Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies
THE COLLECTS OF THE ROMAN MISSAL - Christmas Day: Sunday, December 25, 2016
For this week's meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider the principal Collect for the Midnight Mass of Christmas Day, which is identical in both forms of the Roman Rite (MR 1962 and MR 1970). Below is the official ICEL translation of this Collect in the third typical edition of the Roman Missal (2010):
"O God, who have made this most sacred night radiant with the splendor of the true light, grant, we pray, that we, who have known the mysteries of his light on earth, may also delight in his gladness in heaven. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
Broken down into its five-part structure, the Collect looks like this:
1. O God (address),
2. who have made this most sacred night radiant with the splendor of the true light (acclamation),
3. grant, we pray, that we may delight in his gladness in heaven (petition),
4. we, who have known the mysteries of his light on earth (motive for the petition),
5. Who lives and reigns, etc. (concluding doxological formula)
Re-fashioned into a syllogism, we may interpret the Collect like this:
A) If God illumines our darkened world with the annual celebration of Christ's birth,
B) And if we, who know the light of Christ in his saving mysteries, continue in the same,
C) Then God will grant us to see Christ face to face in the joyful light of the Beatific Vision.
Although we tend to think of the yearly observance of Christ's birth as something that the Church does via her calendar and liturgy, the Collect acclaims God as the principal actor in this yearly
commemoration. Just as He was the principal actor when Christ was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, so too, even now, it is God who takes the initiative in shining the light of His love on the world through His Son at every Christmastide. This Collect brings to the fore the reality of liturgical anamnesis, or "remembrance" (cf. CCC nos. 1082, 1088, 1092, 1099, 1103-1104). As these paragraphs explain, the Church does not simply muse on past events; the Holy Spirit "makes them present" by His action in the liturgy. Thus,even though Christ was born long ago, the reality and the graces of that event are timeless (cf. CCC no. 1085).
The liturgy loudly and joyously demonstrates that the light of the Nativity does not dim with the years. One can always delve more deeply into the riches of the Incarnation through the lived experience of the liturgical year. In view of this, the following verse from St. Paul is fitting: "For it is the God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (cf. 2 Cor. 4:6, RSV). This is precisely what our Collect says about what God does for us at every Christmas.
This Collect is also very Johannine in character, for it treats the themes of light, glory, and seeing the face of Christ. These are themes St. John
emphasizes both in his Gospel, as well as his First Epistle (cf. Jn. 1:4, 9, 14; 8:12, and 1 Jn. 1:5, 7; 3:2-3' please read these verses as part of your Christmas
preparation). St. John's writings as a whole parse out what it means "to know the mysteries of [Christ's] light on earth" more than any other part of Scripture. We
may classify this knowledge of Christ's mysteries into three areas: a) His saving doctrine, b) His sacramental grace, and c) His commandment of love.
We can certainly discern these three areas in Christmastide: His birth puts before us the saving truth of His Incarnation, it invites us to receive Him
devoutly in Holy Communion, and it calls us to love Him in others, especially the poor.
Even as we contemplate face of the Divine Child in this season, our Collect asks God that we may one day "delight in His gladness in Heaven" (this implies seeing Him, of course). As the syllogism demonstrates, it is our knowledge of Christ's mysteries of light here and now that impells us toward the joy of heaven. May we be occupied with knowing the mysteries of Christ more deeply, and thereby strengthening our hope of seeing Him face-to-face in heaven.
|Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.