The Christmas Cycle

First Mass of Christmas
Second Mass of Christmas
Third Mass of Christmas
Sunday Within the Octave of Christmas
Feast of the Circumcision
Feast of the Holy Name
The Epiphany
Feast of the Holy Family

First Mass of Christmas At Midnight

Liturgical Commentary

In the early centuries of the Church the faithful prepared themselves for solemn festivals by the recitation of the "Vigils" or the present Matins, the triple division of which corresponded to the night watches (vigiliae) of the Romans. The "most holy night of Christmas" (Collect) is all that remains of this practice.

The Midnight Mass specially recalls the temporal birth of Jesus in His coming of grace: "Mary brings forth her first-born Son" (Gospel). It reminds us also of the eternal birth of the Word "begotten before the dawn of ages" (Gradual and Communion), Who shall manifest Himself to all the elect when, at the end of the world, shall take place "the glorious appearance of the great God" (Epistle).

Finally it recalls the spiritual birth of Christ in our souls, which shows itself by the exercise of virtues: "Let us be pursuers of good works" (Epistle), "that we may be found like unto Jesus, in Whom the human nature is united to the Divine" (Secret).

Let us be born to the divine life on earth by participating "in the holy mysteries of the birth of our Lord, so that we may enjoy eternal life in heaven" (Collect and Postcommunion).

Mass Readings

Introit: The Lord hath said to me: Thou art My Son, this day I have begotten Thee. Why have the Gentiles raged, and the peoples devised vain things? Glory be

Collect: O God, who hast made this most holy night to shine forth with the brightness of the true light, grant, we beseech Thee, that we who have known the mystery of His light on earth, may attain the enjoyment of His happiness in heaven. Who liveth and reigneth with Thee

Epistle: Titus ii. 11-15 Dearly beloved: The grace of God our Savior hath appeared to all men, instructing us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly and justly and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ: Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and might cleanse to Himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works. These things speak and exhort, in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Gradual: With Thee is the principality in the day of Thy strength -- in the brightness of the saints -- from the womb before the daystar, I have begotten Thee. The Lord said to my Lord: Sit Thou at My right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool. Alleluia, alleluia. The Lord said to Me: thou art My Son, this day I have begotten Thee. Alleluia.

Gospel: Luke ii. 1-14 At that time, a decree went forth from Caesar Augustus that a census of the whole world should be taken. This first census took place while Cyrinus was governor of Syria. And all were going, each to his own town, to register. And Joseph also went from Galilee out of the town of Nazareth into Judea into the town of David, which is called Bethlehem -- because he was of the house and family of David -- to register, together with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass while they were there, that the days for her to be delivered were fulfilled. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in an manger, be- cause there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds in the same district living in the fields and keeping watch over the flock by night. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them and the glory of God shone round about them, and they feared exceedingly. And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all the people; for today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, who is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will."

Offertory: Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad before the face of the Lord: because He cometh.

Secret: May the oblation of this day's festival be pleasing to Thee, we beseech Thee, O Lord: that of Thy bountiful grace we may, through this sacred intercourse, be found conformed to Him, in Whom our substance is united to Thee.

Communion: In the brightness of the saints, from the womb before the daystar I have begotten Thee.

Postcommunion: Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord our God, that we who rejoice in celebrating these mysteries of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, may be a fitting change of behavior, become worthy to attain to fellowship with Him.

Second Mass of Christmas At Dawn

Liturgical Commentary

The Mass at Dawn was celebrated at Rome in the old Church of St. Anastasia, the only parish situated in the centre of ancient Rome in the district inhabited by the wealthy classes. It was situated at the foot of the Palatine where the Caesars resided, and was consequently the church of the high officials of the Court. It was therefore chosen for the celebration of the second Christmas Mass. The name of this Saint is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass.

St. Anastasia, a holy widow, was burnt alive during the Diocletian persecution on this very day, December 25.

The Liturgy of the Mass makes us hail "with joy the holy King Who cometh" (Communion), "the Lord Who is born to us" (Introit), "the Infant lying in the manger" (Gospel).

Mass Readings

Introit: A light shall shine upon us this day: for the Lord is born to us and He shall be called Wonderful, God, the Prince of Peace, the Father of the world to come: of whose reign there shall be no end. The Lord hath reigned, He is clothed with beauty: the Lord is clothed with strength, and hath girded Himself.

