIRST VESPERS

The First Vespers of the Circumcision are made peculiarly solemn by the chanting of the five venerable Antiphons to which we have just alluded. The Psalms are those which are sung at the Vespers of the Feasts of our Lady.

The first of these Psalms celebrates the kingly character, the Priesthood and the sovereign Judgeship of our Emmanuel, and implies, consequently, the wonderful dignity of her who gave him Birth. The second contains the praise of God, who exalts the humble, and gives the joys of maternity where nature has refused them; it announces with an air of triumph the glories and the maternity of Mary, Mother of God and Mother of men. The last three Psalms chant the praises of Jerusalem, the City of God: the symbol of Mary, who is the City of God.

Ant. O admirabile commercium! Creator generis humani animatum corpus sumens, de Virgine nasci dignatus est; et procedens homo sine semine, largitus est nobis suam deitatem. Ant. O admirable Interchange The Creator of mankind, assuming a living Body, deigned to be born of a Virgin; and becoming Man without man’s aid, bestowed on us his Divinity.

PSALM 109

Dixit Dominus Domino meo: * Sede a dextris meis.
Donec ponam inimicos tuos: * scabellum pedum tuorum.
Virgam virtutis tuae emittet Dominus ex Sion: * dominare in medio inimicorum tuorum.
Tecum principium in die virtutis tuae in splendoribus sanctorum: * ex utero Ante luciferum genui te.
Juravit Dominus, et non poenitebit eum: * Tu es Sacerdos in aeternum secundum ordinem Melchisedech.
Dominus a dextris tuis: * confregit in die irae suae reges.
Judicabit in nationibus, implebit ruinas: * conquassabit capita in terra multo rum.
De torrente in via bibet: * propterea exaltabit caput.
The Lord said to my Lord, his Son: Sit thou at my right hand, and reign with me.
Until, on the day of thy last coming, I make thy enemies thy footstool.
O Christ! the Lord thy Father will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion: from thence rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength, in the brightness of the saints: for the Father hath said to thee: From the womb before the day-star I begot thee.
The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: he hath said, speaking of thee, the God-Man: Thou art a Priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech.
Therefore, O Father! the Lord thy Son, is at thy right hand: he hath broken kings in the day of his wrath.
He shall also judge among nations: he shall fill the ruins of the world: he shall crush the heads in the land of many.
He cometh now in humility; he shall drink, in the way, of the torrent of sufferings: therefore shall he lift up the head.
Ant. O admirabile commercium! Creator generis humani animatum corpus sumens, de Virgine nasci dignatus est; et procedens homo sine semine, largitus est nobis suam deitatem.

Ant. Quando natus es ineffabiliter ex Virgine, tunc impletae sunt Scripturae; sicut pluvia in vellus descendisti, ut salvum faceres genus humanum: te laudamus, Deus noster.

Ant. O admirable Interchange The Creator of man kind, assuming a living Body, deigned to be born of a Virgin; and becoming Man without man’s aid, bestowed on us his Divinity.

Ant. When thou wast born ineffably of the Virgin, the Scriptures were fulfilled. As dew upon Gedeon’s Fleece, thou camest down to save mankind.

PSALM 112

Laudate, pueri, Dominum: * laudate nomen Domini.
Sit nomen Domini bene dictum: * ex hoc nunc et usque in saeculum.
A solis ortu usque ad occasum: * laudabile nomen Domini.
Excelsus super omnes gentes Dominus: * et super coelos gloria ejus.
Quis sicut Dominus Deus noster qui in altis habitat:* et humilia respicit in coelo et in terra?
Suscitans a terra inopem: * et de stercore erigens pauperem.
Ut collocet eum cum principibus: * cum principibus populi sui.
Qui habitare facit sterilem in domo: * matrem filiorum laetantem.
Praise the Lord, ye children: praise ye the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord: from henceforth now and for ever.
From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the name of the Lord is worthy of praise.
The Lord is high above all nations: and his glory above the heavens.
Who is as the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high:
and looketh down on the low things in heaven and on earth? Nay, not content with this, he deigns to come down among us.
Raising up, from his divine Crib, the needy from the earth: and lifting up the poor out of the dunghill.
That he may place him with princes: with the princes of his people.
Who maketh a barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children.
Ant. Quando natus es ineffabiliter ex Virgine, tunc impletae sunt Scripturae; sicut pluvia in vellus descendisti, ut salvum faceres genus humanum: te laudamus, Deus noster.

