Mass of the Octave of Christmas
By Mons. Ignaçio Barreiro Carambula
Today we celebrate a multiplicity of feasts. In the first place, we remember the Octave of Christmas, the end of the eight day celebration of the feast of Christmas. All important feasts, following a tradition that has long Old Testament roots, are celebrated during several days. In our secularized society we anticipate Christmas forgetting Advent and we do not celebrate enough the eight days of Christmas. So we should sing carols and hymns during these eight days that make us live and relieve with gratitude this great grace which we received at the birth of Christ which is the beginning of our redemption and salvation. We should also see this feast as part of the joyful twelve days of Christmas that they are introduced with the Vigil of this most holy day and are completed with the Epiphany.
In the epistle St. Paul underlines how the grace of God Our Savior appeared for the salvation of all men. It was manifested first at Christmas with the miraculous messages of the angels that lead the shepherds to come and adore the newly born Jesus, it was manifested at His circumcision, at the Epiphany and then through the whole of the public life, death and resurrection of Christ. This grace is brought to all men of God will as the angels announced to the shepherds, so we have to endeavor to be men of good will to receive it. This fundamental teaching has to be read and meditated many times. This grace of Christ still has to be manifested to millions that have never heard of Christ, or have received sad distortions of His doctrine from the enemies of the faith. We still have to fulfill in a complete way the commandment that Christ gave to the apostles before His Ascension, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:18-20) Christ who first came to the Earth at His birth, remains with us in many ways, the main being His real presence in the Most Holy Eucharist, second in His direct interventions in history and third in our belief that leads us to follow His teachings and act in society in accordance with His inspiration.
A full translation of the last verse of this passage should read in the following way, “Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” These words have two meanings. They contain a direct instruction to Titus, the recipient of this letter, to be a strong and faithful bishop. But in this sentence St. Paul is also speaking to the Church in our times. He is exhorting the Church, to present in a courageous way His message of salvation to contemporary society without being ashamed of any part of His teachings.
Second, we celebrate the circumcision of the Lord. The blood of the Child Jesus places a seal on the New Year. This sacrifice of Jesus provides a prophetic anticipation of the Sacrifice of the Cross. In this sacrifice He shed some drops of blood, in Calvary all His blood will be poured for our redemption. Of this moving sacrifice of the child Jesus we will try to meditate in depth on this coming Sunday, on the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.
Third, we celebrate an ancient feast of Our Lady. We can see it in the ancient and beautiful collect of this Mass where after remembering the fruitful virginity of the Blessed Virgin that has bestowed on us the rewards of eternal salvation we petition that we may experience her intercession. Certainly many of you have experienced her intercession in the past year. The Marian nature of this feast is also brought to our attention in the Post-communion prayer. This awareness of her perpetual help will strengthen our faith and our love for her and fortify our hope that one day we might join her in Paradise. This Marian feast was most likely introduced in the Roman Calendar to celebrate the consecration of the Basilica of St. Maria Antica in the Roman Forum. It was built in the 5th century in the Roman Forum, and for a long time it was part of the monumental access to the Palatine imperial palaces. This church contains the earliest Roman depiction of Santa Maria Regina, the Virgin Mary as a Queen, from the 6th century. The church was partially destroyed in 847, when an earthquake caused parts of the imperial palaces to collapse and cover the church. Recently it was restored and it can be visited.
Fourth, we celebrate the beginning of the secular year asking the Lord to make it truly a year under Him, a year of the Lord, to make it a year under his social kingship. Today we pray to open our souls to receive all the graces that the Lord has prepared for us to serve Him faithfully on the coming year, being fully committed to practice and to promote the faith. My suggestion is that we should read again with attention the Encyclical Letter Quas Primas of Pius XI of December 11th 1925 in which he established the feast of Christ the King and taught us how it is our duty to establish His social kingship.
At the end of the Mass we will sing the hymn Veni Creator to the Holy Ghost, imploring divine assistance for the whole of the coming year. A plenary indulgence under the usual conditions is granted for all who participate in this prayer.
Today we seek the intercession of the Blessed Mary Queen of Heaven and Earth to be able to establish the kingship of Her Son in the coming year.
May the Lord Bless you and Keep you.