Reflections on Midnight Mass

A parishioner who came to our midnight Mass kindly wrote to say “I just wanted to let you know how much we loved the Midnight Mass. Everything was beautiful, as always. We absolutely loved having ‘In Dulci Jubilo’ as the final hymn after you had invited everyone to visit the gorgeous presepio. We hope that becomes an annual tradition as our final hymn.”

Another parishioner enjoyed hearing the Canon in Latin, with its timeless quality: “Hearing the Roman canon done in Latin is amazing, something like a time machine. Latin may not be natively spoken by anyone, but if there are 10s of 1000s of priests who can manage it, then it isn’t dead, either. Every now and then it’s good to bring in extended passages of Latin to remind us, through the sense of hearing, that the church goes back along an unbroken cable through time, all the way back to the days of imperial Rome.”

Christmas13-65It is most fitting to celebrate Mass at Christmas, not just to gather to sing joyful carols. Saint Peter Julian Eymard directly links Christmas and the Eucharist in this passage:

“The sacrifice begun at Bethlehem is consummated on the altar at Holy Mass. Oh! How touching is the Midnight Mass in the Christian world! We greet it long beforehand and are always glad to see it come around again. What is it that gives to our feast of Christmas its charm and that pours joy into our carols and rapture into our hearts, if not that on the altar Jesus is really born again, although in a different state? Do not our carols and our homages go straight to His very person? The object of our festive celebration as of our love is present. We really go to Bethlehem and we find there not a memory, not a picture, but the Divine Infant Himself.

He concealed His Divinity in order to familiarize man with God. He veiled His Divine glory as a first step to the veiling of His humanity… later in the Eucharist, He would ask man for a shelter for Himself, the matter for His Sacrament, vestments for His priest and His altar. This is how Bethlehem heralds the Eucharist.”

To quote Robert Southwell again, on God’s gift of himself to us:

“Gift better than Himself God doth not know,
Gift better than God no man can see;
This gift doth here the giver given bestow
Gift to this gift let each receiver be;
God is my gift, Himself He freely gave me,
God’s gift am I, and none but God shall have me.”