Ant. Rubum, quem viderat Moyses incombustum, conservatam agnovimus tuam laudabilem virginitatem: Dei Genitrix, intercede pro nobis.

Ant. When thou wast born ineffably of the Virgin, the Scriptures were fulfilled. As dew upon Gedeon’s Fleece, thou camest down to save mankind.

Ant. In the bush seen by Moses as burning yet unconsumed, we recognize the preservation of thy glorious Virginity. O Mother of God, intercede for us.

PSALM 121

Laetatus sum in his qua dicta sunt mihi: * In domum Domini ibimus.
Stantes erant pedes nostri: * in atriis tuis, Jerusalem.
Jerusalem qua aedificatur ut civitas: * cujus participatio ejus in idipsum.
Illuc enim ascenderunt tribus, tribus Domini: * testimonium Israel ad confitendum Nomini Domini.
Quia illic sederunt sedes in judicio: * sedes super domum David.
Rogate qua ad pacem sunt Jerusalem: * et abundantia diligentibus te.
Fiat pax in virtute tua: * et abundantia in turribus tuis.
Propter fratres meos et proximos meos: * loquebar pacem de te.
Propter domum Domini Dei nostri: * quaesivi bona tibi.
I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: We shall go into the house of the Lord.
Our feet were standing in thy courts, O Jerusalem! Our heart loves and confides in thee, O Mary.
Mary is like to Jerusalem that is built as a city; which is compact together.
For thither did the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord: the testimony of Israel, to praise the Name of the Lord.
Because seats sat there in judgement; seats upon the house of David; and Mary is of a kingly race.
Pray ye, through Mary, for the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem: and may abundance be on them that love thee, O Church of our God!
The voice of Mary: Let peace be in thy strength, O thou new Sion! and abundance in thy towers.
I, a daughter of Israel, for the sake of my brethren and of my neighbours, spoke peace of thee.
Because of the house of the Lord our God, I have sought good things for thee.
Ant. Rubum, quem viderat Moyses incombustum, conservatam agnovimus tuam laudabilem virginitatem: Dei Genitrix, intercede pro nobis.

Ant. Germinavit radix Jesse; orta est stella ex Jacob; Virgo peperit Salvatorem: te laudamus, Deus noster.

Ant. In the bush seen by Moses as burning yet unconsumed, we recognize the preservation of thy glorious Virginity. O Mother of God, intercede for us.

Ant. The Root of Jesse hath budded; the Star hath risen out of Jacob; a Virgin hath brought forth the Saviour. O Lord our God we praise thee.

PSALM 126

Nisi Dominus adificaverit domum: * in vanum laboraverunt qui aedificant eam.
Nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem: * frustra vigilat qui custodit eam.
Vanum est vobis ante lucem surgere: * surgite postquam sederitis, qui manducatis panem doloris.
Cum dederit dilectis suis somnum: * ecce haereditas Domini filii: merces, fructus ventris.
Sicut sagittae in manu potentis: * ita filii excusso rum.
Beatus vir, qui implevit desiderium suum ex ipsis: * non confundetur cum loquetur inimicis suis in porta.
Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.
Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it.
It is vain for you to rise be fore light; rise ye after you have sitten, you that eat of the bread of sorrow.
When he shall give sleep to his beloved: behold the inheritance of the Lord are children; the reward, the fruit of the womb.
As arrows in the hand of the mighty, so the children of them that have been shaken.
Blessed is the man that hath filled his desire with them; he shall not be confounded when he shall speak to his enemies in the gate.
Ant. Germinavit radix Jesse; orta est stella ex Jacob; Virgo peperit Salvatorem: te laudamus, Deus noster.

Ant. Ecce Maria genuit nobis Salvatorem, quem Joannes videns exclamavit, dicens: Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi, alleluia.

Ant. The Root of Jesse hath budded; the Star hath risen out of Jacob; a Virgin hath brought forth the Saviour. O Lord our God we praise thee.

Ant. Lo! Mary hath brought forth a Saviour unto us, whom John seeing exclaimed: Behold the Lamb of God! Behold him that taketh away the sins of the world, alleluia.