Collect: Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we, upon whom is poured the new light of Thy Word made flesh, may show forth in our actions that which by faith shineth in our minds. Through the same Lord

Epistle: Titus iii: 4-7 Beloved: When the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared, not by reason of good works that we did ourselves, but according to His mercy, He saved us through the bath of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Ghost; whom He has abundantly poured out upon us through Jesus Christ or Savior, in order that, justified by His grace, we may be heirs in the hope of life everlasting, in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Gradual: Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord. The Lord is God, and He hath shone upon us. This is the Lord's doing and it is wonderful in our eyes. Alleluia, alleluia. The Lord has reigned, He is clothed with beauty. The Lord is clothed with strength, and hath girded Himself with power. Alleluia.

Gospel: Luke ii 15-20 At that time, the shepherds were saying to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste, and they found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger. And when they had seen they understood what had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard marvelled at the things told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept in mind all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken to them.

Offertory: God hath established the world, which shall not be moved. Thy throne, O God, is prepared from of old; Thou art from everlasting.

Secret: May our offerings, we beseech Thee, O Lord, be in keeping with the mysteries of this festival of the Nativity, and ever pour down upon us peace: that even as He who was born man shone forth also as God, so may this earthly substance bestow upon us that which is divine. Through the same Lord

Communion: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold the King comes, holy, the Savior of the world.

Postcommunion: May the new life derived from this Sacrament ever revive us, O Lord: since it is His Sacrament, whose wonderful birth has overcome the old man. Through the same Lord

Third Mass of Christmas during the Day

Liturgical Commentary

Like Midnight Mass, the Mass of the day is celebrated in the great Basilica of St. Mary Major, which represents Bethlehem at Rome, and where portions of the crib of our Saviour are venerated.

The Gospel of this Mass sums up all the liturgy of the Christmas Season, which manifests to us the triple filiation of Christ. With regard to Father as God, His birth is eternal: "In the beginning the Word was with God." As Man is temporal: "The Word was made flesh." As living in the Church, which is His Mystical Body, it is spiritual: "As many as received Him, to them He gave power to be made the sons of God, to bo born of God."

The Mass of the day dwells, however, more especially on the generation of the Word. "All things were made by Him" (Gospel), "it was by Him that God made the world" (Epistle), "the world and the fulness thereof Thou hast founded" (Offertory). Also it invites "the nations to come and adore the Lord" (Alleluia), and shows us "the Angels who adore Him" (Epistle), "the Kings who adore Him" (Last Gospel), whilst at the Creed the Priests kneel before "the only-begotten Son of God made Man."

Mass Readings

INTROIT. A Child is born to us, and a Son is given to us; whose government is upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called the Angel of the Great Counsel. Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle; for He hath done wonderful things. Glory be to the Father.

COLLECT. Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that the new birth of Thine 0nly-begotten Son in the flesh may set us free, whom the old bondage doth hold under the yoke of sin. Through the same Lord.

EPISTLE. Heb. i. 1-12. God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all, in these days, hath spoken to us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by Whom also He made the world. Who being the brightness of His glory, and the figure of His substance, and upholding all things by the word of His power, making purgation of sins, sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as He hath inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels hath He said at any time: Thou art my Son, today have I begotten Thee? And again: I will be to Him a father, and He shall be to me a Son? And again, when He bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, He salth: And let all the angels of God adore Him. And to the angels indeed He saith: He that maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire. But to the Son: Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of justice is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved justice, and hated iniquity; therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows. And: Thou in the beginning, 0 Lord, didst found the earth; and the works of Thy hands are the heavens. They shall perish, but Thou shalt continue; and they shall all grow old as a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed; but Thou art the self same, and Thy years shall not fail.

GRADUAL. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God; sing joyfully to God all the earth. The Lord hath made known His salvation; He hath revealed His justice in the sight of the Gentiles. Alleluia, alleluia. A sanctified day hath shone upon us; come ye Gentiles, and adore the Lord; for this day a great light hath descended upon thc earth. Alleluia.

GOSPEL. John i. 1-14.

