Christmas, by Father B Rohner, OSB

detail of a stained glass window depicting the Nativity, date and artist unknown; Church of Saint-Pierre Church-ès-Liens of Montrem, Dordogne, France; photographed on 11 March 2012 by Père Igor; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsWhat a thrill of delight is awakened in every sincere Christian heart even at the sound of the word Christmas. How we are charmed at the mere remembrance of the many grace-laden events clustering around this feast. The story of Mary’s and Joseph’s journey over the weary road to Bethlehem, the refusal at the doors of the inn, the rude picture of the stable, the mysterious birth of Jesus, the adoration of the shepherds, the three kings and their wonderful star, the circumcision, the flight into Egypt, the frequent visits of the angels with their friendly greetings, and their warning messages, all these things are well calculated to lift up the believing soul, to encourage it, and to bring it nearer to God in love and confidence.

Now, then, from each one of these beautiful pictures take away the Blessed Virgin and the whole charm is lost. Yes, indeed, for Mary, next to Jesus, is the life and light and central figure and point of all our Christmas mysteries. She it is who gives us Our Saviour, she nestles Him in the manger, she cherishes and warms Him on her motherly breast. She receives the worshiping shepherds and the adoring Wise Men, and in the name of the divine Infant accepts their gifts and returns His thanks. She appears throughout as the undisputed mediatrix between man and God, her Son.

Our holy Church, too, honors the Blessed Virgin in a special manner in her Christmas solemnities. In praise and thanksgiving to her she directs her choirs to sing, in joyful, heart-felt tones, the beautiful hymn, “Alma Redemptoris Mater” –

Mother of Christ! hear thou thy people’s cry,
Star of the deep and portal of the sky!

Mother of Him who thee from nothing made,
Sinking we strive and call to thee for aid!

Oh, by that joy which Gabriel brought to thee,
Thou Virgin first and last, let us thy mercy see!

Dear Christian reader, if you would respond to the wishes of your beloved Church and follow the natural impulse of your own heart by celebrating each year the sacred festival of Christmas in a proper spirit and with profit to your own immortal soul, then you should not fail to honor the Mother of God in the manner prescribed, and to humbly offer, to her beloved Son through her motherly hands, every proof of your gratitude and homage.

1. In the first place awaken in your heart an act of the profoundest sympathy for the sublime Queen of heaven and her patient spouse, Saint Joseph, in their toilsome journey towards Bethlehem, in their sad disappointment in encountering the hard-hearted people of Bethlehem who shut their doors in their faces, and also in what they suffered from cold, poverty, and neglect in the stable.

2. Then should follow an act or expression of longing for the Redeemer, for His pardon and for other favors, or, better yet, unite your longing with the longing of the holy Mother for her expected Son and Saviour.

3. Then in profound and grateful adoration prostrate yourself before the manger in order to render homage to your divine Saviour and King, in company of the ever blessed Mother, Saint Joseph and the lowly, simple shepherds.

4. From the depths of your heart teeming with happiness, express outwardly to your blessed Mother your inward sentiments of reverence, gratitude, and respectful love.

5. In order to prove these inward sentiments of your heart, endeavor to assist on Christmas day at as many Masses as you can, and also approach the Holy Sacrament of. the altar with the proper dispositions.

6. Do not forget to carry offerings to the crib of Bethlehem and to lay them in the kind motherly hand of Mary, to be applied for the relief of the poor, or to assist some struggling church or some other missionary work.

7. But the best and most effective way of manifesting your love and reverence for Mary, and that which is most pleasing to herself, is to show yourself a worthy child of hers by practising all those virtues which her divine Son preached from the manger, the mount, and the cross, namely, the virtues of purity, obedience, humility; and love of poverty. With this intention, repeat often the following efficacious indulgenced prayer:

O Jesus, living in Mary, come and live in Thy servants in the spirit of Thy holiness, in the fullness of Thy might, in the truth of Thy virtues, in the perfection of Thy ways, in the communion of Thy mysteries; subdue every hostile power, in Thy spirit, for the glory of the Father. Amen?

– text taken from Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Her Feasts, Prayers, Religious Orders, and Sodalities, by Father B Rohner, OSB, adapted by Father Richard Brennan, LLD, published in 1898 by Benziger Brothers; it has the Imprimatur of Archbishop Michael Augustine, Archdiocese of New York, New York, 22 June 1898