The Church's Year
therefore make him a little chamber, and put a little bed in it for
him and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick, that when he cometh
to us, he may abide there" (IV Kings 4:13). Such was the
Sunamite woman's regard for the prophet Eliseus, that she would make
such preparations for his entertainment! Will we do as much for
Christ who is ready to come to us? Take pains, O Christian, to
occupy this night in pious thoughts, and aspirations, for the love
of God and for the good of your own soul, making yourself worthy to
receive the graces which He is ready when He comes, to give you.
Think how Mary, who was near her time, and Joseph her spouse
obedient to the Imperial command, and perfectly submissive to the
will of God, journeyed with the greatest inconvenience to Bethlehem,
and when, because of the multitude of people, they found no place to
receive them they took refuge, as God willed it, in a most miserable
stable, at the extreme end of the town. What love does not the
Savior deserve, who for love of us so humbled Himself!
COLLECT O God, who makest us rejoice in
the yearly expectation of the feast of our redemption: grant, that
we who cheerfully receive Thy only-begotten Son as a Redeemer, may
behold without fear the same Lord Jesus Christ, coming as our judge.
Through our Lord.
What is Christmas Day?
It is the day
on which Christ Jesus, our Redeemer, was born of the Blessed Virgin
in a stable at Bethlehem.
Why is this festival called "the Holy
night has been especially blessed and sanctified by the holy,
mysterious birth of the Redeemer of the world.
Why do priests say three Masses on this
commemoration of the threefold birth of the Redeemer: of His birth
from all eternity in the bosom of His Heavenly Father; of His birth
in the fullness of time; and of His spiritual birth in the hearts of
the faithful who, by lively faith in Him, receive the power to
become children of God (Jn. 1:12).
Why is the first Mass said at midnight?
the true light which came into the world to enlighten those who sat
in darkness and the shadow of death, that is, of unbelief and of sin
(Lk. 1:79), was born at night, and because the divine birth is
incomprehensible to us.
Why is the next Mass said at daybreak, and the third after
To signify that
the birth of Christ, expelling the darkness of ignorance and
infidelity, brought us the clear daylight of the knowledge of God,
and that the spiritual birth of Christ can take place at any time in
the pure soul.
When does this spiritual birth take place?
It takes place
when the soul, having been cleansed from all sin, makes the firm,
unalterable resolution to die to the world and all carnal desires,
and arouses in itself the ardent desire henceforth to live only for
Christ, and, by His grace, to practice all virtues.
INSTRUCTION ON THE FIRST
The Introit of
this Mass reminds us of the eternal birth of Christ, the
INTROIT The Lord hath
said to me: Thou art my Son, this day (that is, from all eternity)
have I begotten thee (Ps. 2:7). Why have the Gentiles raged, and the
people devised vain things (Ps. 2:1)? Glory be to the
COLLECT O God, who hast made this most
sacred night to 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. Through our
EPISTLE (Tit. 2:11-15). Dearly beloved,
the grace of God our Savior 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 great God and our Savior 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.
In what special manner has the grace and goodness of God
been manifested to us?
incarnation and birth of Christ, His Son, whom, in His infinite
love, He has made like unto us, our brother and our teacher, by whom
we have become children of God, and co-heirs of His
Christ by His incarnation desire to teach us especially?
That we should
put aside all unrighteousness, all infidelity and injustice, and
endeavor to become like unto Him, who, except in sin, has become
altogether like unto us. But especially that we repress the desires
of lust, wealth, and honor, and not rest until we have rooted them
from our hearts.
How do we live soberly, justly, and godly?
soberly, when we fulfill all duties towards ourselves; justly, when
we fulfill all duties towards our neighbor; and godly, when we
fulfill all duties to God.
ASPIRATION Blessed art Thou, Oh!
new-born Savior, who hast descended from on high to teach me the
ways of justice, hast become man and equal to me. In return for this
goodness of Thine, I renounce all evil, all sinful desires, words,
and deeds. In return for Thy love, I will ever uproot from my heart
all carnal desires, and always live soberly, justly, and godly; do
Thou by Thy grace, strengthen me in this resolve.
GOSPEL (Lk. 2:1-14). At that time there
went forth 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 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 Savior, 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, at the time of Augustus, were all the Roman subjects
by a special ordinance of God, that by this enrollment Mary and
Joseph should be obliged to go to Bethlehem, that it might be made
known to the world that Christ was really born at Bethlehem, of the
tribe of Juda, and the house of David, and that He was the Messiah
who had been foretold by the prophets (Mich. 5:2).
Let us learn
from this how the providence of God directs all things according to
His will, and consider the obedience which Mary rendered to the
command of a heathen emperor, or rather to God who caused the
Why is Christ called the "first-born" of
gave birth to no child before Him; she bore none after Him, He was
the only son of Mary, as He was the only-begotten Son of the
Why was Christ born in such poverty?
To teach us not
by words but by example that which He afterwards so often preached
and forcibly taught, namely: the love of poverty, the practice of
humility and patience with contempt of the world, and also to
confound by His humble birth the foolish wisdom of the world which
seeks only honors, pleasures and riches.