OFFERTORY. Thine are the heavens, and Thine is the earth: the world and the fullness thereof Thou hast founded: justice and judgment are thc preparation of Thy throne.

SECRET. The gifts we offer do Thou, 0 Lord, sanctify by the new birth of Thine only-begotten Son, and cleanse us from the stains of our sins. Through the same Lord.

COMMUNION. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

POSTCOMMUNION. Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that as the Saviour of the world, born this day, is the author of our divine generation, so He may also be Himself the giver of immortality. Who liveth and reigneth.

Sunday Within the Octave of Christmas

Liturgical Commentary

The Mass tells us that "the Word come down from heaven during the night" of Christmas (Introit) is "the Son of God Who has come that we might participate of His heritage and receive the adoption of sons "(Epistle). Before Him man was as "a child who during his minority differeth nothing from a servant" (Epistle). Now, on the contrary, that the New Law has emancipated him from the tutorship of the Old Law "he is no longer a servant, but a son" (Epistle).

In revealing to us this supernatural filiation of Christ, which affects our souls more especially at this Season of Christmas, the liturgy makes the Divinity under the aspect of Paternity resplendent in our eyes. Also, the worship of the sons of God is summed up in that word spoken with Jesus, from the lips and by a holy life, "Father !" (Epistle).

The Gospel also discloses to us the glorious mission which the future has in store for this Child, the manifestation of which begins to-day in the Temple.

"It is the King" (Gradual), "whose reign" (Alleluia) "will reach the very depths of the heart" (Gospel). For all it will be a touchstone, a stumbling block for those who will persecute Him (Communion), a corner-stone "for many in Israel" (Gospel). The Introit alludes to the night when the Angel of God struck down the first-born of the Egyptians and thus prepared the deliverance of Israel, a symbol of the most holy night when Holy Mary brought the Saviour into the world, Who had come to deliver mankind.

Mass Readings

INTROIT. While all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, Thy Almighty Word, O Lord, came down from heaven, from Thy royal throne. The Lord hath reigned, He is clothed with beauty: the Lord is clothed with strength, and hath girded Himself. Glory be to the Father.

C0LLECT. 0 Almighty and everlasting God, do Thou direct our actions according to Thy good pleasure, that we may deserve to abound in good works in the name of Thy beloved Son. Who liveth and reigneth,

EPISTLE. Gal. iv. 1-7. Brethren: As long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed by the father: so we also when we were children, were serving under the elements of the world. But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent His Son, made of a woman, made under the law: that He might redeem them who were under the law; that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons, God hath sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying: Abba, Father. Therefore now he is not a servant, but a son; and if a son, an heir also through God.

GRADUAL. Thou art beautiful above the sons of men: grace is poured abroad in Thy lips. My heart hath uttered a good word, I speak my words to the king: my tongue is the pen of a scrivener that writeth swiftly. Alleluia, alleluia. The Lord hath reigned, He is clothed with beauty: the Lord is clothed with strength, and hath girded Himself with might. Alleluia.

GOSPEL. Luke ii. 33-40. At that time: Joseph and Mary; the mother of Jesus, were wondering at those things, which were spoken concerning Him. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother: Behold, this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel; and for a sign, which shall be contradicted; and thine own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was far advanced in years, and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity. And she was a widow until fourscore and four years: who departed not from the temple, by fastings and prayers serving night and day. Now she, at the same hour coming in, Confessed to the Lord: and spoke of Him to all that looked for the redemption of Israel. And after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to the city Nazareth. And the child grew and waxed strong, full of wisdom; and the grace of God Was in Him.

OFFERTORY. God hath established the world which shall not be moved: Thy throne, 0 God, is prepared from of old; Thou art from everlasting.

SECRET. Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the offering made in the sight of Thy majesty may obtain for us the grace of loving devotion and the reward of a blessed immortality. Through our Lord.

COMMUNION. Take the child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead who sought the life of the child.

POSTCOMMUNION. By the operation of this Mystery, 0 Lord, may our vices be purged away, and our just desires fulfilled. Through our Lord.

The Circumcision of our Lord
The Octave of the Nativity

Liturgical Commentary

The liturgy to-day celebrates three feasts :-- 1. The first is that which the old sacramentaries indicate under the title of "Within the Octave of the Lord." Jesus has been born eight days, and the Mass borrows many things from the Masses of Christmas Day.

