Following an ancient tradition which goes back to the very beginnings of the Church in Rome, Christians celebrate the mystery of Christmas in the heart of the night. They recall the silence which enveloped all things, when God’s Word came down from heaven and radiant light shone around the shepherds as they listened with joy to the news of the Saviour’s birth.
On this sacred night, in the presence of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, we too are gathered to celebrate the mystery of the Lord’s nativity: the mystery of the light that shines in the darkness, the Word made flesh, the bread come down from heaven.
In faith we join our fellow Christians throughout the world for the celebration of this great event of our salvation. In a special way, we are united with our brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia, North and South America, and Eastern and Western Europe, who take part in this Mass by radio and television.
Before the celebration of Midnight Mass, we are invited to meditate prayerfully on the prophecies that announced the promised Messiah, the prayers that invoked his coming, and the cosmic silence that surrounded his birth.
At the beginning of Mass, before we echo the song of the angels on that holy night, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth”, the Lord’s birth in the fullness of time will be solemnly proclaimed in the words of the ancient “Kalenda”. This majestic text presents Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, as the centre of the cosmos and of all history.
The NLM is pleased to provide online coverage of this event as well, as has been our Christmas tradition.
NOTE: There was some sort of incident at the beginning of the Mass, during the procession. Security rushed back toward the area the Pope would be. More as we find out. The procession now continues. This is a good reminder however: always pray for the protection of our Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ.
UPDATE 2: One of our readers suggested the commotion was caused by a woman who tried to reach the Pope and in the course of this incident, the Pope fell to the ground.
UPDATE 3: CNN now confirms this report: Pope falls during incident before midnight Mass. See also this video report.
The seven papal acolytes in the procession; some suggest this is historically rooted in imperial Roman practice.
"Gloria in excelsis Deo" - the Bells of the Vatican Basilica ring out in joy: Christ is born!
The Second Reading
Imposition of Incense
The Holy Gospel
(To the very right Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos is seen)
"Et incarnatus est..."
(From the Nativity Scene in St. Peter's)
The Christ child is placed within the Vatican nativity scene within the basilica