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the West, for a long time, began their year with Christmas Day, as we find in the ancient Calendars, in the Martyrologies of Usuard and Ado, and in numberless Bulls, Charts, and Diplomas. It is evident, from a Council held at Cologne, in 1310, that this manner of computing the year was still observed at that time. In several countries of Europe, our own among the rest, the custom has been kept up of wishing a Happy Christmas, which was the ancient salutation when this Feast was the beginning of a new year. Hence, too, in these countries, the custom of making presents, of writing letters of good wishes, and of other friendly acts. How many of our practices of every-day life have originated from Faith, and yet are looked upon as mere consequences of natural good-feeling, or even compliments which society requires us to pay to each other!

To encourage her children in their Christmas joy, the Church has dispensed with the law of abstinence, if this Feast fall on a Friday. This dispensation was granted by Pope Honorius in., who ascended the Papal Throne in 1216. It is true, that we find it mentioned by Pope St. Nicholas I., in the 9th century; but the dispensation was not universal; for the Pontiff is replying to the consultations of the Bulgarians, to whom he concedes this indulgence, in order to encourage them to celebrate these Feasts with solemnity and joy: Christmas Day, St. Stephen, St. John the Evangelist, the Epiphany, the Assumption of our Lady, St. John the Baptist, and Saints Peter and Paul. When the dispensation for Christmas Day was extended to the whole Church, these other Feasts were not mentioned.

In the Middle Ages, the Civil Law, also, contributed to the people's love of Christmas, by enacting, that no Creditor could demand any payment from his Debtors during the entire week of Christmas, which was called, on that account, the week of remisr sion—a name which it had in common with the weeks of Easter and Pentecost.

But, let us interrupt these interesting details regarding the grand Solemnity, whose near approach makes our hearts throb with joy. Let us repair to the House of our Heavenly Father, for the Hour of Vespers is near; and on our way, let our thoughts be at Bethlehem, where Joseph and Mary are already arrived. The sun is rapidly setting; and our Divine Sun of Justice is still hid beneath the Cloud, the Womb of the purest of Virgins. Night is coming on; Joseph and Mary are going through the narrow streets of the City of David, seeking a shelter. Let our hearts be attentive, and united, in love, with the two holy Pilgrims. Every heart and voice should now be giving forth to our God the tribute of praise and grateful love. Oh! happy we, that have a tribute of Song and Psalmody ready for our use, worthy of the Day and of its ineffable Mystery—it is our Mother that offers us her Liturgy. Let us prepare to join her.

FIRST VESPERS.

After the usual invocation of the divine assistance, the Church intones, in a most solemn chant, the five following Antiphons, which precede as many Psalms.

1. Ant. Rex pacificus 1. Ant. The King of Peace, magnificatus est, cujus vul- whom the whole earth desitumdesideratuniversaterra. reth to see, hath shown his

greatness.

Psalm: Dixit Dominus, page 99.

2. Ant. The King of Peace 2. Ant. Magnificatus est is magnified above all the Rex pacificus super omnes Kings of the earth. reges universae terrae.

Psalm: Confitebor tibi, page 100.

3. Ant. The days were completed for Mary, that she should bring forth her firstborn Son.

Psalm: Beatus vir,page 101.

3. Ant. Impleti sunt dies Mariae, ut pareret Filium suum primogenitum.

4. Ant. Know ye, that the Kingdom of God is at hand; amen I say unto you, it shall not tarry.

Psalm: Laudate pueri, page 102.

4. Ant. Scitote quia prope est regnum Dei: amen dico vobis quia non tardabit.

5. Ant. Raise up your heads: lo! your redemption is at hand.

5. Ant. Levate capita vestra; ecce appropinquat redemptio vestra.

Psalm 116.

0 ! praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.

For his mercy is confirmed upon us, and the truth of the Lord remaineth for ever.

Laudate Dominum omnes gentes : * laudate eum, omnes populi.

Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia ejus: * et veritas Domini manet in aaternum.