2. The second feast reminds us that, after God, it is to Mary that we are indebted for Jesus. Formerly for this reason a second Mass was celebrated on this day in honour of the Mother of God in the Basilica of St. Mary Major. A trace of this old custom is found in the Collect, the secret and the Postcommunion, which are taken from the Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin.

3. The third feast is that of the Circumcision (sixth century). Moses imposed this rite of purification, a symbol of baptism, on all young Israelites the eight day after their birth (Gospel).

And as this is the first Divine blood that the Saviour shed for the cleansing of our souls, the Church dwells on the necessity of our casting out all that is evil in us. "Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, that we might be redeemed from all iniquity and cleansed" (Epistle). "Vouchsafe, O Lord, to cleanse us by these heavenly mysteries" (Secret). "May this communion, O Lord, cleanse us from our guilt" (Postcommunion). It is the Christian circumcision.

Mass Readings

Introit: child is born to us, and a Son is given to us; whose government is upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called, the Angel of great counsel. Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: because He hath done wonderful things. Glory be....

Collect: O God, who by the fruitful virginity of the blessed Mary hast bestowed upon the human race the rewards of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech Thee, that we may experience the intercession of her, through whom we have been made worthy to receive the author of life, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord....

Epistle: Titus Dearly beloved: The grace of God our Savior has appeared to all men, instructing us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly and justly and godly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and the coming of the glory of the great God and Savior Jesus Christ: Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and might cleanse to Himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works. These things speak and exhort, in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Gradual: All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God: sing joyfully to God, all the earth. The Lord hath made known His salvation: He hath revealed His justice in the sight of the nations. Alleluia, Alleluia. God, who in divers manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all in these days has spoken to us by His Son. Alleluia.

Gospel: Luke ii 21 At that time, after eight days were accomplished, that the Child should be circumcised, His name was called Jesus, as He was called by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

Offertory: Thine are the heavens, and Thine is the earth, the world and the fullness thereof, Thou hast founded: justice and judgment are the preparation of Thy throne. Secret: Receive, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our offerings and prayers, cleansing us by these heavenly mysteries, and mercifully hearing us. Communion: All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Postcommunion. May this communion, O Lord, purify us from sin; and through the intercession of the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, make us partakers of the heavenly remedy.

Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus

Liturgical Commentary

After having made known to us the Incarnation of the Son, the Church reveals to us the greatness of His name. It was on the occasion of the rite of Circumcision that a name was given to children among Jews. So the Church uses the same Gospel as that of the Feast of the Circumcision, and dwells on the second part which tells us that "the Child was called Jesus" (Gospel), "as God had bid that He should be called" (Collect). This name means Saviour, for "there is no other name given to men whereby we must be saved" (Epistle).

The origin of this feast is traced to the sixteenth century, when it was celebrated by the Franciscan Order. In 1721 the Church, under the rule of Innocent XIII., made the keeping of this solemnity universal.

If we wish "to rejoice at seeing that our names are written in heaven under that of Jesus" (Postcommunion), let it be often on our lips on earth. Twenty days' indulgence are granted to those who reverently bow their heads on pronouncing or on hearing pronounced the names of Jesus and Mary, and Pius X granted three hundred days' Indulgence to those who invoke them piously with their lips or even in their heart.

Mass Readings

INTROIT. In the name of Jesus let every knee bow of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth; and let every tongue confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is Thy Name in the whole earth. Glory he to the Father.

COLLECT. 0 God who didst appoint Thine only-begotten Son the Saviour of mankind, and didst bid that he should be called Jesus: mercifully grant that we may enjoy the vision of Him in heaven whose holy Name we venerate on earth. Through the same Lord.

EPISTLE. Acts iv, 8-12. In those days: Peter filled with the Holy Ghost, said to them: Ye princes of the people and ancients, hear: If we this day are examined concerning the good deed done to the infirm man, by what means he hath been made whole, be it known to you all, and to all the people of IsraeI, that by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God hath raised from the dead, even by Him this man standeth before you whole, This is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner: neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.

