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And that you may end the day in the same sentiments wherewith you began it, devoutly pay your homage to the divine Mystery of the Incarnation, by reciting the following prayer:

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CHAPTER V.

ON HEARING MASS, DURING THE SEASON OF

CHRISTMAS.

SUCH is the number and importance of the Feasts kept during this Holy Season, that even those of the Faithful, who have not the habit of hearing Mass daily at other times, look upon it as a sort of duty to do so now: and rightly; for, the Lamb, who is offered up in this Divine Sacrifice, is He, whom they have been asking of the Eternal Father with so much earnestness during Advent, in those words of the Prophet Isaias: Send forth, O Lord, the Lamb, the Ruler of the Earth.1

This tender Lamb is come; the child is born unto us,2 and even now is on the Altar of his Sacrifice. St. Paul tells us, that this Jesus, on his first entrance into the world, said to his Father: Sacrifice and oblation thou willedst not; but a Body thou hast fitted unto me.-Then said I; behold I come :—to do thy will, O God. It is true, that the Sacrifice of the Cross, of which that of the Mass is the continuation, was the Sacrifice of Christ at the end of his Three-and-Thirty Years; still, during these days of Christmas, when we have so much to learn from the mystery of the Sacred Infancy, we shall be in strict accordance with the spirit of the Church, if, whilst assisting at Mass, we keep before our minds, not only the bleeding Victim of Calvary, but likewise the sweet Lamb of Bethlehem. Moreover, does not our Jesus offer himself, for us, to his Father, from his Crib as well as from his Cross? Thus, we read in

1 Is. xvi. 1.

2 Ibid. ix. 6.

3 Heb. x. 5.

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the Acts of the Saints, that as often as this our Redeemer wished to requite the faith and love of his servants, by manifesting to them his real Presence in the sacred Host, he appeared to them in the form of a lovely Babe.

The Liturgical Iconography of the Greeks represents the mystery of the Eucharist under the symbol of a Babe reposing on a Paten. So, too, in many of our Latin Missals, up to the end of the 16th century, we find an illumination or engraving, as the case may be, representing a Priest vested in a Chasuble, standing at the Altar, and holding in his hands the Body of our Saviour, under the form of a Child.

Let the Faithful, therefore, enter the House of God in the dispositions, wherewith the Shepherds and the Magi were animated, when they went to Bethlehem, the House of Bread. They, too, must come with haste; from the mid-night of this world, to that Light which shineth in darkness.2 They must come to the Altar as to the Crib of Jesus, and in the joy of this Mystery, they must offer their whole heart to the New-Born Babe. Then, uniting themselves with Mary and the Church, they must offer the Lamb of God to the heavenly Father, and themselves together with him-and all this, with the humility and simplicity of Little Children.

We will now endeavour to embody these sentiments in our explanation of the Mysteries of the Holy Mass, and initiate the Faithful into these divine secrets; not, indeed, by indiscreetly presuming to translate the sacred formulæ, but by suggesting such Acts, as will enable those who hear Mass, to enter into the ceremonies and sentiments of the Church and the Priest.

During a considerable portion of this Season, the Mass is celebrated in commemoration of the great

1 St. Luke, ii. 16.

2 St. John, i. 5.

Mysteries, which were accomplished at this period of the Liturgical Year; and the Prayers used by the Church, on these great Feasts, will be found on the respective days. During the remaining forty days, the Holy Sacrifice is either of the Saints or of the Sundays, which come during this time, and on which there does not occur a Double Feast. The Sundays of Septuagesima and Sexagesima sometimes fall during Christmastide; and when this happens, they cannot be put out by any Feast, save those of the Patron of the Place, or of the Titular or Dedication of the Church.

In all the Masses of the Sundays, as also on those Feasts which are called simples and semi-doubles, the Priest makes a commemoration of our Blessed Lady as Mother of God, and this by three Prayers, which we give in their proper places. With regard to the colours of the Vestments, used during this holy Season, we have explained them in a previous chapter.

On the Sundays, if the Mass, at which the Faithful assist, be the Parochial, or, as it is often called, the Public Mass, two solemn rites precede it, which are full of instruction and blessing the Asperges, or sprinkling of the Holy Water, and the Procession.

During the Asperges, let them unite with the intentions of the Church in this venerable rite, and pray for that purity of heart, which will fit them for admission into that Stable of Bethlehem, wherein the Word Incarnate first appeared to his creatures.

ANTIPHON OF THE ASPERGES.

Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, O Lord, and I shall be cleansed; thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.

Ps. Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great

mercy.

Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo, et mundabor; lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.

Ps. Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.

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The Procession, which immediately precedes the Mass, should remind us of the Shepherds and Magi going to Bethlehem, and how, after a holy impatience to reach the holy spot, they arrived, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Infant lying in the manger.

But see, Christians, the Sacrifice begins! The Priest is at the foot of the altar; God is attentive, the Angels are in adoration, the whole Church is united with the Priest, whose priesthood and action are those of the great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Let us make the sign of the cross with him.

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