Why was the
birth of Christ announced to poor shepherds, and not to King Herod
and the chief priests?
That it might
be known that God loves to dwell with poor, simple, pious, faithful
people, such as the shepherds were, and reveals Himself to those who
are little in their own eyes (Mt. 11:25), while He despises the
proud and leaves them over to their own spiritual
Let us learn
from this to acquire simplicity and humility, and despise pride and
cunning, that God may reveal Himself to us by His interior
What is meant by the angelic song of praise: "Glory be to
God on high"?
By this song of
praise which the priests usually say in the Mass is meant that the
greatest praise and the most heartfelt thanks are due to God for
having sent His Son into the world; and that those who have the good
will to glorify God by all their actions, will receive peace, that
is, all happiness, blessings, and salvation.
the angels over the birth of the Savior, return thanks to God, and
honor Him alone in all things, that you may have that peace: peace
with God, peace with yourself and peace with all men.
Learn also from
the angels, who rejoiced in the graces which man would receive from
the birth of Christ, to rejoice, and thank God for the favors which
He gives your neighbor, and by rejoicing participate in
INSTRUCTION ON THE SECOND
In the Introit
of this Mass the Church makes use of the words of Isaias:
INTROIT A light shall shine upon us
this day: 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 end (Is. 9). The Lord hath
reigned, he is clothed with beauty: the Lord is clothed with
strength, and hath girded himself. Glory be to the
COLLECT 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 by faith shineth in
our minds. Through our Lord.
EPISTLE (Tit. 3:4-7). Dearly beloved,
the goodness and kindness of God our Savior hath appeared: not by
the works of justice which we have done, but according to his mercy
he saved us, by the layer of regeneration, and renovation of the
Holy Ghost, whom he hath poured forth upon us abundantly through
Jesus Christ our Savior: that, being justified by
his grace, we may be heirs according to hope. of life everlasting,
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
To whom do we owe our salvation?
ourselves, nor any good works we may have performed, but entirely to
the mercy of God who from all eternity decreed our redemption, and
sent His only-begotten Son into this world to accomplish it; which
redemption is bestowed upon us in baptism, where we are washed from
the stain of sin, and by the rich infusion of the Holy Ghost born
again, heirs of eternal life.
Why, then, had God no mercy on the fallen
question St. John of Damascus replies: "We must know here that the
fall was to the angels what death is to man; for the angels there
was no repentance after the fall, as for man there is no repentance
after death" (De fid. orthod. lib.2. c.4). In eternity there
is no available contrition and penance, so God showed no merry to
the fallen angels. Let us learn from this, to make ourselves
participators in the merry of God, by contrition and penance while
there is yet time.
GOSPEL (Lk. 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 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
shepherds follow at once the voice of God which calls them to the
manger; they exhort one another to do so; they seek the Redeemer and
happily find Him; they make Him known to others, and heartily thank
God for the grace given them.
Let us follow
the inspirations of God with ready obedience; let us exhort one
another to virtue by our good example and edifying conversation; let
us make good use of the knowledge given us by God, give it to
others, and praise God for the same.
II. Mary kept
all these words, spoken about her Son, and pondered them in her
heart. Let us learn from her to prepare food for our
meditation on the divine truths that are made known to us: so that
we may be preserved and strengthened in spiritual life.
INSTRUCTION ON THE THIRD
The Introit of
this Mass reminds us of the spiritual birth of Christ, by which He
is spiritually born in us:
INTROIT A child is born to us, and a
Son is given to us; whose government is upon his shoulder; and his
shall be called
the Angel of great counsel (Is. 9). Sing ye to the Lord a new
canticle: for he bath done wonderful things (Ps. 97). Glory be to
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.
EPISTLE (Heb. 1:1-12). God, who
diversely and many ways, 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 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 hath inherited a
more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels bath 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 for
ever and ever: a scepter of justice is the scepter of thy kingdom.
Thou hast loved justice, and hated iniquity: therefore, God, thy
God, bath 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
shaft continue; and they shall all grow old as a garment, and as a
vesture shaft thou change them, and they shall be changed; but thou
art the self-same, and thy years shall not fail.
INSTRUCTION The greatness of Christ
Jesus, the dignity of His divinity and humanity, the love and
goodness of His Heavenly Father, who has given Him to us as our
teacher, could not be more gloriously described than in this
epistle. Learn from it how much you are obliged, because of this, to
serve God, to be grateful to Him, and to follow Christ who governs
heaven and earth; and whom the angels serve.
thank Thee, a thousand times, O Heavenly Father, that Thou hast
spoken to us through Thy only-begotten Son, in whom Thou art well
pleased. With my whole heart, O Father of Merry, will I listen to
Him, and be obedient to all His instructions.
GOSPEL (Jn. l: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 bear witness of
the light, that all men might believe through him. He was not the
light, but was to bear witness 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, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father), full of
grace and truth.
What does St. John mean by the Word?
That the Son of
God, who was begotten and brought forth like a word of the mouth
from the Father, but in a manner incomprehensible and inscrutable to
us, is one with the Father in the divine nature, but different from
Him in person; He is also called the Word of the Father, because
through Him the Father has spoken and made known the divine will
(Heb. 1:2; Mt. 17:5).
