INTROITUS: Christmas

The solemnity of the Nativity of Jesus Christ has three different Masses in the Roman Catholic rite.

The Midnight Mass begins with the introit Dominus dixit ad me:

Dominus dixit ad me: Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te.

“The Lord said to me: My son are you, today I have given birth to you.” (Ps 2:7)

Click here to listen to an audio of the chant sung by Br. Jacob Berns, OSB, of St. John’s Abbey.

I published a longer post on this introit, the issues of its translation, and the entire Midnight Mass one year ago under the title “Merry Divinization!” hence I abstain from a new comment here.

Then there is the Morning Mass (missa in aurora) which is rarely celebrated. Most communities prefer the regular Mass of the day even when they celebrate in the early morning. The Christmas Morning Mass is a historical oddity: It was introduced into the Papal calendar as a liturgy for the Greeks living in Rome who celebrated St. Anastasia on December 25. Over generations it turned into an additional Christmas Mass that was celebrated in the entire Western world. Until 1969 there was a second Collect in this Mass relating to St. Anastasia. The introit is Lux fulgebit:

Lux fulgebit hodie super nos: quia natus est nobis Dominus: et vocabitur Admirabilis, Deus, Princeps pacis, Pater futuri saeculi: cujus regni non erit finis.

“A light flashes up today: for the Lord is born for us. And he will be called Wonderful, God, Prince of peace, Father of the coming age. His reign will never end.” (cf. Is 9:2-7)

Click here to listen to an audio of the chant, sung by Liborius Lumma, Innsbruck (Austria).

I just want to mention here the signature word of the Christmas liturgy: hodie (today). Several chants on December 24 proclaim mane (tomorrow), and on December 25 this changes into hodie. While Easter uses the catchphrase haec dies (this day) from several Biblical sources, Christmas has expressions with hodie. It is a core aspect of Jewish and Christian liturgy that everything that is “remembered” is literally “present” here and how. The encounter of God and human in Jesus Christ is not a historical event, it is our reality when we resort to the Biblical mysteries in our liturgical celebration.

Finally there is the third Mass for this solemnity, the missa in die. Its introit is Puer natus est:

Puer natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis: cujus imperium super humerum ejus: et vocabitur nomen ejus magni consilii Angelus.

“A child (or: boy) is born to us, and a son is given to us. The governance is on his shoulders, and his name will be called: Angel (messenger) of good counsel.” (cf. Is 9:6)

Click here to listen to an audio of the chant sung by Br. Jacob Berns, OSB, of St. John’s Abbey.

One of the happiest pieces in Gregorian Chant: light, easy, cheerful, festive. The astonished reservation of Dominus dixit ad me in the Midnight Mass has changed: not into bossy triumphalism, but into joy and airiness.

And please observe the pronoun nobis that returns twice in this antiphon: The redeemer is not only born, but he is born for us! The antiphon does not forget that aspect and stresses nobis in both instances: again not bossy, but light and grateful.



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