Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on catholicmajority.com on 12/24/13.
If you go to Mass this Christmas, (which I hope you do!) you will notice that there are four separate sets of readings, each with a different title. Why are there four Christmas Masses?
- Vigil Mass
- Mass at Midnight
- Christmas Mass at Dawn
- Christmas Mass during the Day
The Vigil Mass still keeps a sense of Advent (In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, violet is still a vestment option), speaking of Emmanuel, God with us, who is to come. The readings suggest a surety and confidence of Christ’s coming among us.
In the Mass at Midnight, the readings speaks of Christ being born and the angels who calm the shepherds’ fears, telling them they will find a babe lying in a manger. A theme of praise and peace resounds through these scriptures for something known, but not yet seen.
The Mass at Dawn speaks of the shepherds going to Bethlehem to see the newborn child. At the Midnight Mass, they are told of the babe, but now they see the Christ Child. The Shepherds saw, knew, and after they beheld, lived.
In the Mass During the Day, St. John tells us the Word was God, and the Word became flesh. Emmanuel, God with us, has always been with us. Darkness is rendered incomprehensible to this light of knowledge.
Sometimes, as in Advent, we have to hope and believe something is coming, only to realize that it has been there from the beginning. At the Vigil, He had not come. At midnight, we hear of His coming. At Dawn, we behold, experience His coming. During the Day, we come to know that He has always been and always will be with us.
May God truly be with you, dwell in you, and live in you this Christmas.