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ft. Crastina die delebitur ft. To-morrow, the iniquity
iniquitas terrae; of the earth shall be cancelled;
Bj. Et regnabit super nos B. And over us shall reign
Salvator mundi. the Saviour of the world.
And now, Mary's own words are to resound in the holy place! The sweet Canticle, which she sang at her Visitation to Elizabeth, when, holding within herself the divine and secret Treasure, she celebrated the great things of God's power in her—this Canticle, without which the Church never lets the sun go down, is now going to be sung. O Mary! the hour is fast approaching, which will manifest to both heaven and earth, that divine Maternity of thine, which will make all generations call thee Blessed. Suffer us to unite our souls with thine in magnifying the Lord, and to rejoice in our spirit, as thou didst in thine, in God our Saviour, who is thy Son!
ANTIPHON OF THE MAGNIFICAT.
Cum ortus fuerit sol de When the sun shall have
coelo, videbitis Regem re- risen in the heavens, ye shall
gum procedentem a Patre, see the King of Kings coming
tanquam sponsum de tha- from the Father, as a Bride
lamo suo. groom from his bride-chamber.
The Canticle, Magnificat, page 107.
Finally, the Church expresses all her desires in the following Prayer, which is to ascend to the Throne of God, not only at every Hour of Christmas Day, but several times each day during the Octave.
Concede, quaesumus; om- Grant, we beseech thee, O
nipotens Deus: ut nos Uni- Almighty God, that we who
geniti tui nova per carnem groan under the old captivity
nativitas liberet, quos sub of sin, may be freed therefrom
peccati jugo vetusta servi- by the new Birth of thine
tus tenet. Per eumdem Do- Only Begotten Son. Through
minum nostrum Jesum the same Jesus Christ thy
Son, our Lord, who liveth and Christum Filium tuum, qui reigneth with thee, in the tecum vivit et regnat in unity of the Holy Ghost, God, unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, world without end. Amen. per omnia saecula saeculo
During our Vespers, the last rays of day have disappeared, and darkness has covered the earth. The Sacred Ministers, vested in their richest copes, have left the Sanctuary. In a few moments they will reenter the Church, and repair to the Tribunal of Penance, there to administer to penitent sinners the reconciliation they ask of God through the merciful Birth of his Only Begotten Son. All is solemn silence in the Church, which, but a few moments before, echoed with the glad chants of our praise. Let us adore the Majesty of our God, and once more present our prayer to the King of Ages, that he send down the Dew, for which our earth is thirsting; and with this prayer of our hope, let us, for a last time, mingle a thought of that salutary fear of the Last Judgment, which the Church has nurtured within our souls during the holy Season of Advent.
Let us embody these sentiments in a Prayer, taken from the Gothic, or Mozarabic, Liturgy: it is a beautiful one, and most appropriate:
PRAYER FROM THE MOZARABIC BREVIARY.
(For the Nativity of our Lord, in the Evening Office, Capitula.)
Drop down Dew, ye heavens, Rorate cceli desuper, uti
from above—by prophesying que prophetando Christum,
Jesus to our earth ; and let the et nubes pluant justum;
clouds rain the Just One—let dum Sancti omnes ejus prae
all the saintly prophets herald conanturadventum. Aperia
his coming. Let the earth be tur terra, ut, Angelo scilicet
opened, that, as the Angel is alloquente, Virgo concipiat,
speaking unto her, the Virgin et pariat Salvatorem. Hic
may conceive and bring forth igitur ros, qui abs te est,
the Saviour. We pray and omnipotens Pater, roga
we beseech thee, O Almighty mus, et petimus, ut fiat
sanitas infirmoram; et haec Father, let this Dew, which pluvia matutini temporis, comes down from thee, give praebe, nostri temporis in- health to the sick; and this fundat arentem, quae infusa Haiti of morn, let it sink into tanta gratia praeteritum fa- the parched soil of our times, cinus abluat, et aeternum and, by the infusion of its credentibus justitiae lumen abundant grace, cleanse away infundat; nec non ejusdem past sins, and shed, over them Filii tui Domini nostri in- that believe, the eternal light demnes praesentiam con- of justice. Moreover, may we, tuentes, atque cum coeli- looking with confidence at the colis coetui ejus in jubilo presence of our Lord Jesus thy occurrentes, hoc canticum Son, and joyfully going to laetitiaepraecinamusorantes: meet him in company with Benedictus, qui venit in the heavenly citizens, sing to nomine Domini, Deus Do- him this canticle of joy and minus, et illuxit nobis; cu- prayer: Blessed be he that jus nos adventus redemit, cometh in the name oj"the Lord: et Nativitas illustravit: Qui The lord is God, and he hath veniens requisivit perditos, shone upon us: his Coming illuminavit in tenebris con- hath redeemed us, and his stitutos. Tribue ergo omni- Nativity hath enlightened us: potens Pater, ut diem Nati- He that came looking for the vitatis ejus ita devotione lost ones, hath given light to piissima celebremus, ut ju- them that sat in darkness. dicii diem mitissimum sen- Grant unto us, therefore, O tiamus: ut cujus benigni- Almighty Father, so most detatem in redemptione cog- voutly to celebrate the Day of novimus, ejus pietatem in his Birth, as that the Day of judicio mansuetam sentia- his Judgment may be to us mus. a day of exceeding mercy:
that thus, having felt how great is his goodness in redeeming, we may experience how gentle is his mercy in judging us.
