From the Manger to the Cross.

The Nativity of Our Lord, God & Savior, Jesus Christ.

Lessons from the proper, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, at the vigil:

• Isaiah 62: 1-5.
• Psalm 89: 4-5, 16-17, 27, 29.
• Acts 13: 16-17, 22-25.
• Matthew 1: 1-25 or 18-25.

…at midnight:

• Isaiah 9: 1-6.
• Psalm 96: 1-3, 11-13.
• Titus 2: 11-14.
• Luke 2: 1-14.

…at dawn:

• Isaiah 62: 11-12.
• Psalm 97: 1, 6, 11-12.
• Titus 3: 4-7.
• Luke 2: 15-20.

…and during the day:

• Isaiah 52: 7-10.
• Psalm 98: 1-6.
• Hebrews 1: 1-6.
• John 1: 1-18; or, 1: 1-5, 9-14.

Lessons from the proper, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, at the vigil:*

• Romans 1: 1-6.
[Gradual] Exodus 16: 6, 7.
• Matthew 1: 18-21.

…at midnight:

• Titus 2: 11-15.
• Psalm 10: 3, 1.
• Luke 2: 1-14.

…at dawn:

• Titus 3: 4-7.
• Psalm 117: 26, 27, 23.
• Luke 2: 15-20.

…and during the day:

• Hebrews 1: 1-12.
• Psalm 97: 3, 4, 2.
• John 1: 1-18.

Lessons from the menaion, according to the typicon of the Byzantine-Ruthenian Rite, at the vigil:

• Genesis 1: 1-13.
• Numbers 24: 2-3, 5-9, 17-18.
• Micah 4: 6-7; 5: 2-4.
• Isaiah 11: 1-10.
• Baruch 3: 35—4: 4.
• Daniel 2: 31-46, 44-45.
• Isaiah 9: 6-7.
• Isaiah 7: 10-16; 8: 1-4, 9-10.
• Hebrews 1: 1-12.
• Luke 2: 1-20.

…and during the day:

• Galatians 4: 4-7.
• Matthew 2: 1-12.

9:10 AM 12/25/2015 — A Christmas homily is the easiest and, at the same time, most difficult kind of sermon to prepare. There's so much you can say, and you can't say it all. What can you say about a God who loves His creatures so much that He sent His only Son into the world—a Son who is God Himself—a Son Who would save His people from their sins by taking them on Himself, and becoming the Lamb who is slain?
     There is the beautiful image of the Infant lying in the manger; of His holy Mother, so pure and so obedient to God's will; of St. Joseph, standing by watchful and silent, admitting carefully those who come to adore the God-made-man. It's a wonderful image. It fills us with great peace. And all over the world people are filled with a sense of assurance, that in spite of the turmoil—terrorism abroad, civil unrest at home, the attack on marriage and the family and the general moral decline of society—somehow it will all work out. Somehow we're all going to survive it because of that little Child, because of that God Who comes so humbly into the world.
     But these beautiful images which fill our minds and hearts with such hope during this Holy Season can also blind us; and, like a narcotic, they can shield our vision from the hard reality of Christmas. We forget that every sweetness has its bitter side. And if we think about Christmas long enough—if we spend enough time admiring the beautiful Christmas scene—we eventually remember that this little Child, so adorable and so pure, has come into this world for only one reason: to be lifted broken and bloody upon the gibbet of the Cross as a human sacrifice for our sins. The sweet little Babe of Bethlehem, Whom wise men sought and of Whom angels sang, has come to earth to die.
     Have we not gathered here to celebrate His birth with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the memorial of His suffering and death? Do we not mark the birth of the Christ Child by offering to God the tortured Body and spilled Blood of His Son, that Son who is both Priest and Victim, who offers and is offered as a sacrifice for the remission of sins, whose adorable Body and precious Blood become our food and drink to strengthen us and make us one? Is this not why the Baby comes? Is it so strange, after all, that in gazing upon the manger we should think about the Cross?
     Tomorrow we will celebrate the feast of the Church's first martyr, Stephen. His death is described in the Acts of the Apostles; Saint Paul is a witness to it. Is the proximity of these two days merely a coincidence? or is it, perhaps, a way the Church has of giving each of us a little nudge in the ribs during our Christmas joy, of reminding us why this Holy Child comes into the world? For He comes not for us simply to adore, but for us to follow as well; and, if we follow Him, there are consequences.
     This little Child, so meek and so humble, at Whom we gaze so lovingly, will grow up to say and do many wonderful things. He will teach the people, He will heal the sick, He will give sight to the blind; He will cleanse lepers and feed the multitude; He will cast out demons and raise the dead. But above all of these He will do his greatest deed: He will die, and rise again, and because of this we will live, and have our sins forgiven.
     If we would be like the wise men and give the Christ Child a gift this Christmas let it be this: Let us promise Him that He will not have done this in vain; that we will try, with all our might, no matter how hard it gets, to be worthy of His coming; that we will follow in His footsteps even when they lead up the mountain to Calvary. Let us promise Him, as we kneel in adoration at the foot of the manger, that we will not desert Him at the foot of the Cross.

* The concept of a vigil differs completely between the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite. In the ordinary form, a vigil is simply a celebration of the feast the evening before, either just prior to or following First Vespers (in the United States, after 4:00 PM). On Solemnities on which an obligation has been attached, this may be fulfilled on either the evening before at the Mass of the vigil, or on the feast itself. The Mass offered on the evening of the vigil may or may not have texts differing from those of the feast itself; in the case of Christmas, it does.
  In the extraordinary form, the word “vigil” designates the entire day before a First Class Feast. The Mass on that day takes place in the morning, and always has proper texts. If a feast carries an obligation, this must be satisfied on the feast itself; the extraordinary form does not offer the opportunity to satisfy an obligation on the evening before. December 24th, then, is the Vigil Day of Christmas, Advent and the Days of the Greater Antiphons having concluded on the 23rd. The lessons for the day of the vigil are listed here because there was no post yesterday.

** In the Byzantine Tradition, the vigil service consists of Solemn Vespers combined with the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great. There is no tradition of a midnight service; however, during the time of the "Latinizations," it became common in many parishes to celebrate Great Compline at midnight in imitation of the Western practice, with the vigil service often being omitted entirely; and, although officially discouraged, this practice may survive in some parishes. The service on Christmas morning is the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom.
  In some jurisdictions in union with Rome, attendance at the vigil satisfies the obligation; in others, attendance at the morning Liturgy is always required, even if one attends the vigil.