December 24, 2010

The Christmas Mystery and Masses

The Christmas mystery is about the incarnation of the Word made flesh, the Light sent into the darkness, the God who empties himself and becomes a man - so that, as the ancient Fathers taught, men might become as gods.  All the dimensions of the cosmos and the human heart are caught up in this mystery.  What is temporal is infused with eternal, and the fecundity of the supernatural order obedient to love and truth manifests the glory of God in the futility of the natural world subject to sin and death.  A celebration of such proportions has required the Church to develop different liturgies on Christmas Day so that the faithful can begin to trace the outlines of this inexhaustible mystery.  

Although mass times very from parish to parish, there are three different masses for Christmas plus a vigil mass.  At Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, the Church celebrates how the angels announced the birth of Christ in Luke 2:1-14.  The first mass at dawn celebrates the joy of the shepherds who found the Messiah in a manger from Luke 2:15-20.   The other masses on Christmas Day proclaim John 1:1-18 "In the beginning was the Word" to celebrate the Incarnation of the Lord manifest for the salvation of the world.  There is also a vigil mass on Christmas Eve before midnight in which the genealogy of Christ is read and the Sign of the Virgin for the Davidic Dynasty is recalled (Matthew 1: 1-25).   

The celebration of Christmas, through these different masses, takes up the heights of heaven and the depths of the earth, visible concrete historical particulars and invisible eternal realities, the mystery of Israel and the salvation of all the Nations.  Our spirituality echoes in these dimensions.  Christians do not escape from the world - they are its leaven, its salt, its light.   Yet they are not limited by this world.  They are pilgrims, following the Day-star, making a pathway for others to their true homeland in the footsteps of their Crucified God- the Kingdom that will have no end.