Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2019

Above and cover photo: Midnight Mass at FSSP Baltimore (photos by Amy Proctor)

On behalf of the priests and seminarians of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, we wish you and your families a most blessed and merry Christmas! Please be assured of our prayers for you during this holy season and throughout the coming year.

On Christmas Day three Masses are said, each with a slightly different focus and perspective on this joyful feast day. At the time this greeting was posted, many of you were probably attending the first one, the Midnight Mass, which presents the events of the first Christmas to us in a very sensible way. The darkness, the candlelight and the nocturnal silence all bring us into the stable at Bethlehem, while the Gospel of that Mass (Luke 2:1-14) recounts the historical narrative of Christmas from the beginning: At that time there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled… And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son and wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger: because there was no room for them in the inn. The story ends with the announcement of the birth of the Savior to the shepherds watching over their flocks by night and the Gloria of the angels that we re-echo at Masses on Sundays and feast days.

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Gerard van Honthorst

Or perhaps you are the early-to-bed, early-to-rise type and you attended the Mass at Dawn (dawn = early morning, not necessarily actual dawn), which appears to shift from what happened to how mankind reacted to it. The Gospel continues the story of the shepherds right where the Midnight Mass left off, recalling the alacrity and immediacy with which they responded to the angelic message: “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.

Christmas Mass in Wigratzbad (Dawn or Daytime)

The Third Mass During the Day takes a noticeably different turn again, the Gospel of that Mass departing from the historical narrative of Christmas and moving into the contemplative sphere. Regular Latin Mass goers will find it quite familiar: it is the first 14 verses of John’s Gospel, which in other Masses appear as the Last Gospel. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us… John here does what he does throughout his Gospel, not only relating events to us (he actually does not relate the historical events of Christmas), but rather meditating on the eternal Love that motivated the Incarnation.

So whether you attend at midnight, dawn or during the day, maybe take a moment and read through the Gospels for the other Masses. Together they form a multi-faceted mosaic of that most blessed day when the long-awaited Savior was born to us in the city of David, when we saw His glory, the glory as it were of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. +