After having extolled, in these divine canticles, the eternal generation, the fidelity, the mercy, the greatness, and the truth, of her divine Spouse, who is coming, and in a few short hours will show himself to her—the Church suspends her praise for a moment, and listens, in the Gapitulum, to the consoling words of the Apostle of the Gentiles, concerning the coming of God our Saviour.

CAPITULUM.

{Tit. iii. 4.)

Apparuit benignitas et The goodness and kindness

humanitas Salvatoris nostri of God our Saviour hath ap

Dei, non ex operibus justi- peared; not by the works of

tiae quae fecimus nos, sed justice, which we have done,

secundum misericordiam but according to his mercy,

suam salvos nos fecit. hath he saved us.

Encouraged afresh by these beautiful words, the Church resumes her praises, not borrowing, this time, the psalmody of the Royal Prophet, but singing a Hymn to Jesus, her Spouse, on the glory and beauty of his Birth-Day, which makes all Nature glad, and brings the sweetest joy of heart to such as know how to love the Divine Babe. It was St. Ambrose—the Bee of Milan, as he has been called—who composed this hymn, which is sung, to-day, in almost every part of the world.

HYMN.*

Jesu, redemptor omnium, O Jesu ! Redeemer of manQuem, lucis ante originem, kind! born before the light Parent paternae gloriae was made, and born of the

Pater supremus edidit; Eternal Father, equal to him

in infinite glory;

* In the Monastic Breviary,

B. Breve. Hodie scietis, * quia veniet Dominus. Hodie. V. Et mane videbitis gloriam ejus. * Quia. Gloria. Hodie.

In 2nd Vespers.

R. Breve. Verbum caro factum est, * Alleluia, Alleluia.

i is as follows:

Verbum. V. Et habitavit in
nobis. * Alleluia. Gloria. Ver-
bum.

Christe, Redemptor omnium,
Ex Patre Patris Unice,
Solus ante principium
Natus inenabiliter.

0 thou the Light and brightness of the Father! O thou the everlasting hope of all men ! hear the prayers offered thee by thy servants, throughout the world.

Be mindful, O Creator of all things! that heretofore thou didst assume a Body like unto ours, and wast born from the sacred womb of a Virgin.

This present day, which the year has brought round to us, tells us of this mystery—that thou, the one Saviour of the world, didst come to us from the Father's Bosom.

The stars, and earth, and sea, and all that is under heaven greet this the Author of their new salvation, with a new canticle.

And we, who have been redeemed by the stream of thy precious Blood, we, too, pay thee the tribute of this Hymn, in honour of thy Birth-Day.

Glory be to thee, O Jesus! who wast born of the Virgin! and to the Father, and to the Spirit of love, for everlasting ages. Amen.

Tu lumen et splendor Patris,

Tu spes perennis omnium, Intende quasfundunt preces Tui per orbem servuli.

Memento, rerumconditor, Nostri quod olim corporis, Sacrata ab alvo Virginis Nascendo, formam sumpseris.

Testatur hoc praesens dies, Currens per anni circulum, Quod solus e sinu Patris Mundi salus adveneris.

Hunc astra, tellus, aequora, Hunc omne quod code subest,

Salutis auctorem novae
Novo salutat cantico.

Et nos, beata quos sacri Rigavit unda sanguinis, Natalis ob diem tui, Hymni tributum solvimus.

Jesu, tibi sit gloria, Qui natus es de Virgine* Cum Patre et almo Spiritu, In sempiterna saecula.

Amen.

Tu lumen, tu splendor Patris, Tu spes perennis omnium, Intende quas fundunt preces Tui per orbem famuli.

Memento salutis Auctor Quod nostri quondam corporis Ex illibata Virgine Nascendo formam sumpseris.

Sic praesens testatur dies, Currens per anni circulum, Quod solus a sale Patris Mundi salus adveneris.

Hunc coelum, terra, hunc
mare,

Hunc omne quod in eis est,
Auctorem adventus tui
Laudans exsultat cantico.

Nos quoque qui sancto tuo Redempti Sanguine sumus, Ob diem Natalis tui Hymnum novum concinimus.

Gloria tibi Domine. Qui natus es de Virgine Cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu, In sempiterna saecula.

Amen.

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