And now, we will leave the House of God, and attend to the duties of our state of life at home, until the hour of Matins summons us to return and celebrate the Midnight Birth of our Saviour. In order to prepare ourselves for that most imposing Service, we shall do well to resume the reflections upon the Liturgy of our Feast, which we interrupted in order to assist at Vespers. How few would keep from the Service of Christmas Night, and how still fewer would complain that they never seem to derive that benefit from it, which they are told is so great—if they would but take the pains to ask themselves, why it is, that the Church attaches such importance to her children's joining her in the celebration of this gay Winter Mid-Night!—To assist the devotion of the Faithful, we offer them these simple instructions, for
THE HOUR BEFORE THE
We will begin by telling them, that in the early ages of the Church, every great Feast was prepared for by long Vigils; during which the people deprived themselves of their usual rest, and spent the hours in the Church, fervently joining in the Psalms and Lessons, which made up the Office, which we now call Matins. The Night was divided into three parts, called Nocturns. At dawn of Day, they resumed their chants, in an Office, which was even more solemn than the Matins: it was one of Praise, and, from this its characteristic, was called by the name of Lauds. This Service, which occupied a very considerable portion of the night, is still kept up, though at a time less trying to nature; Matins and Lauds are, every day, publicly recited in Cathedral and Monastic Churches, and privately by every one in Holy Orders. They are by far the longest portion of the Divine Office. The want of the old spirit of devoted appreciation of the Liturgy, has made the Laity indifferent to being present at the celebration of Matins, and this even in Countries where Protestantism has not rendered their presence almost an impossibility. Thus, there are very few places where the people assist at Matins, excepting four times in the year; namely, on the three last days of Holy Week, and on Christmas Night. It is only on the last named, that the Office is said at the
same hour as anciently; for, with regard to Tenebrce, they are recited on the afternoons respectively preceding each of the three Days.
The Office of Christmas Night has always been said or sung with extraordinary solemnity. Firstly, it was so just, that the moments immediately preceding the Hour, when the Holy Mother gave birth to her Jesus, should be spent in the most fervent prayers and watchings! But, secondly, the Church is not satisfied to-night with saying her Matins: she does so every night, and the faithful may come and assist at them as often as they wish:—she follows them by the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that so she may the better solemnise the Divine Birth; and she begins her Mass at Mid-night, for it was at that silent hour that the Virgin-Mother gave us the Blessed Fruit of her Womb. We cannot be surprised that the Faithful, in many parts of Christendom, used to spend the whole Night in the Church.
In Rome, for many centuries—at least, from the 7th to the 11th,—two Matins were sung. The first in the Basilica of St. Mary Major. They commenced immediately after sun-set. There was no Invitatory. As soon as they were ended, the Pope celebrated the first or midnight Mass. No sooner was it finished, than the people accompanied him to the Church of St. Anastasia, and there he sang the second Mass, or, as it was called, of the Aurora. Again the Pontiff and people formed a procession— this time it was to St. Peter's—and having entered the Basilica, the second Matins were begun. They had an Invitatory, and were followed by Lauds. The other Hours having been sung, the Pope said the third and last Mass, at the hour of Tierce, which is our 9 o'clock. We are indebted for these details to Amalarius, and to the ancient Liturgist of the 13th century, published under the name of Alcuin. We also find them clearly indicated by the text of the