What is meet by- In the beginning was the Word, ,Od the
Word was with God?
When all things
had their beginning the Son of God already was, not made or created,
but born of the Father from eternity, with whom and in whom He
therefore existed from all eternity. St. John here teaches the
divinity, the eternity, and the equality of Christ with the
What is meet by: All things were made by
That the Son of
God, Himself true God, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, has made
all things, visible and invisible.
What is meant by: In Him was the life?
It means: The
Son of God is the origin and fountain of the spiritual life of our
souls upon earth, and of the glorious life in eternity. To give this
true life to us, He became man, whereby we are born again, newly
created, as it were, from the death of sin to the life of grace and
Why is this life the light of men?
true life of the soul which Christ has obtained for us, consists in
the ever increasing knowledge of God and his salvation, which
knowledge also comes from Christ, either externally through holy
words and examples, or inwardly by divine inspiration.
How did the light shine in darkness?
The Son of God
has given the necessary grace to find the true faith to mankind. He
still imparts to all men the necessary light, especially by His holy
Word which is preached to them, but the hardened sinners reject it,
because they wish not to hear of faith and repentance.
How did St. John the Baptist bear witness of the
the Savior to the world, and even pointing Him out when He
Who receive Christ?
Those who walk
in the light of His grace, co-operate with it, and so become the
children of God.
How are we to understand: The Word was made
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, thus uniting in Himself two natures, the divine
and the human. So Christ is true God, and at the same time true man,
therefore God-Man; consequently there are in Christ two wills, the
divine and the human. In His humanity He is less than the Father
(Jn. 14:28), in His divinity He is equal to the Father On. 10:30);
His humanity filled Him with a natural terror of His
sufferings, but His divinity was perfectly united with the will
of His Heavenly Father, and could pray: Not my will, but thine
ASPIRATION O God, our Heavenly Father,
Who this night has given to us sinners, in the form of a child from
the immaculate womb of Mary, Thine only-begotten Son as our Mediator
and Redeemer, we give Thee thanks with heart and lips, and humbly
beseech Thee that Thou wilt never permit us to forget such a grace,
and that we may sustain ourselves by it in all temptations; that w
may be ever grateful to Thee for it, and until death praise, honor
and serve Thee in sanctity. Amen.
the custom of representing in our churches and houses the crib of
This custom was
introduced by St. Francis of Assisi who, having a particular
devotion to the Infant Jesus, was accustomed to represent to himself
in this way the stable and manger at Bethlehem the further to excite
his love; and as this pious practice is calculated to assist
exceedingly in the instruction of the unlearned, especially of
children, it was introduced into many congregations.
THE SOCIETY OF THE HOLY
CHILDHOOD FOR THE SALVATION OF HEATHEN
of heathen children die every year without baptism, and what is most
terrible, a great number of these unfortunate children die the most
miserable death, and thus perish, soul and body. In the heathen
countries, especially in China, a country that contains more than
three hundred million inhabitants, it is the horrible custom of
parents, when they have too many children, or when they are sickly,
weak, or deformed to expose them on the streets, or to throw them
with a weight around their neck into the water. On the streets the
poor little children die of hunger, or are devoured by beasts, in
the water their flesh becomes the food of fishes. Many, especially
girls, are picked up by the wicked heathens, carried home, and so
trained that when they grow up, they may enrich their masters by
prostitution. A multitude of others are strangled immediately
after birth, their bodies thrown into the water, or into the gutter.
No law forbids or punishes this horrible custom. No less than twenty
or thirty thousand of these unfortunate children are killed in one
missionaries who preach the gospel to these heathens witnessed
these cruelties with terror without being able to do anything to
abolish this awful custom. To see these children die without baptism
grieved them. Some sought to gather, baptize and raise them. Good
women were engaged for this purpose. But how could the missionaries
provide for so many, how support those women who collected these
unfortunate children? They had no means. Necessary compelled them to
turn to Christian Europe. By touching letters they solicited alms
for these little unfortunates. Owing to the sad condition of these
children the pious bishop of Nancy, Forbin Janson, became the
founder of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, inviting all
children of his diocese to form a Society of the Holy Childhood,
under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the benefit of
the miserable heathen children, giving alms out of love for the
Infant Savior. All under twenty-one years of age, were to belong to
it forming clubs of twelve, in honor of the twelve years of Christ's
childhood; each member to contribute one cent monthly; and to say
one Hail Mary every day with the invocation: "Holy Mary, pray for us
and for the poor children of the heathens." By means of the money
thus collected, the missionaries were enabled to save the heathen
children from spiritual and corporal death. The society has been in
existence since 1841, and has already embraced all Catholic
countries; thousands of pious Christian children deprive themselves
of a portion of their food in order to save alms, thereby performing
a good work for the love of the child Jesus and the salvation of the
children of the heathens. Adults are admitted as honorary members,
and would it not be well, beloved reader, for you to join it, and by
prayers and alms aid in saving those little ones? This would be
indeed a good work, for which rich reward will be given in