Introitus: Dóminus dixit ad me

In Nativitate Domini in nocte


Ps 2:7

Dóminus dixit ad me: Fílius meus es tu, ego hódie génui te.
The Lord said to Me, You are My Son; this day I have begotten You.

Ps 2:1

Quare fremuérunt gentes: et pópuli meditáti sunt inánia?
V. Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.
R. Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculórum. Amen

Why do the nations rage and the people utter folly?
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Dóminus dixit ad me: Fílius meus es tu, ego hódie génui te.
The Lord said to Me, You are My Son; this day I have begotten You.

In Nativitate Domini in nocte

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In Nativitate Domini in nocte

Luc 2:1-14

In illo témpore: Exiit edíctum a Caesare Augústo, ut describerétur univérsus orbis. Haec descríptio prima facta est a praeside Sýriæ Cyríno: et ibant omnes ut profiteréntur sínguli in suam civitátem. Ascéndit autem et Ioseph a Galilaea de civitáte Názareth, in Iudaeam in civitátem David, quæ vocatur Béthlehem: eo quod esset de domo et fámilia David, ut profiterétur cum María desponsáta sibi uxóre prægnánte. Factum est autem, cum essent ibi, impléti sunt dies, ut páreret. Et péperit fílium suum primogénitum, et pannis eum invólvit, et reclinávit eum in præsépio: quia non erat eis locus in diversório. Et pastóres erant in regióne eádem vigilántes, et custodiéntes vigílias noctis super gregem suum. Et ecce, Angelus Dómini stetit iuxta illos, et cláritas Dei circumfúlsit illos, et timuérunt timóre magno. Et dixit illis Angelus: Nolíte timére: ecce enim, evangelízo vobis gáudium magnum, quod erit omni pópulo: quia natus est vobis hódie Salvátor, qui est Christus Dóminus, in civitáte David. Et hoc vobis signum: Inveniétis infántem pannis involútum, et pósitum in præsépio. Et súbito facta est cum Angelo multitúdo milítiæ coeléstis, laudántium Deum et dicéntium: Glória in altíssimis Deo, et in terra pax hóminibus bonæ voluntátis.

At that time, there went forth a decree from Caesar Augustus that a census of the whole world should be taken. This first census took place while Cyrinus was governor of Syria. And all were going, each to his own town, to register. And Joseph also went from Galilee out of the town of Nazareth into Judea to the town of David, which is called Bethlehem – because he was of the house and family of David – to register, together with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass while they were there, that the days for her to be delivered were fulfilled. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds in the same district living in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them and the glory of God shone round about them, and they feared exceedingly. And the angel said to them, Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all the people; for today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, Who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you: you will find an Infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of good will.

Preparing Soul and Body for Christmas

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Preparing Soul and Body for Christmas
By Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Some of you have asked me how an ideal commemoration of Christmas should be in our days. I believe that the way we commemorate Christmas needs to be revised if we want to understand the ideal way to celebrate it.

There is a principle in Catholic doctrine that teaches us that since man is constituted of soul and body, the joys as well as the sorrows of a well-ordered man should be greater for his soul than his body. The life of a well-ordered Catholic must give more importance to what concerns his soul rather than his body.

The Fundamental Joy of a Catholic

What are the joys of a Catholic?

The Catholic whose conscience is in order knows that he is a successful man. This is a fundamental point. Each of us who lives in the state of grace, dies in the state of grace, and goes to Heaven has a completely fulfilled life. He was successful when he lived, when he died, and for all eternity.

The smiling Angel of Reims expresses the joy of a Catholic who lives in the state of grace
No matter how many surprises, sufferings, disappointments and frustrations he might have, a fundamental joy should exist in that man. He can say: “I am in the grace of God; therefore I am in the correct state. Whatever else befalls me is either because God permits it or because I did not take the right stance in face of certain problems.” When his judgment time comes, he may pass through Purgatory, but in the end he will go to Heaven, and, therefore, his life is a success – he is a successful man.