PSALM 147

Lauda, Jerusalem, Domi num: * lauda Deum tuum, Sion.
Quoniam confortavit seras portarum tuarum: * benedixit filiis tuis in te.
Qui posuit fines tuos pacem, * et adipe frumenti satiat te.
Qui emittit eloquium suum terrae: * velociter currit sermo ejus.
Qui dat nivem sicut lanam: * nebulam sicut cinerem spargit.
Mittit crystallum suam sicut buccellas: ante faciem frigoris ejus quis sustinebit?
Emittet verbum suum, et liquefaciet ea: * flabit spiritus ejus, et fluent aquae.
Qui annuntiat verbum suum Jacob: * justitias, et judicia sua Israel.
Non fecit taliter omni nationi: * et judicia sua non manifestavit eis.
Praise the Lord, O Mary, thou true Jerusalem: O Mary, O Sion ever holy, praise thy God.
Because he hath strengthened against sin the bolts of thy gates: he hath blessed thy children within thee.
Who hath placed peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the fat of corn, with Jesus who is the Bread of life.
Who sendeth forth by thee his Word to the earth; his Word runneth swiftly.
Who giveth snow like wool; scattereth mists like ashes.
He sendeth his crystal like morsels: who shall stand before the face of his cold?
He shall send forth his Word by Mary, and shall melt them:
his spirit shall breathe, and the waters shall run.
Who declareth his Word to Jacob: his justices and judgements to Israel.
He hath not done in like manner to every nation; and his judgements he hath not made manifest to them.
Ant. Ecce Maria genuit nobis Salvatorem, quem Joannes videns exclamavit, dicens: Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi, alleluia. Ant. Lo! Mary hath brought forth a Saviour unto us, whom John seeing exclaimed: Behold the Lamb of God! Behold him that taketh away the sins of the world, alleluia.

CAPITULUM

(Tit. ii)

Apparuit gratia Dei Salvatoris nostri omnibus hominibus, erudiens nos, ut abnegantes impietatem et saecularia desideria, sobrie et juste et pie vivamus in hoc saeculo. The grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men, instructing us, that denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly and justly and godly in this world.

Then is sung the Hymn of Christmas Day, Jesu, Redemptor omnium.

V. Verbum caro factum est, alleluia.
R. Et habitavit in nobis, alleluia.
V. The Word was made flesh, alleluia
R. And dwelt among us, alleluia.

ANTIPHON OF THE MAGNIFICAT

Ant. Propter nimiam charitatem suam qua dilexit nos Deus, Filium suum misit in similitudinem carnis peccati. Alleluia. Ant. By reason of the exceeding charity wherewith God loved us, he sent us his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. Alleluia.
Oremus.
Deus, qui salutis aeternae, beatae Mariae virginitate fecunda, humano generi praemia prastitisti: tribue, quaesumus, ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamus, per quam meruimus auctorem vitae suscipere, Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, Filium tuum. Qui tecum.
Let us pray.
O God, who by the fruitful Virginity of the Blessed Mary hast given to mankind the rewards of eternal salvation; grant, we beseech thee, that we may experience her intercession, by whom we received the Author of Life, our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son. Who liveth, etc.

 


MASS

This Station is at St Mary’s across the Tiber. It was but just that this Basilica should receive such an honour, for it is the most ancient of all the Churches raised by the devotion of the faithful of Rome in honour of our Blessed Lady. It was consecrated in the third century by St Callixtus, on the site of the ancient Taberna Meritoria, celebrated even among the Pagans, for the fountain of oil which sprang up in that spot in the reign of Augustus, and flowed into the Tiber. The piety of the Christians interpreted this as a symbol of the Christ that was afterwards born; and the Basilica is sometimes called, even to this day, Fons Olei.

The Introit is that of the Third Mass of Christmas Day, as are also most of the portions that are chanted by the choir. It celebrates the Birth of the Child who is born unto us, and is to-day eight days old.

INTROIT

Puer natus est nobis, et Filius datus est nobis; cujus imperium super humerum ejus: et vocabitur nomen ejus magni Consilii Angelus.
Ps. Cantate Domino canticum novum, quia mirabilia fecit. V. Gloria Patri. Puer.
A Child is born unto us, and a Son is given to us; and the government is upon his Shoulder: and his name shall be called the Angel of the great Counsel.
Ps. Sing to the Lord a new Canticle, for he hath done wonderful things. V. Glory, etc. A Child, etc.