GRADUAL. Save us, 0 Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations: that we may give thanks to Thy holy Name, and may glory in Thy praise. Thou, 0 Lord, art our Father and Redeemer, Thy Name is from eternity. Alleluia, alleluia. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless His holy Name Alleluia.

GOSPEL. Luke ii. 21. At that time. After eight days were accomplished that the child should be circumcised; His Name was called Jesus, which was called by the Angel before He was conceived in the Womb.

OFFERTORY. I will praise Thee, 0 Lord my God with my whole heart, and I will glorify Thy Name for ever; for Thou, 0 Lord, art sweet and mild, and plenteous in mercy to all that call upon Thee, alleluia.

SECRET. May Thy blessing, by which all creatures live, hallow, we beseech Thee, most merciful God, this our sacrifice which we ,offer to Thee to the glory of the Name of Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, that it may please Thy majesty and Bring Thee praise, and avail us unto salvation. Through the same Lord.

COMMUNION. All the nations Thou hast made shall come and adore before Thee, 0 Lord; and they shall glorify Thy Name: for Thou art great, and dost wonderful things: Thou art God alone, alleluia.

P0STCOMMUNION. O Almighty everlasting God, our Creator and Redeemer, graciously regard our prayers, and accept with a favorable and benign countenance the sacrifice of the saving victim, which we have offered to Thy Majesty in honor of the Name of Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ: that through the pouring forth of Thy grace upon us we may rejoice that our names are written in heaven, under the glorious Name of Jesus, as a pledge of eternal pre-destination. Through the same Lord.

The Epiphany of the Lord

Liturgical Commentary

This feast was celebrated in the East as early as the third century and it spread to the West towards the end of the fourth century.

The word "Epiphany" means "manifestation." As at Christmas it is the mystery of a God Who makes Himself visible, but it is no longer only to the Jews that He shows Himself: "It is to the Gentiles on this day that God reveals His Son" (Collect).

And Isaias in a grand vision perceives the Church under the figure of Jerusalem, where "the kings and the nations abound, the multitude who inhabit the borders of the sea and the strength of the Gentiles. They come from afar with their numerous caravans, singing the praises Of the Lord and bringing Him gold and frankincense" (Epistle) "The kings of the earth shall adore God, and all nations shall serve Him "'(Offertory).

As Christmas was designed to celebrate the union of the divinity with the humanity of Christ, so the Epiphany celebrates the mystic union of the souls of men with Jesus.

The liturgy of this day commemorates a triple manifestation of the glory of Christ. To the worshipping Magi He appears as King of our hearts; in the Waters of the Jordan He is declared the Son of God, and at Cana He demonstrates His power over the elements. "Today the Church is united to her heavenly Spouse, for Christ has washed away her sins in the Jordan the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal nuptials, and the guests drink with joy the water changed into wine. Alleluia."

Mass Readings

INTROIT. Behold the Lord the Ruler is come; and a Kingdom in His hand, and power and dominion. Give to the king Thy judgment, 0 God; and to the king's son Thy justice. Glory he to the Father.

COLLECT. 0 God who on this day by the guidance of a star didst reveal Thine only-begotten Sen to the Gentiles: grant In Thy mercy that we who know Thee now by faith may be led even to contemplate the Beauty of Thy majesty. Through the same Lord.

EPISTLE. Isaiah lx 1-6. Arise, be enlightened, 0 Jerusalem for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the, Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thy eyes round about, and see; all these are gathered together, they are come to thee: thy sons: shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side. Then shalt thou see, and abound, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged, when the multitude of the sea shall be converted to thee, the strength of the Gentiles shall come to thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Madion and Epha: all they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense, and showing forth praise to the Lord.

GRADUAL. All they from Saba shall come bringing gold and frankincense, and showing forth praise to the Lord. Arise and be enlightened, 0 Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Alleluia, alleluia.. We have seen His star in the East and are come with gifts to adore the Lord. Alleluia.

GOSPEL. Matt. ii. 1-12. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of King Herod, behold there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying: where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the East, and are come to adore Him. And King Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Juda; for so it is written by the prophet: And thou, Bethlehem, the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda; for out of thee shall come forth the leader that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them, and, sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found Him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore Him. Who having heard the king, went their way: and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. And seeing the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy, And entering into the house, they found the Child with Mary His mother, (here all kneel) and falling down they adored Him. And opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their own country.