This fundamental joy of having a peaceful conscience, of having a life that is successful in what is essential, is the joy of a Catholic. It gives him stability and peace, and disposes him to judge everything from the highest perspective. He sees the things that happen on earth from a higher and more translucent prism, which frees him from the afflictions, disquiet and anxieties characteristic of the people of our days. This, then, is the fundamental joy of the Catholic.

Preparing the soul for Christmas

The feasts of the Church provide us abundant opportunity to have joy. Among them, Christmas is the one that shines out in this respect.

In the ambience that surrounded Christmas there was a fundamental joy that came from all the graces that descended on mankind at the birth of Our Lord. Anne Catherine Emmerick and Blessed Maria de Agreda tell us that all nature, including the vegetable and mineral kingdoms, shone with a special splendor on Christmas night in commemoration of the coming of the Savior to the world.

In the Catholic Liturgy and traditions, we find many other joys in the preparation for and celebration of Christmas. Some vestiges of this joy still remain in the ecclesiastical structure we see around us – where we only see vestiges of the Catholic Church [these comments were made in 1971].

When I consider those graces of Christmas, the joy they inspire penetrates me profoundly. It is the joy of knowing and feeling that God reconciled Himself with man, that mercy became present among us; that Our Lord, the Sun of all virtues, made Himself small, weak and accessible, and that He came to us filled with goodness.

The greatest joy of Christmas is spiritual – preparing to receive Christ
Because I have a Savior, I was rescued. Someone paid the debts I had no condition to pay; someone loved me with a love that I did not deserve. There is a God who comes to me even when I do not go to Him, who is concerned about me even when I do not think of Him, and who wants to save me even when I persecute Him.

Considering this, I feel a kind of peace and joy that participates in that supernatural cascade of graces that flooded nature on the first Christmas. The whole universe of which I am a part was made nobler by the fact that God became flesh and dwelt among us.

I have a special joy when I consider all these things at the foot of the Manger, kneeling before the Divine Infant, my Savior, my Redeemer and my God, and, at the same time my Brother, a Son of Our Lady like me.

Special graces normally accompany the feasts of the Church, inviting Catholics to become aware of the nobility, beauty and excellence of what is being celebrated. Thus, for me the most important thing on Christmas Night, the apex of Christmas, is not to have a Pantagruelic feast or to take part in the pagan festivities of our modern cities. It is something much more elevated than the pleasures of the flesh – even the licit and innocent ones, such as a good meal.

The double joy of Christmas comes from being in the state of grace and having God dwelling among us. “The word was made flesh and dwelt among us” – until the last day of the world whenever a person pronounces this phrase of the Creed, knees will bend. The Creed and the Angelus will be said until the final bell of the last church tolls, and Our Lord Jesus Christ returns in person. That is, this is a joy that will be repeated until the end of the world.

This joy comes from the first night of Christmas and will continue to the very end. The joy that I will have at this 1971 Christmas is a regal share of the river of joys opened by the coming of Our Lord, which will flow through the poignant prairie of this world until the end times.

Therefore, for Christmas I need to prepare my soul to experience this joy that comes from such high causes. I need to meditate and be recollected, and to realize that on Christmas night it is as if Our Lord were born again. It is as if He were present at the Manger in Bethlehem and I were there with Him. This should be my delight.

How to treat ‘brother body’

Now, it happens that man is an ensemble of soul and body. St. Francis of Assisi would affectionately refer to the body as “brother body.” Brother body asks to be well treated also during times of joy. It is normal that in a time of a great joy for the soul, we should give the body some contentment. This is the reason for the Christmas Supper. It is an extension or echo of our interior spiritual joy.

Although it is normal to have a nice Christmas Supper, it is an aberration to make it the center of our Christmas commemorations. To show no concern for preparing one’s soul and the greatest care in arranging a magnificent meal is an upside-down Christmas. This Supper should not be a Pantagruelic meal to make us feel overstuffed. It should be a light meal that gives the body a proportionate pleasure that discreetly follows the spiritual joy we are experiencing.