In the Collect the Church celebrates the Fruitful Virginity of the Mother of God, and shows Mary to us as the source whence God poured out upon mankind the blessing of the Incarnation. She expresses to God himself the hopes we have in the intercession of this privileged creature.

COLLECT

Deus, qui salutis aeternae, beatae Mariae virginitate fecunda, humano generi praemia prastitisti: tribue, quaesumus, ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamus, per quam meruimus auctorem vitae suscipere, Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, Filium tuum. Qui tecum. O God, who by the fruitful Virginity of the Blessed Mary hast given to mankind the rewards of eternal salvation; grant, we beseech thee, that we may experience her intercession, by whom we received the Author of Life, our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son. Who liveth, etc.

EPISTLE

Lectio Epistolae beati Pauli Apostoli ad Titum.

Cap. II.

Carissime, apparuit gratia Dei Salvatoris nostri omnibus hominibus, erudiens nos, ut abnegantes impietatem et saecularia desideria, sobrie et juste et pie vivamus in hoc saeculo, exspectantes beatam spem, et adventum gloriae magni Dei et Salvatoris nostri Jesu Christi: qui dedit semetipsum pro nobis, ut nos redimeret ab omni iniquitate et mundaret sibi populum acceptabilem, sectatorem bonorum operum. Haec loquere et exhortare: in Christo Jesu Domino nostro.

Lesson of the Epistle of St Paul the Apostle to Titus.

Ch. II.

Dearly beloved: The grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men, instructing us that denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly and 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: who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and might cleanse to himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works. These things speak and exhort: in Christ Jesus our Lord.

These counsels of our great Apostle, who warns the Faithful of the obligation they are under of making a good use of the present life, are most appropriate to this first day of January, which is now the beginning of the new Civil Year. Let us, therefore, renounce all worldly desires; let us live soberly, justly, and piously, and permit nothing to distract us from the expectation of that blessedness, which is our hope. The great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who shows himself to us in these days of his mercy in order to instruct us, will come to us in a second coming in order to give us our reward. The beginning of a New Year tells us plainly enough that this last day is fast approaching; let us cleanse ourselves from all iniquity, and become a people acceptable to our Redeemer, a people doing good works.

The Gradual proclaims the grand tidings of the Birth of our Jesus, and invites all nations to give praise to him, as also to the Eternal Father, who had promised him by the Prophets, and at length sent him.

GRADUAL

Viderunt omnes fines terrae Salutare Dei nostri: jubilate Deo omnis terra.
V. Notum fecit Dominus Salutare suum: ante conspectum gentium revelavit justitiam suam.

Alleluia, alleluia.
V. Multifarie olim Deus loquens patribus in Prophetis, novissime diebus istis locutus est nobis in Filio. Alleluia.

All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God: sing joyfully to the Lord, all thou earth.
V. The Lord hath made known his salvation: he hath revealed his justice in the sight of the Gentiles.

Alleluia, alleluia.
V. God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to our fathers by the Prophets, last of all in these days hath spoken to us by his Son. Alleluia.

GOSPEL

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Cap. II.

In illo tempore: Postquam consummati sunt dies octo, ut circumcideretur Puer; vocatum est nomen ejus Jesus, quod vocatum est ab Angelo priusquam in utero conciperetur.

Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.

Ch. II.

At that time: After eight days were accomplished that the Child should be circumcised, his name was called Jesus, which was called by the Angel before he was conceived in the womb.

The Child is circumcised: he is now not only a member of the human race; he is made to-day a member of God’s chosen People. He subjects himself to this painful ceremony, to this symbol of one devoted to the Divine service, in order that he may fulfil all justice. He receives, at the same time, his Name: the Name is Jesus, and it means a Saviour. A Saviour! Then he is to save us? Yes; and he is to save us by his Blood. Such is the divine appointment, and he has bowed down his will to it. The Incarnate Word is upon the earth in order to offer a Sacrifice, and the Sacrifice is begun to-day. This first shedding of the Blood of the Man-God was sufficient to the fulness and perfection of a Sacrifice; but he is come to win the heart of the sinner, and that heart is so hard that all the streams of that Precious Blood, which flow from the Cross on Calvary, will scarcely make it yield. The drops that were shed to-day would have been enough to satisfy the justice of the Eternal Father, but not to cure man’s miseries, and the Babe’s Heart would not be satisfied to leave us uncured. He came for man’s sake, and his love for man will go to what looks like excess - he will carry out the whole meaning of his dear name - he will be our ‘ Jesus,’ our Saviour.

