Monday, December 24, 2007

The Importance of the Proclamation of Christmas At Midnight Mass

THis is often my favorite part of the liturgy at Christmas Eve Mass. I love when it is sung. I was struck a couple of years back when Scott Hahn talked about this. He said:

One of the very first times I attended Mass as a non-Catholic, a Protestant, Christmas Eve; it was the Midnight Mass in a suburb of Pittsburgh, my home town. I got there just in time to hear this cantor stand up and before the actual Mass began, he began to sing a song. It is actually a part of the ancient Christmas liturgy. I asked for a copy afterwards and I got the Proclamation of Christmas. I won't sing it or you'll all flee my presence, but I will tell you what it says: "The twenty-fifth day of December in the 5,099th year of the creation of the world from the time in the beginning when God created the heaven and the earth, the 2,957th year after the flood, the 2,015th year from the birth of Abraham, the 1,510th year from Moses and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt, the 1,032nd year from David's being anointed king, and the 65th week according to the prophecy of Daniel and the 194th Olympiad, the 752nd year from the foundation of the city of Rome, the 42nd year of the reign of Octavius Augustus, the whole world being at peace, in the sixth age of the world, Jesus Christ, the Eternal God and the Son of the Eternal Father willing to consecrate the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit and nine months having passed since his conception, (all kneel) was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary being made man (rise), the nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh."

I was a non-Catholic, but when I heard that, I wanted to jump up and shout because all of a sudden a panoramic, bird's-eye view of salvation history was given in song to approximately 900 uncomprehending Catholics who were sitting there. You know, if they could understand the words they were like, "What week of the prophecy of Daniel?" You could just see the looks on their faces. It's a beautiful song but the awareness, the understanding and the appreciation for how much went into preparing the world and the nations and the whole broken human family for the coming of Christ was lost to I would say the vast multitude that night and on many other Christmas Evening Masses.

It just highlights the importance for us as Catholics, as Christians, to enter into more fully the liturgical worship of the family of God, the Church; we need to know the Bible. It is not a Protestant book. It was written by Catholics in the Catholic Church and for Catholics. I am so glad Protestants and other non-Catholics have it. We can profit so much from mutual sharing back and forth. I don't want to say anything to gainsay the profit we can actually acquire from studying Scripture with non-Catholics. But it really is a most treasured family heirloom, and it's also a most neglected family heirloom. So it's important not only to bring them and to follow along, but also to study prayerfully in the days, the weeks, the months and years to come


Anonymous said...

haha i just read this same song for the first time today! it is spectacular. it sparked a ten hour study into Daniel 9 and his prophecy. God Bless you and Merry Christmas!

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