For example, imagine that one of us attends a Mozart concert. During the intermission he goes to a buffet and eats a huge barbecue and fills himself completely. Coming back home, someone might comment to him: “What a wonderful concert!” But he is thinking: “Really, what a wonderful barbecue!” This man squandered the benefit of the concert. He should have appreciated the exquisite music of Mozart, but instead he became incapable of appreciating anything because of the disproportionate amount of food he ate. He put things upside-down.

Christmas Eve celebrated in high society

Imitating worldly patterns should be avoided at Christmas dinner
Worse than this is someone who ignores the graces of Christmas because he is thinking about the supper he will have with family or friends.

The Christmas Supper should be distinguished but discreet, with certain good dishes to satisfy our appetite and give us a moderate pleasure, but it need not be a stupendous meal.

In practice, it should not be an occasion for us to eat many unusual and exceptional things that transport us to a kind of small gastronomical paradise: an exotic fowl, a super-paté, an astonishing caviar followed by a spetacular champagne. Of course, it is not the time to have a steak with two fried eggs, but also it is not the place to over-satiate ourselves.

Nor is it the place for us to put on social airs. Suppose that someone heard it was fashionable among nobles and millionaires to eat a rare, exquisite white caviar that comes from the Caspian Sea. So he also wants to have this singular dish at his Christmas Supper.

Even if he saved and could buy some of that caviar, it would not be proportional to his social level. We should not make such pretenses, especially at the Christmas Supper. Such things do not properly commemorate the Holy Christmas of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It transforms the celebration into a worldly competition or a grand dinner party.

The Catholic Supper should be good and dignified, but something that is temperate so that we can follow the sublimity of the spiritual joys of Christmas.

The joys of brother body should never suffocate the more elevated ones of sister soul.

Saints Tarsilla and Emiliana

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Saints Tarsilla and Emiliana

(Sixth Century)

Tarsilla and Emiliana were two paternal aunts of Saint Gregory the Great, and it is this holy Pope who narrates their touching story. They renounced the world together, together consecrated their virginity to God and remained in their house as if in a convent, far removed from the conversation of the world. Encouraging one another to virtue by discourse and example, the two sisters soon made considerable progress in spiritual life.

They had a sister named Gordiana, who had taken the same engagements, but little by little fell back into affection for the world, to the great grief of Tarsilla and Emiliana. With gentleness they reproached her, but the inconstant spirit of Gordiana soon forgot their charitable lessons. One day Tarsilla had a vision, in which Pope Saint Felix, her uncle, appeared to her and showed her a palace of marvelous beauty, saying to her: Come; I will receive you into this habitation of light. She fell ill with a fever the next day, which rapidly grew worse. While in her agony, with her eyes lifted to heaven, she cried out to those surrounding her, Make way! Jesus is coming! Soon after speaking these words, as she gazed at the vision, her soul was delivered from the bonds of the flesh. It was December 24th. The fragrance with which the room was filled confirmed the vision the virgin had had before dying.

A few days afterwards she appeared to her sister Emiliana, saying: My sister, come! I did not celebrate with you the birth of the Lord, but together we will celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. If you call only me, Emiliana replied, what will become of our sister Gordiana? Come, Tarsilla answered sadly; Gordiana has decided to remain with the worldlings. And after that vision, Emiliana fell ill and joined her sister for the feast day.

Reflection: Saint Gregory reminds us, as he tells of the three sisters, that only the one who perseveres to the end will be saved, and that it is of no use to begin, if we do not complete the work of saving our soul.

Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l’année, by Abbé L. Jaud (Mame: Tours, 1950).

The Incarnation

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XXX. The Incarnation

(Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed.)
What is meant by the Incarnation? –By the Incarnation is meant that the Son of God, retaining His Divine nature, took to Himself a human nature, that is, a body and soul like ours.

The Incarnation is the greatest act of humility possible. By it the Son of God, eternal, almighty, infinite, voluntarily took upon Himself human nature with its weaknesses. He circumscribed Himself with a human body that would feel sickness and pain, and with a human soul that would cause Him agony.