The Offertory extols the power of our Emmanuel. Now that he is humbled by the wound of the Circumcision, it must be our delight to proclaim his power, his riches, his independence. Let us also magnify his love for us, for it is in order to cure our wounds that he so humbly condescends to feel their smart himself.

OFFERTORY

Tui sunt coeli, et tua est terra; orbem terrarum et plenitudinem ejus tu fundasti: justitia et judicium praeparatio sedis tuae. Thine are the heavens, and thine is the earth; the world and the fulness thereof thou hast founded: justice and judgement are the preparation of thy throne.

SECRET

Muneribus nostris, quaesumus, Domine, precibusque susceptis: et coelestibus nos munda mysteriis, et clementer exaudi. Per Dominum. Receive, O Lord, our offerings and prayers: cleanse us by these mysteries, and mercifully  hear us. Through, etc.

At the Communion, the Church rejoices in the Jesus, the Saviour, who visits her, and acts up to his sweet Name with such perfection by redeeming the inhabitants of the whole earth. In the Postcommunion she prays that by the intercession of Mary the Holy Communion may cure our hearts of their sins, that thus we may offer to God the homage of that spiritual circumcision of which the Apostle so often speaks.

COMMUNION

Viderunt omnes fines terrae Salutare Dei nostri. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

POSTCOMMUNION

Haec nos communio, Do mine, purget a crimine: et intercedente beata Virgine Dei Genitrice Maria, coelestis remedii faciat esse consortes. Per Dominum. May this communion, O Lord, cleanse us from sin: and by the intercession of Blessed Mary, the Virgin-Mother of God, make us partakers of thy heavenly remedy. Through, etc.

 


SECOND VESPERS

The Antiphons and Psalms are the same as in First Vespers; above. The Capitulum and Hymn of yesterday are repeated; after which are said the following:

V. Notum fecit Dominus, alleluia.
R. Salutare suum, alleluia.
V. The Lord hath made known, alleluia.
R. His salvation, alleluia.

ANTIPHON OF THE MAGNIFICAT

Ant. Magnum haereditatis mysterium! Templum Dei factus est uterus nesciens virum: non est pollutus ex ea carnem assumens; omnes gentes venient, dicentes: Gloria tibi, Domine. Ant. Great is the mystery of our inheritance! The womb of a most pure Virgin became the Temple of God. He is not defiled assuming to himself Flesh from her. All nations shall come, saying: Glory be to thee, O Lord
Oremus.
Deus, qui salutis aeternae, beatae Mariae virginitate fecunda, humano generi praemia prastitisti: tribue, quaesumus, ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamus, per quam meruimus auctorem vitae suscipere, Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, Filium tuum. Qui tecum.
Let us pray.
O God, who by the fruitful Virginity of the Blessed Mary hast given to mankind the rewards of eternal salvation; grant, we beseech thee, that we may experience her intercession, by whom we received the Author of Life, our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son. Who liveth, etc.

 


We now give a short selection from the Offices of this Octave of Christmas Day, which will assist the Faithful in their devotion to the Holy Mother of God. We begin with the Roman Breviary, and take from it the following Responsories of the Matins of the Circumcision.

R. Congratulamini mihi omnes qui diligitis Domi num: * Quia cum essem parvula, placui Altissimo, et de meis visceribus genui Deum et hominem.
V. Beatam me dicent omnes generationes, quia ancillam humilem respexit Deus. * Quia.

R. Confirmatum est cor Virginis, in quo divina mysteria, Angelo nuntiante, concepit: tunc speciosum forma prae filiis hominum castis suscepit visceribus: * Et benedicta in aeternum, Deum nobis protulit et hominem.

