Friday, December 24, 2010

The Nativity of the Lord Christmas - Dawn


The Nativity of the Lord Christmas
Mass at Dawn

Readings for the Nativity of the Lord – Dawn[1][2]

Readings from the Jerusalem Bible

Readings and Commentary:
[3]

Reading 1:
Isaiah 62:11-12

See, the LORD proclaims
to the ends of the earth:
say to daughter Zion,
your savior comes!
Here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
They shall be called the holy people,
the redeemed of the LORD,
and you shall be called “Frequented,”
a city that is not forsaken.
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Commentary on
Is 62:11-12

This selection is the conclusion of a poem of joy over the salvation brought about through renewed faith in God and following his holy way. The New Jerusalem (daughter Zion), the kingdom of God rejoices in its salvation.

“Since the sixth century, Christian tradition has used this poem in the liturgy of Christmas day. The birth of Jesus has brought about the joyful union of God and mankind in a way that surpasses that described in terms of spousal union. A monk of the Middle Ages makes this beautiful comment: ‘Like the bridegroom who comes out of his chamber the Lord came down from heaven to dwell on earth and to become one with the Church through his incarnation. The Church was gathered together from among the Gentiles, to whom he gave his dowry and his blessings –his dowry, when God was made man; his blessings, when he was sacrificed for their salvation. ‘(Fausto de Riez, Sermo 5 in Epiphania).”
[4]

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Responsorial Psalm:
Psalm 97:1, 6, 11-12

R. A light will shine on us this day: the Lord is born for us.

The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many isles be glad.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
R. A light will shine on us this day: the Lord is born for us.

Light dawns for the just;
and gladness, for the upright of heart.
Be glad in the LORD, you just,
and give thanks to his holy name.
R. A light will shine on us this day: the Lord is born for us.
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Commentary on
Ps 97:1, 6, 11-12

This song of thanksgiving rejoices in God’s rule of the earth from his heavenly throne. His salvation dawns upon those who are justified in Him, as light dawns upon the earth at each new day.

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Reading 2:
Titus 3:4-7

Beloved:
When the kindness and generous love
of God our savior appeared,
not because of any righteous deeds we had done
but because of his mercy,
He saved us through the bath of rebirth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
whom he richly poured out on us
through Jesus Christ our savior,
so that we might be justified by his grace
and become heirs in hope of eternal life.
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Commentary on
Ti 3:4-7

St. Paul describes the duties of Christians in this section of his letter (v.1-7). In the first verses he spoke of their behaviors before the coming of Christ (“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful ourselves and hating one another.”
Titus 3:3). Now he speaks of the changes brought about with Christ’s coming to them, bathing them in the Baptism and the Holy Spirit. He then provides the theological reason for his instruction (“…so that we might be justified by his grace”).

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Gospel:
Luke 2:15-20

When the angels went away from them to heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
“Let us go, then, to Bethlehem
to see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.
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Commentary on
Lk 2:15-20

The message, given to the shepherds by choirs of angels that they, in turn, brought to Mary was; “For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." (
Luke 2 11-12) This encounter with the shepherds further reinforces Mary’s faith, the acceptance of her child’s role explained to her by the Archangel Gabriel when this wonderful and tragic journey began. She keeps and reflects in her heart about her son many times in his short life among us.

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Reflection:

This morning I give you not my words but those of a great leader of our faith, Pope St Leo the Great. His Christmas Sermon provides us with much to be thankful for:

Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.

No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.

In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.

And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to men of good will as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvelous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?

Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ, so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.

Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.

Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.

Pax

[1] ALTRE
[2] The picture is “The Nativity” by Willem Benson, 1550s
[3] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[4] The Navarre Bible: “Major Prophets”, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2002, pp.267-68

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