Advent is very short this year. Christmas on Monday truncates our preparatory season’s fourth week. In the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, on Sunday we observe the Vigil of the Nativity, Christmas Eve Day. In the Ordinary Form, we observe the Fourth Sunday of Advent and go straight into Christmas thereafter.
Christmas has three distinct Mass formularies: “in nocte … at night”, which is traditionally our “Midnight Mass”, “in aurora… at dawn” and “in die… in the day”. There is a thematic climax to these Masses. During the first, in the dark of night, we anticipate the promise of light. During the second, light glimmers and flashes (Lux fulgebit) and we wonder at its newness. During the third, the promise is revealed as the Babe who has been born (Puer natus est nobis). Speaking of Midnight Mass, the most evocative of the three, its Collect is nearly the same in the older, traditional as in the newfangled forms. There was a slight (unnecessary) rearrangement of words which makes the newer version diverge a bit from how the prayer resounded all the way back to the 8th-century so-called Gelasian Sacramentary:
Deus, qui hanc sacratissimam noctem veri luminis fecisti illustratione clarescere, da, quaesumus, ut, cuius lucis mysteria in terra agnovimus, eius quoque gaudiis perfruamur in caelo.
The vocabulary of light, of excellence, of clarity, brings into focus what a dark and wretched world we would be in were it not for the gift of Christ’s first appearance in His birth at Bethlehem.
Into a dark world mired in sin came Light Itself, the only one through whom true light can enter our lives. In baptism Christ, with the Father and Holy Spirit, abides in our souls. They share something of their divine life with us in grace and interior illuminations. They offer graces which adorn our souls, making them beautiful, clear and resplendent mirrors, images of the Trinity’s glory. Christ, God made man, is the perfect visible image of the invisible Father. His illustratio reveals us more fully to ourselves (cf Gaudium et spes 22). Strive to reflect Him in everything.
Current ICEL (2011): “O God, who have made this most sacred night radiant with the splendour of the true light, grant, we pray, that we, who have known the mysteries of his light on earth, may also delight in his gladness in heaven.”
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