Christmas brings before us the happy day on which, in the fulness of time, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer, was born of the ever-blessed and immaculate Virgin Mary, in the stable at Bethlehem.
Why does every priest say three Masses on this day?
1. To give thanks to the ever-blessed Trinity, Who co-operated in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
2. To honor the threefold birth of Jesus Christ : His eternal birth in the bosom of His heavenly Father; His temporal birth of His virgin Mother; and His spiritual birth in our hearts, which He occupies by His grace.
Why is the first Mass celebrated at midnight?
The first Mass is said at midnight to remind us that before Jesus Christ was born the world was without the true light, and lay in darkness and the shadow of death. Again, it was in the night that He was born ; and both His temporal and eternal births are mysterious truths, incomprehensible to our understanding.
Why is the second Mass celebrated at daybreak?
The second Mass is celebrated at daybreak because the birth of Christ brought light to the gentiles, whose salvation was then nigh, and because, according to tradition, it was about that hour that the shepherds came to see and adore the new-born Saviour.
Why is the third Mass celebrated at daylight?
The third Mass is said at daylight because Christ dispersed the darkness of ignorance, and appeared as the Light of the world (John 1: 9 ; Isaiah 9: 8).
OF THE FIRST MASS.
The Introit of the first Mass reminds us of the eternal birth of Jesus Christ: “The Lord hath said to Me, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee” (Psalms 2: 7); “Why have the gentiles raged, and the people devised vain things?” (Psalms 2: 1) Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
O God, Who hast made this holy night shine forth with the
brightness of the true Light, grant, we beseech Thee, that we
may enjoy His happiness in heaven, the mystery of Whose light
we have known upon earth. Who liveth and reigneth, forever,
EPISTLE. Titus 2: 11-15.
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.
How did the grace of God appear to all men?
Through the incarnation of His Son, Whom, in His infinite love, He made like unto us, to be our brother and teacher, that we might become children and heirs of God, and co-heirs with Jesus Christ.
What does Christ teach us by His incarnation?
That we should abandon impiety, infidelity, injustice, and worldly desires, and love God, and our neighbor, though he be our enemy, for God's sake. The incarnation also shows the dignity and greatness of man, for as God gave His only Son for our redemption, we thereby perceive the worth of man in the sight of God.
What does the Apostle mean by worldly desires?
He means by them carnal and sensual desires and lusts, such as impurity, drunkenness, avarice, and such like. Christ teaches us to renounce these by the poverty, patience, fasting, and innumerable privations of His life.
How do we live soberly, justly, and piously?
We live soberly when we use temporal goods according to the intention and will of God, and to supply our necessary wants; we live justly when we desire for, and render to, our neighbor what, by the example of Christ, we are bound to; we live piously when we give God His due honor, love Him above all things, and love all men, in Christ, for His sake.
GOSPEL. Luke 2. 1-14.
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 wrapped 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.
Why did Caesar Augustus publish a decree that all the Roman subjects should be enrolled?
The immediate reasons of Caesar are not known to us, but the result shows that it was done by the special providence of God, for Joseph and Mary were thus obliged to go to Bethlehem, and so the prophecy of Micheas, that the Messias should be born there, was fulfilled.
Why is Christ called the first-born Son of Mary?
Because she had no child before Him ; and, moreover, having no other after Him, He is also the only-begotten of His blessed Mother, as He was the first-born and only-begotten of His heavenly Father (Hebrews 1: 6).
Why was the Saviour of the world born in a stable?
To show, from His very birth, that He had not come to establish a splendid worldly kingdom, but a kingdom of grace, justice, and peace, and to lead us to imitate His example of poverty, humility, and contempt of the world.
Why was the birth of Christ first announced to the poor shepherds, and not to the high priests?
To show that God does not distribute His graces through respect for persons : He exalts the humble, and humbles those who exalt themselves. The angels for joy praised God, and sang, “Glory to God in the highest,” that is, Praise and thanks to our heavenly Father for sending His only-begotten Son for the salvation of men, “and on earth peace” that is, prosperity, happiness, salvation, and blessing “to men of good will.”
Learn from the angels to be thankful for all the benefits which God bestows upon thy neighbor, and then you also will partake of them. In particular, thank God today for the inexpressible benefit of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
OF THE SECOND MASS.
The Introit of this Mass reminds us of the temporal birth of Our Saviour in Bethlehem. “A light shall shine upon us today, for Our 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” (Isaiah 9: 6). “The Lord hath reigned, He is clothed with beauty ; the Lord is clothed with strength, and hath girded Himself” (Psalms 92. 1). Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that we who are
filled with the new light of Thy incarnate Word, may show
forth in our works what faith displays in our mind. Through
the same Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen
EPISTLE. Titus 3: 4-7.
Dearly Beloved: The goodness and kindness of God our
Saviour appeared : not by the works of justice which we have
done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the laver of
regeneration, and renovation of the Holy Ghost, Whom He hath
poured forth upon us abundantly, through Jesus Christ onr
Saviour : that, being justified by His grace, we may be heirs,
according to hope, of life everlasting in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What does St. Paul teach us in this epistle?
He teaches us what God has done and is doing that we may have eternal life, and why He does it. Not by our own merits, but according to His mercy, He has saved us by holy Baptism, for we were conceived and born in sin. Let us show by our lives that we are renewed by the Holy Ghost, and animated by the hope of life everlasting.
Why did not God have mercy on the fallen angels?