R. Benedicta et venerabilis es, Virgo Maria, quae sine tactu pudoris inventa es Mater Salvatoris: * Jacebat in praesepio, et fulgebat in coelo.
V. Domine, audivi auditionem tuam et timui: consideravi opera tua et expavi: in medio duorum animalium * Jacebat in praesepio, et fulgebat in coelo.

R. Nesciens Mater Virgo virum peperit sine dolore * Salvatorem saeculorum; ipsum Regem Angelorum, sola Virgo lactabat ubere de coelo pleno. 
V. Domus pudici pectoris templum repente fit Dei: intacta nesciens virum, verbo concepit Filium: * Salvatorem.

R. Rejoice with me all ye that love the Lord: * For that I, when I was little in my own eyes, pleased the Most High, and gave birth to him that is God and Man.
V. All generations shall call me Blessed, because God hath regarded the humility of his Handmaid. For that I.

R. The heart of the Virgin was strengthened, wherein at the message of the Angel she conceived the divine mysteries. Then did she receive into her chaste womb him that is beautiful above all the children of men: * And she that is Blessed for ever brought forth unto us Jesus, God and Man.

R. Blessed and venerable art thou, O Virgin Mary! that wast found to be Mother of the Saviour, yet still the purest Virgin: * He was laid in the Crib, and yet filled heaven with his brightness.
V. I have heard thy hearing, and I feared; I meditated on thy works, and I trembled: between two animals * He was laid in the Crib, and yet filled heaven with his brightness.

R. A purest Virgin-Mother brought forth without travail * The Saviour of the world: Me that was very King of Angels drank at the breast of the Virgin-Mother the food that heaven gave.
V. This chastest living dwelling becomes, in an instant, God’s own Temple: the purest of Virgins conceives, at the Angel’s word, her Son: The Saviour.

The Greek Church, on December 26, the day she consecrates to the Mother of Jesus, pours forth to Mary her praises with her wonted profusion. We take from the Menaea the two following strophes, the former of which is also the Benedictus-Antiphon for the Feast of the Circumcision, in the Roman Breviary.

Mirabile mysterium declaratur hodie: innovantur naturae, Deus homo factus est: id quod fuit permansit, et quod non erat, assumpsit; non commixtionem passus, neque divisionem.

Uvam incultam postquam germinasset vitis mystica, in brachiis velut ramusculis ferebat: Tu, aiebat, fructus meus, tu es vita mea, a te novi quia quod eram adhuc sum, O Deus meus; sigillum enim virginitatis meae videns infractum, praedico te immutabile Verbum caro factum; virum non novi; te autem novi perniciei solutorem. Casta enim sum, te ex me egresso, sicut invenisti, sic uterum meum reliquisti: ideo concinit omnis creatura ad me clamans: Gaude, gratia plena.

An admirable mystery is this day revealed: the two Natures are united in a new way, God is made Man: he remained what he was, and he assumed what he was not, suffering neither confusion nor division.

When the mystic Vine had produced, without human aid, the Grape-bunch, she carried him in her arms, as the branches their fruit; and she said to him: Thou art my Fruit, thou art my Life, and I know from thyself, O my God, that I am what I was: the treasure of my virginity is preserved, and therefore do I confess thee to be the Immutable One, the Word made Flesh. Man I know not; but I acknowledge thee as the Redeemer of lost man. Thy Birth impaired not the purity thou gavest me, for what I was when thou didst enter into my womb, that thou didst leave me at thy Nativity. Therefore is it that every creature sings to me saying: Rejoice, O full of grace!

On this the eighth day since the Birth of our Emmanuel, let us consider the great mystery which the Gospel tells us was accomplished in his divine Flesh: the Circumcision. On this day the earth sees the first-fruits of that Blood-shedding which is to be its Redemption, and the first sufferings of that Divine Lamb who is to atone for our sins. Let us compassionate our sweet Jesus, who meekly submits to the knife which is to put upon him the sign of a Servant of God.

Mary, who has watched over him with the most affectionate solicitude, has felt her heart sink within her as each day brought her nearer to this hour of her Child’s first suffering. She knows that the justice of God does not necessarily require this first sacrifice, or might accept it, on account of its infinite value, for the world’s salvation: and yet, the innocent Flesh of her Son must, even so early as this, be torn, and his Blood flow down his infant limbs.

