CHRISTMAS DAY: THE THIRD MASS

The Mystery which the Church honours in this Third Mass is the eternal generation or Birth of the Son of God in the Bosom of his Father. At midnight she celebrated the God-Man, born in the Stable from the Womb of the glorious Virgin Mary; at the Aurora, this same Divine Infant, born in the souls of the Shepherds; there still remains for her adoration and praise a Birth more wonderful than these other two: a Birth, which dazzles the eye of Angels by its splendour, and bears its eternal witness to the inward fruitfulness of God. The Son of Mary is also the Son of God; and a grand duty of to-day is that we hymn aloud the glory of this his in effable Generation, which makes him consubstantial to his Father, God of God and Light of Light. Let us, then, raise up our thoughts even to that eternal Word, who was in the beginning with God, and was himself God [St John i 1]; for he is the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the figure of his substance [Heb. i 3].

The Church’s first Chant in this her Third Mass is an acclamation to the new-born King. She celebrates the kingly power and majesty which he will derive, as Man, from the Cross that is one day to be upon his shoulders; as God, he has been the Almighty King from all eternity, and this too she celebrates. He is also the Angel of the great Counsel; that is, he is the One Sent from heaven to fulfil the sublime Counsel or design of the Most Holy Trinity - to save mankind by the Incarnation and the Redemption. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word, made this Counsel, together with the other Two: his devotedness to his Father’s glory, and his love for man, made him take upon himself the execution of the divine Plan.

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 prays that the New Birth, whereby the eternal Son of God deigned to be born in time, may produce its effect in us, and work our deliverance.

COLLECT

Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem nativitas liberet; quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus tenet. Per eumdem. 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. Through the same, etc.

EPISTLE

Lectio Epistolae beati Pauli Apostoli ad Hebraeos.

Cap. I.
Multifariam multisque modis olim Deus loquens patribus in Prophetis; novissime diebus istis locutus est nobis in Filio, quem constituit haeredem universorum, per quem fecit et saecula. Qui cum sit splendor gloriae, et figura substantiae ejus, portansque omnia verbo virtutis suae, purgationem peccatorum faciens, sedet ad dexteram Majestatis in excelsis: tanto melior Angelis effectus, quanto differentius prae illis nomen haereditavit. Cui enim dixit aliquando Angelorum: Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te? Et rursum: Ego ero illi in Patrem, et ipse erit mihi in Filium. Et cum iterum introducit Primogenitum in orbem terrae, dicit: Et adorent eum omnes Angeli Dei. Et ad Angelos quidem dicit: Qui facit Angelos suos Spiritus, et ministros suos flammam ignis. Ad Filium autem: Thronus tuus, Deus, in saeculum saeculi: virga aequitatis, virga regni tui. Dilexisti justitiam, et odisti iniquitatem: propterea unxit te Deus, Deus tuus, oleo exsultationis prae participibus tuis. Et: Tu in principio, Domine, terram fundasti; et opera manuum tuarum sunt coeli. Ipsi peribunt, tu autem permanebis; et omnes ut vestimentum veterascent, et velut amictum mutabis eos, et mutabuntur: tu autem idem ipse es, et anni tui non deficient.

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

Ch. I.
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past to the Fathers by the Prophets; last of all in these days hath spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world. Who being the brightness of his glory, and the figure of his substance, and holding all things by the word of his power, making purgation of sins, sitteth on the right hand of the Majesty on high: being made so much better than the Angels, as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the Angels hath he said at any time: Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee? And again: I will be to him a Father, and he shalt be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the First-Begotten into the world, he saith: And let all the Angels of God adore him. And to the Angels, indeed, he saith: He that maketh his Angels Spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But to the Son: Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of justice is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved justice, and hated iniquity: therefore God, thy God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And: Thou in the beginning, O Lord, didst found the earth, and the works of thy hands are the heavens. They shall perish, but thou shalt continue; and they shall all grow old as a garment, and as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed; but thou art the self-same, and thy years shall not fail.

The great Apostle, in this magnificent opening of his Epistle to his former brethren of the Synagogue, lays great stress on the Eternal Generation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whilst our eyes are fixed on the sweet Infant in his Crib, St Paul bids us raise our thoughts up to that infinite Light, from the midst of which the Eternal Father thus speaks to this Child of Mary: Thou art my Son; to-day have I begotten thee: this to-day is the Day of eternity, a Day which has neither morning nor evening, neither rising nor setting. If the Human Nature which he has vouchsafed to assume places him below the Angels; he is infinitely above them by his own essence, whereby he is the Son of God. He is God, he is Lord, and no change can come upon him. He may be wrapped in swathing-bands or nailed to a Cross, or put to a most ignominious death; all this is only in his human nature: in his Divinity he remains impassible and immortal, for he was born of the Father from all eternity.

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. Dies sanctificatus illuxit nobis: Venite, gentes, et adorate Dominum; quia hodie descendit lux magna super terram. 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. A sanctified day hath shone upon us: Come, ye Gentiles, and adore the Lord; for this day a great Light is come down upon the earth. Alleluia.

GOSPEL

Initium sancti Evangelii secundum Joannem.