This is a mystery which should heighten our love to God, but should also fill us with fear and trembling, for if we do not use the goodness and kindness of God to our advantage our punishment will be severer than that of the fallen angels.
GOSPEL. Luke 2. 15-20.
At that time the shepherds said one to another: Let us
go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is 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 the 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.
How could the shepherds know that the newborn child was the Saviour of the world?
The angels had given them a sign : “You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laid in a manger,” and seeing, they believed, fell on their knees, and adored the child. They then praised God for the graces they had received, and made known what they had heard and seen to others.
What do we learn from Mary in this gospel?
That we should ponder the divine truths in our hearts, and, by this heavenly nourishment, strengthen and preserve our souls in spiritual life.
OF THE THIRD MASS.
The Introit of the third Mass reminds us of the spiritual birth of Christ in our hearts. “A child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called the Angel of great counsel” (Isaiah 9: 6). “Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle, for He hath done wonderful things” (Psalms 97: 1). Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the new birth
of Thine only-begotten Son in the flesh may deliver us, who are
held by the old bondage under the yoke of sin. Through Our
Lord Jesus Christ, etc. Amen.
EPISTLE. Hebrews 1: 1-12.
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,
has 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
upholding 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 had inherited
a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels
hath He said at any time : Thou art My Son, today have I
begotten Thee? And again: I will be to Him a Father, and
He shall 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 forever 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
How magnificently does this epistle set forth the kindness and love of God the Father, Who, for a teacher, has given us, not a prophet, but His only Son ! How beautifully does it prove the divinity of Christ, since God has begotten Him from all eternity, and created the heavens and earth through Him, Who is always the same, and His throne forever and ever ! Learn, O Christian soul, from this epistle, how much thou art obliged to love God, to trust Him, and to follow Christ thy example, for without imitating Him thou canst neither belong to His elect, nor have part in His redemption.
O heavenly Father, I thank Thee with my whole heart, for having spoken to us through Thy only-begotten Son, Whom Thou hast made better than the angels. I will, O Father of mercy, listen to Him with gratitude, and use His sublime teachings for the perfect enlightenment of my mind and heart.
GOSPEL. John 1: 1-14.
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 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, He gave them 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, the glory as it were of the only-begotten
of the Father, full of grace and truth.
What does St. John mean by the “Word” ?
He means the Son of God, Who is called the Word of the Father, because He was begotten as the word is produced from the thought, but in a manner more beautiful and mysterious. In His divine nature He is one with the Father ; but in person distinct from Him ; as the word spoken is at the same time one with Him Who speaks, and yet distinct from Him. He is also called the Word because it is through Him that the Father has declared to us His will.
What is the meaning of, “in the beginning was the Word,” etc.?
It means that at the beginning of the world the Son of God already was, and, therefore, was begotten of His Father from all eternity. Thus, at the beginning of his gospel St. John teaches Christ's eternity, divinity, and equality with the Father.
What is the meaning of, “all things were made by the Word”?
That the Son of God, Himself true God, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, created all things that were made, both visible and invisible, in perfect order and beauty (Proverbs 8: 30).
What is the meaning of, “in Him was life”?
That, as the living God, He was the source and fountain of all life.
How was the “Life the light of men”?
The Eternal Son, Who was the life, was also the light of men, because He was the Truth to enlighten them with the knowledge and love of God, that, avoiding sin and ignorance, they might walk with safety in the way of salvation.
In what sense are we to understand the words, “and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it”?
Christ made known the true knowledge of God to men who were in spiritual darkness, that is, in error and ignorance, but they would not receive His holy teaching. This is still the case with those who, notwithstanding the preaching of the Gospel, Will not believe, and particularly with those hardened sinners who will not return to God, although He pours upon them the light of His grace to move them to penance.
Who is meant by him who “came to bear witness of that light”?
St. John the Baptist, who endeavored by his preaching to prepare the Jews for the coming of Christ, and who testified before the whole world that He was the expected King and Messias.
How are we made children of God?
By the grace which we receive in holy Baptism.
What is to be understood by, “the Word was made flesh”?
We are to understand by it that the Word was not changed into human nature, but that He became incarnate by the Holy Ghost, of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, uniting in one person the two natures, divine and human. He was the Godman, Who walked among men thirty-three years, marking every step by favors and benefits. He assumed, says St. Leo, the nature of man, who was to be reconciled to God, in order that Satan, the author of death, might be overcome by that same nature which he had before conquered ; and thus Our Lord and Saviour vanquished our most cruel enemy, not in majesty, but in humility.
What is the meaning of, “and we saw His glory, the glory of the only-begotten of the Father”?
The evangelist hereby indicates that he and his fellow apostles were permitted to see the glory of the God-man ; for instance, on Mount Thabor ; in His miracles ; in His glorious resurrection and ascension. Thus they saw Him and knew that He was the true Son of God, the fountain of all good, from which all receive life, and light, and grace (John 1: 16).
O God, Father in heaven, Who, in the form of an amiable child, hast given to us poor sinners this past night Thy only begotten Son, born of the immaculate Virgin Mary, to be our Mediator and Redeemer, we thank Thee with all our hearts for this inexpressible grace, and beseech Thee, of Thy goodness, to preserve in us the perpetual memory of it, that, in all our adversities and temptations, we may have comfort and consolation, with strength to love, serve, and praise Thee, in holiness and purity, until the last hour of our lives. Amen.
– Goffine's Devout Instructions