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Catholic Prayer: Christmas Eve Ceremony

Description:

A Christmas Eve ceremony in the home is easy to establish, and marks the importance of Christ's birth as the primary focus of the feast day. This is a suggested ceremony.

Prayer:

As Christmas approaches, the house smells of baking; presents are wrapped; and the wreaths are hung. The children unveil the Christ-Candle and set up their cribs. It is then that their Daddy covers the fireplace mantle with evergreens — Oregon holly when we can afford it — and centers a Madonna and Child with many vigil lights as the focus of the room. A spray of evergreen is placed across the top of every picture in the room; and a piece is wound around a huge white candle placed on the dinner table to symbolize the Light of the world for whom we have made these elaborate preparations. As is the Irish custom, the candle is lighted by the man of the house after the Angelus on Christmas eve.

Various home ceremonies on Christmas Eve are perhaps the easiest of all to establish. Where children are very small they are the surest link between altar and home. If they believe in Santa Claus, this emphasis on Christmas as the Feast of Baby Jesus and His Birthday will focus their thoughts on the Holy Child.

In our house, friends and older members of the family gather in a darkened living room. Through the halls, the children with lighted candles come in a procession carrying the Infant Jesus for the living room crib, while they sing Silent Night. By the time they reach the living room door, their Daddy is ready to light the tree, then the candles at the crib and mantle, and finally the Christ-Candle. Then we all sing:

Silent Night! Holy Night!
All is calm, all is bright,
'Round yon Virgin Mother and Child.
Holy Infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent Night! Holy Night!
Shepherds quake at the sight!
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia.
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born!

Pierce, our oldest child, then reads from the Roman Martyrology:

In the forty-second year of the Empire of Octavian Augustus, in the Sixth Age of the world while all the earth was at peace, Jesus Christ, Eternal God, and Son of the Eternal Father, willed to consecrate the world by His gracious coming; having been conceived of the Holy Ghost, and the nine months since His conception having now passed (all kneel), He was born as Man of the Virgin Mary at Bethlehem of Juda. (Very solemnly):

THE BIRTHDAY ACCORDING TO THE FLESH
OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.

After the reading we sing the third verse of Silent Night:

Silent Night! Holy Night!
Son of God, love's pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth!

Father: Our help is in the Name of the Lord
All: who made heaven and earth.
Father: O great mystery and wonderful sign,
All: dumb beasts saw the new born Lord lying in a crib.
Then all present recite the Magnificat, Mary's song with which she answered her cousin Elizabeth when the latter greeted her with the words, "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb."
Father: My soul magnifies the Lord,
All: and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid,
for behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed,
Because He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His Name;
And His mercy is from generation to generation
toward those who fear Him.
He has shown might with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones
and has exalted the lowly.
The hungry He has filled with good things
and the rich He has sent empty away.
He has given help to Israel His servant,
mindful of His mercy—
As He promised our fathers—
toward Abraham and his descendants forever.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
The Antiphon is repeated:
All: O great mystery and wonderful sign, dumb beasts saw the new born Lord lying in a crib.
The Magnificat is followed by the holy Gospel according to St. Luke (2:15-20):
Father: And it came to pass, when the angels had departed from them into heaven, that the shepherds were saying to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste, and they found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in the manger. And when they had seen, they understood what had been told them concerning this Child. And all who heard marvelled at the things told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept in mind all these words, pondering them in her heart.


And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken to them.

All: Praise be to You, O Christ.
Father: The Word was made flesh, alleluia.
All: And dwelt among us, alleluia.
Father: O Lord, hear my prayer.
All: And let my cry come to You.
Father: Let us pray. We beseech Thee, Almighty God, bless this crib which we have prepared in honor of the new birth in the flesh of Thine only-begotten Son, that all who devoutly see in this image the mystery of His Incarnation may be filled with the light of His Glory, who with Thee liveth and reigneth forever.
All: Amen.
Now the Mother prays the Collect from the Missal:
Mother: Let us pray. O God, who dost gladden us with the yearly expectation of our redemption, grant that we, who now joyfully receive Thine only-begotten Son as our Redeemer, may also, without fear, behold Him coming as our judge, our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son Who liveth and reigneth for ever and ever.
All: Amen.

In conclusion family and friends sing the Adeste Fidelis:

O come all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
To Jesus, to Jesus in Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him, Christ our Lord.

Prayer Source: Family Advent Customs by Helen McLoughlin, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1979
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