Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies

Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity: Missale Romanum 1962 

For our weekly meditation of the Collects of the Roman Missals, we turn today to the Collect for the Mass of the Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity (MR’62). The following is a translation from a hand Missal with a minor translation correction on my part:

O almighty and everlasting God, direct our actions according to Thy good pleasure; that in the name of Thy beloved Son we may merit to abound in good works. Through our Lord.

At first sight, this Collect appears to belong to the Lenten cycle, when we tend to emphasize the moral life. Why does it appear during the Christmas Octave? Catechism no. 1691, which contains the following excerpt from a Christmas homily of Pope St. Leo the Great (d. 461 A.D.) provides an answer: 

"Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God's own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God” (emphasis mine).  

Christmas leads us to contemplate the very first visible manifestation of the God-man in whose Mystical Body we share by Baptism, as Leo notes, alluding to the Sacrament. In other words, Christmas is the very first time we see Christ’s Sacred Humanity, which is the concrete “instrument” of our divinization, and consequently, the foundation of our own merits and good works before God (cf. Catechism nos. 609, 2008-2011).

In meditating on this truth, the Church would have us see that there exists an essential link between Christ’s Incarnation and our rebirth in Baptism, as well as our living the life of grace after Baptism. The Epistle for today’s Mass from Galatians 4 reveals this link. It is precisely because the Son of God has taken on humanity, that He can redeem our fallen nature and make us adopted sons of God. Consequently, we can live lives of supernatural charity as free sons, not slaves (Gal. 5-6). In John’s Gospel, this divine work is called a rebirth (cf. John 1:12-14, 3:1-7).

Catechism no. 526 highlights this link between Christ’s birth and our rebirth, and even refers to the afore-mentioned Scriptures: “to become ‘children of God’ we must be ‘born from above’ or ‘born of God.’ Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled in us” (emphasis mine). Again, as we focus liturgically on Christ being born in time, our Collect also leads us to focus on our rebirth by grace, and the consequent empowerment for meritorious prayer and good works in close union with Christ, as is clear in the following excerpts from Catechism nos. 2008-2011:

2008 “The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace...the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man's merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.”

2009 “Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God's gratuitous justice.”

2010 “...no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life...These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.”

2011 “The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.” 

(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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