Incarnation means “becoming flesh”. Thus the Son of God took a human body and soul and united it to His divine Person. Without ceasing to be God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became man at the same time. The divine nature of Christ is from all eternity. Only His human nature began at the Incarnation.

By virtue of the Incarnation Jesus Christ came to earth. This is a mystery which we can never fully understand, but must be content to honor and adore.

“The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Christ as man was like us in all things except sin. He could not sin, because He is God. But in all other things He was like us: he had a human body, a human soul, a human will. Can we understand this with our reason? Hardly. As St. John Chrysostom said: “I know that the Son of Gad became man. but how, I do not know.” God, Who produced the universe from nothing, also caused the Incarnation.

How was the Son of God made man? –The Son of God was conceived and made man by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Three persons of God cooperated in the Incarnation, but only the Second Person took on flesh: only He took to Himself a human nature.

The Incarnation is peculiarly the work of the Blessed Trinity. They formed a human soul and a human body, and these they united to the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity: the result was Our Lord Jesus Christ, God-Man.

To the power of the Holy Ghost we attribute the Incarnation, because the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity peculiarly expresses the Spirit of Love: and the Incarnation is the supreme example of God’s love for men.

It was fitting that God the Son should become incarnate, rather than the Father or the Holy Ghost; for the Son proceeds from the Father, and could be sent by Him.

God the Son then could, as the fruit of His Redemption, send God the Holy Ghost. Thus through the Son of God we became adopted sons of God.

When was the Son of God conceived and made man? –The Son of God was conceived and made man on Annunciation Day, the day on which the Angel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she was to be the Mother of God.

In Nazareth of Galilee lived the Blessed Virgin Mary. One day the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and said: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:28).
Mary was surprised. The angel said: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a Son: and thou shalt call His name Jesus.” This event is called the Annunciation commemorated by the feast on March 25.

Mary knew that the angel was sent by God. She answered: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38)

At these words of the Blessed Virgin, Jesus Cluist became man in her womb, and the incarnation was accomplished.

The mystery of the Incarnation is commemorated daily by the Angelus, a prayer said by Catholics morning, noon, and night, at the ringing of the Angelus bell.

The Angelus bell is rung in a particular way: at the verse, it is sounded three times: a pause follows while the Hail Mary is recited. “This procedure is repeated three times for the three verses and three Hail Marys. Then follows continual ringing while the Prayer is said.

During the Easter time the prayer Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven) is substituted for the Angelus. Those who do not know these prayers by heart, or who cannot read, may say five Hail Marys instead.

Did Jesus Christ have human parents? –Jesus Christ had a human mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, but He had no human father.

The Blessed Virgin was Christ’s mother as man, but not as God.
However, the Blessed virgin is truly the Mother of God, because the humanity and divinity of her Son are inseparable. In a similar way we call our parents mother and father, although they only gave us our body, and not our soul.

Christ had no human father. The Blessed Virgin remained a virgin all her life. The conception of Our Lord is a great miracle and a mystery that we cannot understand. We can only accept it as true on the word of God, Who is almighty.

St. Joseph was the legal spouse of Mary, but both of them preserved their virginity, consecrating it to God. They always lived together as brother and sister. St. Joseph was only the guardian or foster father of Our Lord.

We should honor and love Saint Joseph, because Our Lord honored and loved him. Holy Scripture calls him a just man. He was a most pure man; and this is why God selected him as the virgin spouse of Mary, to care for her and the Child Jesus.
Jesus loved St. Joseph and obeyed his slightest wish. Mary even called Joseph the father of Jesus.

It seems that Saint Joseph was born in Bethlehem of Judea. But at the time of the Annunciation, he and Mary were living in Nazareth of Galilee. He was a carpenter. It appears that he died before the beginning of Christ’s public life.

The memory of Saint Joseph was venerated from the very earliest centuries. In 1870 Pope Pius IX declared Saint Joseph Patron of the Church. He is also patron of a happy death. We should invoke his protection often. His feast, kept on March 19, has been celebrated since the 15th century.