December 25, 2021
Of the three traditional Christmas masses, my favorite has always been the dawn mass, the dawn mass, perhaps because of all the times of the day that we associate with the story of the Nativity, the he dawn is linked to so many common threads of our Christian liturgy and artistic tradition.
It has resonances of angels and light, it reaches the great liturgical poetry of the night, the stars, the heavenly host and their heavenly music, a choir of heavenly beings singing in the hills and cold fields, shepherds guarding the flocks, the wanderings of the Magi according to their light, then the birth of this child who is the Morning Star, our Sun of Justice.
This is why I decided to meditate on the readings of this Mass, because we are then half out of the excitement of the deep night, and yet not fully into the great day of celebration, because we, like so many mothers, midwives, fathers, are in that time when the excitement of the birth of any child gives way to the exhaustion of all that birth effort, to mixed feelings of joy, gratitude, and yes a sweet and bitter realization that now a whole new journey awaits us, the panels and maps still unknown, and that it is a fragile journey because this baby is literally in our hands.
Our second reading brings us to this starting point:
“But when kindness and generous love
from God our Savior appeared
not because of the good deeds we had done
but because of his mercy,
he saved us by the rebirth bath
and renewal through the Holy Spirit which he has abundantly poured out on us
through Jesus Christ our Savior “(Titus 3, 4-6)
If we unwrap what is given to us, we come to a wonderful echo of our own birth, not only in the flesh but this more glorious rebirth in the family of God, grafted onto Christ. Here is the real message that must take precedence over the dangerous commercialism and the bizarre panoply of Santa Claus. Listening to the radio, interspersed with traditional Christmas carols, the announcer kept telling us where in the world Santa Claus had landed. I’m sure none of us cares about the fiction of this benevolent figure coming down from the chimneys, but when it takes on all the other meanings connected with this feast, the birth of the Savior itself, the holy tradition of Saint Nicholas the real Christmas, the gift of the Magi, the celebrations of the Nativity centered on our figures of Christ, Mary, Joseph and this older, deeper and for us in this time of great environmental problem, a huge prophetic echo of animals’ knowing ‘their creator before us humans can perceive the presence of the “Holy One” among us, which we find amplified in Isaiah’s reference: “The ox knows its master, the donkey the manger of its owner, but Israel does not know not, my people do not understand. ” (Is 1: 3) All of these symbols are important, but only because they point far from themselves to Christ, incarnate, born, incarnate among us. perception which envelops this simple, but the most complex of births. This is what we must strive to recover.
Titus’ letter brings us to very simple points, God appeared among us because of love and mercy, so that we too can be born again and be renewed by the Holy Spirit, poured out on us by Christ.
Once again, the Gospel of this Mass places us in the midst of time, a place where we often find ourselves in our journey of faith! The shepherds ceased to see and also to hear the song of the angels of the night, for now at dawn they are struggling, both with what was sung and with what they saw, so they will seek and find their answer in the simplest scenes; Mary with Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger! Isn’t this our own journey, struggling to figure out what is almost impossible to explain? So come with the shepherds, because there too there is wonder and mystery, the shepherds are changed, from castes they are now evangelists, angels themselves, testifying and preaching on their experience. Their testimony becomes a means of conversion for many.
And so for us; we too hear the message of the angels in our gospels, we too this Christmas are called again to let Christ in, to be reborn with this feast, to take our places on earth alongside the beasts and the birds and the outcasts, and perhaps make our own the old and great antiphon of the Matins of this night: “O great mystery and marvelous sacrament, may the animals see the newborn Lord, lying in a manger!
May the images of your cribs or your icons in the crib in your prayer corner be a source of comfort and blessing throughout this beautiful season!
Christ is born, let us glorify him!
Prayer in old Provencal French at the crèche
Little Jesus of the manger
Give us the virtues of those around you
Make us philosophers like the fisherman
Careless as a drummer
Happy to explore the world like the troubadour
Eager to work as a bugle
Patient like the spinner
Sweet as the ass
Strong like the beef that keeps you warm.
Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
A Christmas Carol
(sung to the king in attendance at Whitehall)
[CHORUS] What sweeter music can we bring,
That a song, to sing
The birth of our Heavenly King?
Awaken the voice! Awaken the string!
Heart, ear and eye, and everything.
Awake! the while the active finger
Lead the division with the singer.
[VOICE 1] Dark and dull night, fly away from here
And give honor to this day,
This sees December turning into May.
 If we can ask the reason, say
The why, and why, all things here
Do you seem like the spring of the year?
 Why the cold winter morning
Smile, like a corn infested field?
Or smell, like freshly mowed mead,
 Come and see
The cause, why things are so fragrant:
‘Tis He was born, whose birth speeding up
Gives life and shine, public cheerfulness,
Towards the sky and the underground.
[CHORUS] We see it coming, and we know it as our own,
Who, with its sun and its showers,
Turn all patient soil into flowers.
 The darling of the world has come,
And it’s good, we find a room
To welcome Him.  The noblest part
Of the whole house here is the heart,
[CHORUS] That we will give to Him; and bequeath
This holly and this wreath of ivy,
To do Him honor; who is our king,
And Lord of all these celebrations.
Keywords: Father Robin Gibbons, Christmas
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