Christmas Liturgy Reflections

I’ve become a TLM Native over the last five years.  As a result, my liturgical reflections may have a few unfamiliar terms to them.  Structure of the mass is quite the same though.

Asperges me: There’s something amazing about singing the Asperges me on Christmas day.  It’s very sad–here we are on the birth of the savior singing about how he’s going to wash us in His blood.  But it’s more than that–this helpless little infant holds the power of destroying sin in his hands.  Imagining the babe of Bethlehem wielding the hyssop of salvation is…something else.  God has chosen the weak.

Introit: The best introit hands down.  Puer natus est nobis et filius datus est nobis.  I once had a great, great motet on this introit, about 8-9 minutes long.  Lost it somehow, and I can’t find it on the internet, but it’s just wondrous in its longing.

More on the introit: why do we sing songs?  Talk about a cultural shift in how we use music!  Cantate Domino canticum novum.  Sing a new song because God has done a new marvel.  Songs commemorate and re-present God’s mirabilia.  This is the whole structure of the Old Testament.  This is why the Exsultet is the Church’s truest song and why we sing the liturgy.

Gloria: Christmas is the day of the Gloria.  Singing the Gloria is always a joy but with so much repetition it is easy to forget this.  On Christmas morning angels came down from heaven and taught us this song.  Talk about a new song–God by-passed human composers.  And today is the right day to be singing it.  Always a thrill.

Gospel: All year long, we read the prologue of St. John’s Gospel after mass.  It’s just too foundational not to make it part of the liturgy.  At low mass it’s read and we hear it and genuflect at Verbum caro factum est.  At high mass it’s read silently and we all wait on the priest and genuflect with him in knowing silence.  But today, at Christmas, the liturgy is turned upside down and we read the last Gospel as the Gospel.

This is one of those wrinkles to the TLM that is very hard to put into words despite being powerful.  What we are doing today is a big deal.  Like the Gloria, we are going back to basics and seeing where they come from and refreshing our perspective on them.

In the Sermon, Father asked why the world fears and recoils from the message of salvation on Christmas day.  Babe, cheer, peace, joy, love…why do we run from these things?  He talked about our wrong ideas about freedom, faith, and love.

But while he preached on, his question took me back to the Asperges me.  That beautiful baby holds in His hand the destruction of sin, and I like my sins.  I’m afraid of having a splinter pulled, I’m afraid of surgery, and I’m afraid of that gentle little child taking away the sins that are killing me.  We get angry and defensive to cover our fears and we steel ourselves against the perceived threat.  The old man in me takes Christmas as an enemy.

This is why Christmas is preceded by four weeks of prayer, fasting, and vigil.  Oh, we don’t do that so much around here?  I wonder whose idea it was to replace all of that preparation with endless, insipid music that cheerfully tells us we’ve already reached our goal, kick back, relax!  Actually, I have a very good idea whose idea it is.

We live out the parable of the foolish virgins every year that we party from Thanksgiving to Christmas and then go back to our boring lives as soon as Christmas is starting.  Christmas day is only the beginning…and that in many ways.

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