What must be her affliction at seeing the preparations for this painful ceremony! She cannot leave her Jesus, and yet how shall she bear to see him writhe under this his first experience of suffering? She must stay, then, and hear his sobs and heartrending cries; she must bear the sight of the tears of her Divine Babe, forced from him by the violence of the pain. We need St Bonaventura to describe this wonderful mystery. ‘And if he weeps, thinkest thou his Mother could keep in her tears? No: she, too, wept, and when the Babe, who was standing on her lap, perceived her tears, he raised his little hand to her mouth and face, as though he would beckon to her not to weep, for it grieved him to see her weeping, whom he so tenderly loved. The Mother, on her side, was touched to the quick at the suffering and tears of the Babe, and she consoled him by caresses and fond words; and as she was quick to see his thoughts, as though he had expressed them in words, she said to him: If thou wishest me to cease weeping, weep not thou, my Child! If thou weepest, I must weep too. Then the Babe, from compassion for the Mother, repressed his sobs, and Mary wiped his eyes and her own, and put his Face to her own, and gave him her Breast, and consoled him in every way she could.’ [Meditations on the Life of Christ, by St Bonaventura.]

And now, what shall we give in return to this Saviour of our souls for the Circumcision which he has deigned to suffer in order to show us how much he loved us? We must, according to the teaching of the Apostle, circumcise our heart from all its evil affections, its sins and its wicked inclinations; we must begin at once to live that new life of which the Infant Jesus is the sublime model. Let us thus show him our compassion for this his earliest suffering for us, and be more attentive than we have hitherto been to the example he sets us.

The following beautiful Sequence will assist us to praise this mystery of the Divine Infancy. We have taken it from the ancient Missal of the Church of Paris.

SEQUENCE

Apparuit hodie
Mira virtus gratiae,
Quae Deum circumcidit.

Nomen ei coelicum,
Nomen et salvificum,
Quod est Jesus, indidit.

Nomen salus homini,
Nomen quod os Domini
Ab aeterno nominat.

Dudum Matri Numinis
Hoc et sponso Virginis
Angelus denuntiat.

Tu nequam vim Zabuli,
Tu peccatum saeculi
Nomen sacrum superas.

Jesu, nostrum pretium,
Jesu, spes moerentium,
Mentes sana miseras.

Quod deest in homine
Supple tuo nomine,
Quod est salutiferum.

Tua circumcisio
Cordis sit praecisio,
Efficax cauterium.

Sanguis fusus sordidos
Lavet, riget aridos,
Moestis det solatium.

Anni nunc initio,
Pro felici xenio
Para, Jesu, praemium.
Amen.

This day there hath been shown to us the wonderful power of grace in the Circumcision of the Infant-God.

A Name of heaven’s making, a Name that means Salvation  - and it is ‘Jesus’ - is given to him.

This Name imports Salvation to man: it is the Name which the mouth of the Lord hath uttered from eternity.

The Angel revealed it, months ago, to the Mother of God, and to her holy spouse.

Sacred name! thou conquerest Satan’s wicked power, and the sins of the world.

‘Jesus,’ our ransom! ‘Jesus,’ hope of the afflicted! our souls are sick - do thou heal them.

What is wanting in man, supply by thy Name, which means and gives salvation.

May thy Circumcision be the cleansing and the healing of our heart’s wounds.

May the Blood thou didst shed purify our stains, refresh our parched hearts, and give consolation to the sad.

We are beginning now a New Year, when friends give gifts to friends; let thine, dear ‘Jesus,’ be the preparing us our recompense. Amen.

Adam of St Victor offers us one of his hymns to help us to speak the praises of the Holy Mother of Jesus. It is an extremely graceful poem, and, for a long period. was to be found in the ancient Roman-French Missals.

SEQUENCE

Salve, Mater Salvatoris,
Vas electum, vas honoris,
Vas coelestis gratiae.

Ab aeterno vas provisum,
Vas insigne, vas excisum
Manu Sapientiae.

Salve Verbi sacra Parens,
Flos de spinis, spina carens,
Flos spineti gratia.

Nos spinetum, nos peccati
Spina sumus cruentati,
Sed tu spinae nescia.

Porta clausa, fons hortorum,
Cella custos unguentorum,
Cella pigmentaria.

