A purpose of the Propers is to accompany a liturgical action within the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Four of the five actions are processional in nature: the ministers going to the altar at the beginning of Mass (the Introit), the presentation of the Book of the Gospels before its proclamation (the Alleluia/Tract), the bringing of the gifts (the Offertory), and the reception of Holy Communion (the Communion); the fifth is meditational, as the Gradual should allow the congregation a change to reflect on the reading just proclaimed. In their own way, they allow for the full, conscious active participation of those who gather in worship.
From Eve to Night to Dawn to Daylight, the Light of the World has slowly arrived via the Scripture readings used at each Mass. In this Mass we can now behold Him as He Is--the King in pauper's clothing, the Word made flesh, Emmanuel. In the light of day we find the Savior laying upon a wooden structure, extending His arms in an embrace of love, prefiguring His embrace of the Cross. Our salvation is at hand; for that, we rejoice.
(Note: The translations used are once again from the 1990 Gregorian Missal, published by the monks of Solesmens, France.)
Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. Dominion is on his shoulder and his name shall be called the Angel of Great Counsel. Sing unto the Lord a new song, for he has accomplished wondrous deeds.
Isaiah 9:6; Psalm 97:1a
For those of us who are awake enough to be at this Mass after assisting in the Midnight Mass, the echo of that First Reading is found in this Introit. The days of Mary's confinement are now complete and she has delivered what God has promised: His own beloved Son. This most wondrous deed, this great mystery, this act full of awe, this seemingly miraculous accomplishment--how can our hearts and souls not sing of its glorious might? "The King of Glory comes; the nation rejoices."
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation which comes from our God; sing joyfully to God all the earth. The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
Psalm 97:3cd-4; 2
The Gradual makes it clear what has been hidden from the sight of man because of Original Sin, the glory of God, is now on display for the whole world to see. What the Law heralded and the Prophets foretold has now been fulfilled. All the witness and witnesses of the Old Testament has borne its fruit in the first born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the blessed fruit of which Elizabeth spoke. Salvation is within our reach.
A holy day has dawned upon us; come all ye nations and adore the Lord. For today a great light has descended upon the earth.
Here is another of those rare cases where the words for a Proper are not taken from Scripture, yet this Alleluia verse beautifully prepare the congregation for what is about to be proclaimed--the arrival of the Light of the World. This verse precedes one of the most elegant and eloquent passages in all of the Bible, used as the "Last Gospel" in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass: the Prologue of the Gospel according to St. John (1:1-18). As the birth of the world in Genesis was announced with the phrase "In the beginning", so it is with the birth of Jesus Christ. As the world was created with a word, so is it also re-created with the Word. As light was begotten on the first day, so is the Light also begotten on this "first day". Grace and truth filled the world the first time before Original Sin; now it is truly in the world again.
Et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis.
Et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis.
Yours are the heavens, yours is the earth, the world and the fullness thereof have been founded by you. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne.
Psalm 88:12 and 15a
How fitting these words for Offertory. All belong to Christ because He made all. He who created all things visible and invisible claims His rightful spot among us. The King of Kings takes His earthly throne so as to prepare to take His Heavenly one. We are only giving to Him what He has given to us, but in that giving we acknowledge the Giver.
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation which comes from our God.
Psalm 97:3cdThe opening clause of the Gradual returns as the Communion. But here it has new meaning. The words of consecration have been spoken. In another very real sense Christ has come down again from Heaven. The Bread of Life Who was born in the House of Bread, our spiritual food Who was placed in a feeding trough, has now appeared as the new manna for the new Chosen People. The Word made flesh is now given to us so we may fulfill His command, "Take this, all of you (the ends of the earth), and eat of it." In the Real Presence we see the very salvation coming from God and "his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth."
The Propers for this Mass allow us to fully rejoice about "this thing which has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." We can do this because the Nativity has been brought into the light over the Masses of this feast. In the final Mass of the day full illumination allow us to see clearly what has happened.
Hodie Christus natus est.
The dear Christ Child has entered the world.
Let us rejoice and be glad.
My other reflections not found above: