We have come to the Vigil of Christmas. This is celebrated in the evening of Christmas Eve. It is not the Midnight Mass, or Missa in nocte. This Mass fulfills your obligation.
Let us look rapidly at the three prayers for that Mass with the 2002 Missale Romanum.
For the Masses of Christmas, including the Vigil, we are instructed to genuflect at the words in the Creed “et incarnatus est”.
How natural it is to kneel!
COLLECT (ad Missam in Vigilia):
Deus, qui nos redemptionis nostrae
annua exspectatione laetificas,
praesta, ut Unigenitum tuum,
quem laeti suscipimus Redemptorem,
venientem quoque Iudicem securi videre mereamur
Dominum nostrum, Iesum Christum.
This prayer was in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary as well as the Gregorian Sacramentary. It was also in the 1962 Missale Romanum but the Novus Ordo version shifts the word order in order to improve the flow of the Latin.
O God, who gladden us
by the yearly expectation of our redemption,
grant that we may merit to see Your Only Begotten,
our Lord, Christ Jesus,
whom we in joy are now receiving as the Redeemer
also see in safety when He is coming as the Judge.
SUPER OBLATA (ad Missam in Vigilia):
Tanto nos, Domine, quaesumus,
promptiore servitio haec praecurrere concede sollemnia,
quanto in his constare principium
nostrae redemptionis ostendis.
This “prayer over the gifts” has its origin in the Veronese Sacramentary as well as the Gelasian. We saw the tanto…quanto construction in today’s prayer (above). Alas tanto …quanto doesn’t have a direct equivalent in English. Furthermore, the elegant logical reversal of the concepts make it necessary to depart from strict adherence to the Latin structure to get anything like a smooth version. In liturgical language servitium means in the first place “liturgy”, the “service” given to God especially by the priests, and secondly observance of God’s commandments.
O Lord, we beseech You,
to the extent You are manifesting
that the beginning of our redemption firmly lies these solemn celebrations
by that same degree grant us to surpass them
with even readier liturgical service.
I passed this prayer around to a couple scholarly friends and here is what one of them came up with.
A SMOOTHER VERSION:
Grant, O Lord, we beseech You,
that our service in these sacred rites
may be the more wholehearted,
the more clearly you bring us to recognize in them
the very beginning of our redemption.
In the Collect the priest prayed about being ready for the Judge. In this prayer there is continuity between what the priest does at the altar and our participation in his manner of offering the sacrifice and, on the other hand, our moral lives.
POST COMMUNION (ad Missam in Vigilia):
Da nobis, quaesumus, Domine,
Unigeniti Filii tui recensita nativitate vegetari,
cuius caelesti mysterio pascimur et potamur.
This was in the 1962 Missale Romanum for this evening’s Mass but it is to be found already in the Veronese, the Gelasian, and the Gregorian.
Grant to us, we entreat You, O Lord,
to be enlivened by the Nativity of Your Only-Begotten Son now remembered,
by whose heavenly sacramental mystery we are nourished and given to drink.
Advent’s final day has come.
The first candles on our Advent wreaths are now very small.
From 17 December to Christmas Eve the haunting “O Antiphons” are sung for Vespers. They express our longing for the Coming of the Lord: “O come! O come!.. to teach us… redeem us… deliver us… ransom us… free us… enlighten us… save us… save us….”
While we enjoy the season of preparation, let us not forget also to do some penance so that our Christmas joy is that much sweeter.
Please accept my prayerful best wishes to you and yours for a very Merry Christmas.