Nativity of the Lord – Christmas Eve

Father Shawn Hughes

December 24th, 2015, 5 pm, 7:30 pm


Homilies are never the creative act of one person. So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.

God bless you.

There has been a Christmas song rattling around in my head for the past few weeks…it came out last year…by a group called the Pentatonix…

Mary, did you know…that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know…that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know…that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm the storm with His hand?
Did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod? When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?
Mary did you know…Mary did you know
The blind will see. The deaf will hear. The dead will live again. The lame will leap. The dumb will speak The praises of The Lamb.
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb? The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, I Am.

This song is asking the basic question that Pope Francis poses in the official prayer he wrote for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. He says: “Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God!” (John 4:10)

If we knew the gift of God.

Mary knew…that is why she is always depicted with such Joy, such wonder, such peace…as she gazes on the Christ child…

When the angel spoke to the shepherds, he told them: “I bring you, not merely tidings, but good tidings, good news; and not only of joy, but of great joy.” The atmosphere of Bethlehem is and should be the atmosphere of joy…just as the celebration of Christmas is and should be the atmosphere of joy.

Real joy is the possession of God, and not merely having God, but experiencing the fact that we have Him, because as we know, it is possible for us to have something and not realize what we have. And that is why it is so profoundly important to recall what Luke tells us about the shepherds in the gospel…the shepherds, “who having the great joy announced to them,” we are told, “They understood.”…they understood what had been told them. Joy is the realization, the understanding, of God’s blessings.

And every single one of us here this evening knows that gift on some level and we come here this evening to celebrate “the gift of God.”…that Mary knew and that is available to all of us.
To get warm you have draw close to the fire. So the shepherds ran to the stable…they drew close to God…to stay away would have been foolish…they knew to get warm they had to draw close to the fire…to have and to know Jesus they had to draw close to Him…just as we have to.

The song so poetically asks: Mary did you know…When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?

This Baby that shepherds and wise men come to adore…this Jesus is the visible face of the invisible Father. The face of the God who manifests his power above all in forgiveness and mercy.

Mercy is when the Love of God encounters our misery.

What does this mean for us? I think each of us has experienced how easy it can be to become discouraged, disappointed, perhaps ashamed, when we see our own weakness. We can become mired in guilt, anger, and regret when we look at our own frailty and inadequacies. There is something greater than our sinfulness, our shortcomings and the strife they cause. We are miserable, but He is merciful, and His heart goes out to us. This is the very meaning of Mercy. This is the very meaning of Christmas…In his mercy, God’s heart goes out to us and he becomes one of us…

Jesus, is God’s compassionate love, regarding our world…and in his love humbling himself to become one of us…

You will recall that when Pope Francis was asked, in a famous interview two years ago, how he would describe himself, he responded, “I am a sinner.” Then he added, “I am a sinner who has been looked upon by the face of mercy.”

That is what we celebrate tonight:

We are all sinners…sinners who have been look upon by the face of mercy.

That Baby Boy,… our God,…has come to make us new.

He took on our human nature so that we might become partakers of His divine nature. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church speak of the Christmas mystery as « a wonderful exchange » between God and man: He takes what is ours so that He may give us what is His. In sending His Son, God has opened for us a share in His divine life.

That Baby Boy,…our God,…has come to make us new.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.