Cap. I.
In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum. Omnia per ipsum facta sunt, et sine ipso factum est nihil, quod factum est. In ipso vita erat; et vita erat lux hominum; et lux in tenebris lucet, et tenebrae eum non comprehenderunt. Fuit homo missus a Deo, cui nomen erat Joannes. Hic venit in testimonium, ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine, ut omnes crederent per illum. Non erat ille lux, sed ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine. Erat lux vera quae illuminat omnem hominem venientem in hunc mundum. In mundo erat, et mundus per ipsum factus est; et mundus eum non cognovit. In propria venit, et sui eum non receperunt. Quotquot autem receperunt eum, dedit eis potestatem filios Dei fieri: his qui credunt in nomine ejus; qui non ex sanguinibus, neque ex voluntate carnis, neque ex voluntate viri, sed ex Deo nati sunt. ET VERBUM CARO FACTUM EST, et
habitavit in nobis: et vidimus gloriam ejus, gloriam quasi Unigeniti a Patre, plenum gratiae et veritatis.

The beginning of the holy  Gospel according to John.

Ch. I.
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.

O Eternal Son of God! in presence of the Crib, where for the love of us thou vouchsafest this day to show thyself to thy creatures, we confess thy eternity, thy omnipotence, thy divinity, and most profoundly do we adore thee. Thou wast in the beginning; thou wast in God; and thyself wast God. Everything was made by thee, and we are the work of thy hands. O Light, infinite and eternal! O Sun of Justice! enlighten us, for we are but darkness. Too long have we loved our darkness, and thee we have not comprehended: forgive us our blindness and our errors. Thou hast been long knocking at the door of our hearts, and we have refused to let thee in. To-day, thanks to the wonderful ways of thy love, we have received thee: for who could refuse to receive thee, sweet gentle Infant Jesus! but leave us not; abide with us, and perfect the New Birth which thou hast begun in us. We wish henceforth to be neither of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God, by thee and in thee. Thou hast been made Flesh, O Word Eternal! in order that we may become sons of God. We beseech thee, support our weak human nature, and fit us for this our sublime destiny. Thou art born of God thy Father; thou art born of Mary; thou art born in our hearts; thrice glorified be thou for this thy triple Birth, O Jesus! so merciful in thy Divinity, and so divine in thy self-sought humiliations!

At the Offertory, the Church sings praise to her Emmanuel for the work of his hands, the universe; for it was he who made all things. The sacred gifts are offered up in the midst of a cloud of incense. The Church cannot lose sight of the Infant Jesus and the Crib; but she is unceasingly praising the power and majesty of the Incarnate God.

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

Oblata, Domine, munera nova Unigeniti tui nativitate sanctifica: nosque a peccatorum nostrorum maculis emunda. Per eumdem. Sanctify, O Lord, our offerings, by the new Birth of thine
Only-Begotten Son: and cleanse us from the stains of our sins. Through the same, etc.

During the Communion, the choir sings the happiness of this earth of ours, which has to-day seen its Saviour by the mercy of the Divine Word, made visible in the flesh, yet so as that he loses nothing of his own infinite glory. Then, in the Postcommunion, she prays by the mouth of the Priest, that her children who have eaten of the spotless Lamb may partake of the immortality of this same Jesus: for, by vouchsafing to be born by a human Birth in Bethlehem, he has this Day given them the pledge of their receiving a divine life.

COMMUNION

Viderunt omnes fines terrae Salutare Dei nostri.  The whole earth hath seen the salvation of our God.

POSTCOMMUNION

Praesta, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut natus hodie Salvator mundi, sicut divinae nobis generationis est auctor; ita et immortalitatis sit ipse largitor. Qui tecum. Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that as the Saviour of the world, who was born this day, procured for us a divine birth, he may also bestow on us immortality. Who liveth, etc.

After the Blessing, the following Last Gospel is read.

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthaeum.

Cap. II.
Cum natus esset Jesus in Bethlehem Juda, in diebus Herodis regis, ecce Magi ab Oriente venerunt Jerosolymam, dicentes: Ubi est, qui natus est Rex Judaorum? vidimus enim stellam ejus in Oriente, et venimus adorare eum. Audiens autem Herodes rex, turbatus est, et omnis Jerosolyma cum illo. Et congregans omnes principes sacerdotum, et scribas populi, sciscitabatur ab eis ubi Christus nasceretur. At illi dixerunt ei: In Bethlehem Juda: sic enim scriptum est per Prophetam: Et tu, Bethlehem, terra Juda, nequaquam minima es in principibus Juda: ex te enim exiet dux qui regat populum meum Israel. Tunc Herodes, clam vocatis Magis, diligenter didicit ab eis tempus stellae, quae apparuit eis: et mittens illos in Bethlehem, dixit: Ite, et interrogate diligenter de puero: et cum inveneritis, renuntiate mihi, ut et ego veniens adorem eum. Qui cum audissent regem, abierunt. Et ecce stella quam viderant in Oriente antecedebat eos, usque dum veniens staret supra ubi erat puer. Videntes autem stellam, gavisi sunt gaudio magno valde. Et intrantes domum, invenerunt puerum cum Maria matre ejus, (here all kneel) et procidentes adoraverunt eum. Et apertis thesauris suis, obtulerunt ei munera; aurum, thus et myrrham. Et responso accepto in somnis ne redirent ad Herodem, per aliam viam reversi sunt in regionem suam. R. Deo gratias.

Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Matthew.

Ch. II.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold there came Wise Men from the East to Jerusalem, saying: Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the East, and are come to adore him. And Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief Priests and the Scribes of the people, he enquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him: in Bethlehem of Juda: for so it is written by the Prophet: And thou, Bethlehem, the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel. Then, Herod, privately calling the Wise Men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them: and sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go, and diligently enquire after the Child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore. Who having heard the king, went their way. And behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was. And seeing the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the Child with Mary his Mother, (here all kneel) and falling down they adored him. And opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their own country. R. Thanks be to God.