Cinnamomi calamum,
Myrrham, thus et balsamum
Superas fragrantia.

Salve, decus virginum,
Mediatrix hominum,
Salutis puerpera.

Myrtus temperantiae,
Rosa patientiae,
Nardus odorifera.

Tu convallis humilis,
Terra non arabilis,
Qua fructum parturiit.

Flos campi, convallium
Singulare lilium:
Christus ex te prodiit.

Tu coelestis paradisus,
Libanusque non incisus,
Vaporans dulcedinem.

Tu candoris et decoris,
Tu dulcoris et odoris
Habes plenitudinem.

Tu thronus es Solomonis,
Cui nullus par in thronis,
Arte vel materia.

Ebur candens, castitatis,
Aurum fulvum, charitatis
Praesignant mysteria.

Palmam praefers singularem,
Nec in terris habes parem,
Nec in coeli curia.

Laus humani generis,
Virtutum prae caeteris
Habens privilegia.

Sol luna lucidior,
Et luna sideribus:
Sic Maria dignior
Creaturis omnibus.

Lux eclipsim nesciens
Virginis est castitas;
Ardor indeficiens,
Immortalis charitas.

Salve, mater pietatis
Et totius Trinitatis
Nobile triclinium.

Verbi tamen incarnati
Speciale majestati
Praeparans hospitium.

O Maria, stella maris,
Dignitate singularis,
Super omnes ordinaris
Ordines coelestium.

In supremo sita poli,
Nos assigna tuae Proli,
Ne terrores, sive doli
Nos supplantent hostium.

In procinctu constituti,
Te tuente, simus tuti;
Pervicacis et versuti
Tuae cedat vis virtuti,
Dolus, providentiae.

Jesu, Verbum summi Patris,
Serva servos tuae Matris,
Solve reos, salva gratis,
Et nos tua claritatis
Configura gloriae.
Amen.

Hail, Mother of the Saviour! Vessel elect, Vessel of honour, Vessel of heavenly grace!

Vessel predestined from eternity, Vessel of singular beauty, Vessel formed by the hand of the All-Wise One.

Hail, holy Mother of the Word! the Flower that grew midst thorns, thyself the thorn-less Flower that decked the thorny Earth.

The thorny earth are we, bleeding from the prickly thorns of sin: and thou art free from thorns.

Thou art the Gate of the sanctuary closed for the Prince. Thou art the Fountain of the gardens, the Casket of sweet ointments and perfumes.

Thy fragrance is sweeter than that of cinnamon, or myrrh, or frankincense, or aromatic balm.

Hail, Virgin of Virgins! Mediatrix of men! Mother of the Jesus who saved us.

Myrtle of temperance, rose of patience, spikenard most fragrant!

Vale of humility! Soil most fruitful, though untilled!

Flower of the field! match-less lily of the valley, that broughtest forth Christ!

Heavenly Paradise! Cedar-tree untouched, yet breathing forth such sweetness!

Purity and beauty, sweetness and fragrance, are all in thee above measure.

Thou art the throne of Solomon, the throne rich above all others in form and substance.

The whiteness of the ivory prefigures thy chastity; the glittering gold thy charity.

The palm thou holdest is like no other: thou hast no equal among creatures on earth or in heaven.

Thou art the glory of the human race, and art privileged with virtues above Angels and men.

As the sun is brighter than the moon, and the moon is brighter than the stars; so is Mary exalted above all creatures.

The sun’s light, which no eclipse quenches, is Mary’s virginal purity: the sun’s unfailing heat is her undying charity.

Hail. Mother of Mercy! Thou art the noble dwelling of the blessed Trinity;

But for the majesty of the Incarnate Word thou didst prepare a special sanctuary.

O Mary, Star of the Sea! Peerless Queen, set above all the heavenly choirs.

Seated on thy lofty throne, commend us to thy Son; nor suffer our enemies to defeat us by strength or craft.

In the battle we are fighting, may we be safely shielded by thy protection. Our enemy’s obstinacy and skill must needs yield to thy power, and his treachery to thy watchful care.

O Jesu! Word of the Eternal Father! save us the devoted servants of thy Mother. We are guilty, absolve us. Save us by thy grace, and make us like to thee in the brightness of thy glory. Amen.