Tuesday, December 24, 2019

2019 Christmas Eve Reflection

The First Reading from the Mass of the Nativity of the Lord--At Dawn:
See, the LORD proclaims to the ends of the earth:  say to daughter Zion, your savior comes! Here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. They shall be called the holy people, the redeemed of the LORD, and you shall be called "Frequented," a city that is not forsaken. 
Isaiah 62:11-12
Of the four Masses offered at Christmas, the Mass at Dawn is probably the least attended. The Masses prior to this one claim the most attention--the Vigil Mass because of of its convenience; the Mass During the Night, its sentimentality. Event the Mass that follows this one, the Mass During the Day, has more of the faithful in the pews.

This is even more true if for "pastoral" reasons, only one set of readings is used for all the Masses of the Nativity regardless of time of day. This practice is a bit of a travesty. Each of these Masses has its own unique theme. When they are prayed in proper order, they speak the entirety of the message of the event we celebrate. (Lest you think I have never assisted at this Mass, think again. I have been assigned as a cantor a few times in my life.)

The reading for this Mass, save for the Gospel (a continuation of St. Luke's account of the Birth of Jesus), are not that well known. I have shared my reflections of the Second Reading in an earlier post. Once again, as a form of lecto divina, I will share my thoughts about what I have read. As always, take them as a point of departure for your own meditation.

See, the LORD proclaims to the ends of the earth. God is always speaking to us. Creation came to be by just a Word from the Father on the breath of the Spirit. He spoke to Adam and Eve. After the fall, as the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, "In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son" (cf. Hebrews 1:1).

Say to daughter Zion, your savior comes. Throughout salvation history, God has promised to deliver us from the effect of Original Sin. What He has promised, He now has delivered. The "O" Antiphons point us to the Savior under various titles for which He is known. But it is the last one--Emmanuel:  God is with us--which is the most relevant. The Son of God, Jesus (a variation of Joshua, meaning "God Saves"), has now come down to earth in a form we can recognize, if only we open our hearts.

Here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. As I understand this sentence, "his" refers to the People of God while "him" refers to God. And what is this eternal reward, this infinite recompense? If it comes from God, it has to be that vast, for He is that vast, as has the waiting of humanity to be freed.

They shall be called the holy people, the redeemed of the LORD. Once again, and for the last time, God has begun to make a new covenant with humanity, first offering it to the Israelites, then to the Gentiles. The terms will be revealed in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, climaxing in His Death and Resurrection. And as in all covenants, we have to uphold our end of the bargain. Once again, St. Augustine reminds us that while we were created without our permission, we will only be save with it.

This is the universal call to holiness to which the Second Vatican Council refers. We have been sanctified through and in Christ. As He has redeemed us by His Blood, we, like the door lintels of the Israelites at Passover, have to be marked with this sign. The Lamb of God has taken away the sins of the world. We only have to be properly disposed to receive this great grace. The Word has said the word; we have only to obey (hear again).

This is how we are adopted as children of God.

You shall be called "Frequented," a city that is not forsaken. God is with us always. He has never forsaken us, although by sinning we have forsaken Him. Through His Church and with the help of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, He stays with and within us. It is more than being "frequented"; it is indwelling.

While all the readings for this Mass are short, there is a sweetness and depth to them just waiting to be explored. Like Mary, we have the opportunity to ponder these things in our heart. Perhaps, if you still have things to do Christmas morning, you may first want to "go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." (cf. Luke 2:15)

And this thing?

Hodie Christus natus est.

The Morning Star waits for you in this new dawn.

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