OFFERTORY. The kings of Tharsis and the Islands shall offer gifts: the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring presents: and all the kings of the earth shall adored Him; all nations shall serve Him.

SECRET. Graciously regard. 0 Lord, we beseech Thee, the gifts of Thy Church, in which are offered now no longer gold, frankincence, and myrrh, but He whom those mystic offerings signified is immolated and received, even Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord. Wo liveth.

COMMUNION. We have seen His star in the East, and are come with gifts to adore the Lord.

POSTCOMMUNION. Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that What we celebrate with solemn office we may attain by the understanding of a purified mind. Through our Lord.

The Feast of the Holy Family

Liturgical Commentary

"Is it not right," says Leo XIII., "that we should celebrate the royal birth of the Son of the Sovereign Father, the House of David, and the glorious names of that ancient lineage ? It is more pleasing to us, however, to recall the little House of Nazareth and the humble existence which they led there; it is more pleasing to celebrate the obscure life of Jesus.

"There the Divine Child serves His apprenticeship to the humble trade of Joseph, there in the seclusion of the home He grows in age and shows Himself happy to share in the work of the carpenter.

"His tender mother keeps with Him, the devoted wife with her husband she is happy to be able to soothe their troubles and their labours with loving care".

In the humble house of Nazareth, Jesus, Mary and Joseph sanctified their family life by the exercise of' the domestic virtues (Collect). There they practised, as the Epistle and the Gospel tells us, charity, mutual help, respect and obedience (Gospel). There they always found joy and peace in meditation and prayer in common. May we, after leading a life like theirs, on. earth, deserve to share their holy company in heaven (Collect).

Benedict XV. wishing to assure to the souls of the faithful the benefit to be derived from meditation on and imitation of the virtues of the Holy Family, extended the Feast to the whole Church.

Mass Readings

INTROIT. Let the father of the Just One exult with joy; let Thy father and Thy mother rejoice; and let her that bore Thee be glad. How lovely are Thy tabernacles, 0 Lord of hosts: my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord. Glory be to the Father.

COLLECT. 0 Lord Jesus Christ, who, becoming subject to Mary and Joseph didst sanctify the home life by singular Virtues; by the help of both, do Thou grant that we may be taught by the example of Thy Holy Family, and have fellowship with it for evermore: Who livest and reignest.

EPISTLE. Col. iii. 12-17. Brethren: Put ye on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another if any have a complaint against another; even as the Lord hath forgiven you, so do you also. But above all these things, have charity, which is the bond of perfection; and let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts, wherein also you are called in one body; and be ye thankful Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another, in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles singing in grace in your hearts to God. All whatsoever you do in word or in work, all things do ye in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father through ,Jesus Christ our Lord.

GRADUAL. One thing have I asked of the Lord, this will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, 0 Lord: they shall praise Thee for ever and ever. Alleluia, alleluia. Verily Thou art a hidden King, the God of Israel, the Saviour. Alleluia.

GOSPEL. Luke ii. 42-52. When Jesus was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast, and having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the Child Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and His parents knew it not. And thinking that He was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And not finding Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. And it came to pass that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His wisdom, and His answers. And when they saw Him they wondered. And His mother said to Him: Son, why hast Thou done so to us? Behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing. And He said to them: How is it that you sought me? Did ye not know that I must be about My Father's business? And they understood not the word which He spoke to them. And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth: and was subject to them. And His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age, and grace with God and men.

OFFERTORY. The parents of Jesus carried Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.

SECRET. We offer to Thee, 0 Lord, an atoning victim, humbly entreating that through the intercession of the Virgin mother of God and blessed Joseph, Thou wouldst strongly establish our families in Thy peace and grace. Through the same Lord.

COMMUNION. Jesus went down with them, and came to Nazareth: and was subject to them.

POSTCOMMUNION. Let us whom Thou dost refresh by Thy heavenly sacraments, 0 Lord, ever follow the example of Thy Holy Family; that at the hour of our death Thy glorious Virgin mother and blessed Joseph may be near us, and we may be found worthy to be received by Thee into eternal dwellings: Who livest and reignest.