Nativity of the Lord – Christmas Day

Father Stéphane Pouliot
December 25, 2015

How beautiful are we if we accept the mission this morning of bringing the good news to our neighbourhoods that we can now see the human face of God in Jesus (cf. Isaiah 52:7)!
No one had ever seen God (cf. John 1:18) prior to Jesus’ birth, and now, all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God (Psalm 98:3bc).

Which victory is the psalmist talking about? A victory in which God “has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations” (Psalm 98:2). What were the nations saying so that God would decide to reveal his vindication before them? The Empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece and Rome, each in turn had asserted in history their domination over the nation descending from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, challenging the Lord’s claim that the descendants of Jacob are to Him His firstborn son. It all seemed a rather lost cause for the Jewish people at the time of Jesus’ birth. The Roman Empire’s domination was complete over what had once been called King David’s kingdom a thousand years before. And yet…And yet…he Lord “has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel” (Psalm 98:3).

Despite appearances to the contrary, God had never forgotten the people He had rescued from Egypt’s oppression, and brought back from exile in Babylon centuries later. Indeed, the ultimate vindication of God, in the face of the arrogant nations who oppressed Israel, is to make the object of their greed and pride the provident spring (cf. Genesis 22:8) from which will gush forth a worldwide blessing for all of them (cf. Genesis 22:18), turning their disposable victim into the necessary Lamb of God (cf. Genesis 22:8 & John 1:29).

God continues to be active in our world, sustaining “all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). He is not an absentee God who could not be bothered to know us. On the contrary, the astonishing thing is rather the opposite: “He was in the world and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him” (John 1:10). Unlike the mundane indifference of the pagan world towards God, our Heavenly Father does not know us superficially. He does not come to the world as a stranger to it. Rather, “He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him” (John 1:11). It is all very strange that even Israel had largely forgotten to expect the return of the Jewish King foretold by Isaiah. And yet…And yet…

Some were still expecting the King’s return, but they were a remnant chosen among the poor: Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Simeon, and Hannah. Those who still expect the return of the King will soon reveal to the educated priests of Jerusalem, and the powerful court of King Herod: “Your God reigns” (Isaiah 52:7). How could God fulfill his promise to redeem Jerusalem, to comfort His people (cf. Isaiah 52:9)? Is God not in Heaven and therefore beyond us?

How else could the Father come to our world, but through His Son, “the reflection of (His) glory and the exact imprint of (His) very being” (Hebrews 1:3)? After all, if God sustains all things by his powerful word, it is not an ordinary word, a mere collection of the letters from a human alphabet, a few well ordered sounds emitted by human lips. No, this word is alive, this word is the divine presence, the “true light which enlightens everyone” (John 1:9). “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). This Divine Word has a human name, a human soul, and a human body. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only begotten son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Who is this divine person who now share in our humanity, from whose “fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16)? “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17)!

If our busy modern world may choose to wrap itself still in the restless pursuit of happiness without surrendering to God; if the Jewish world is still for our benefit (cf. Romans 11:15-16) blind to the poor Messiah born in a manger, crucified on a cross, and risen from the dead, shall we this morning receive him, shall we believe in Jesus’ name, shall we appreciate that we have become in baptism by water and the Holy Spirit the children of God (cf. John 1:12)? Do we see ourselves as beggars, praying anxiously to manipulate a distracted

God or as the Father’s beloved children to whom the Kingdom has already been given?1 “Is Jesus speaking plainly to your heart about the Father? Is this the day to begin asking the Father in Jesus’ name?”2

I invite you to close your eyes and pray with me on this hope-filled Christmas morning: “Father, fill me with the Holy Spirit so (that) I (may) know the heart of Jesus. I want to co-labor with Jesus in prayer today. I will continue to ask You for good things, but right now I want to know what is on Your heart. Show me how to pray for the things in my realm of influence that are most urgent today. I believe You want me to build my hope with a history of answered prayers that will motivate me to pray with faith and confidence. Help me to trust that it is always Your desire to respond to my plea. Help me to know that in Jesus I will always find the yes to my requests.”3

1 Cf. « Abba’s heart » by Neal and Matthew Lozano, Chosen Books, 2015, p. 70.
2 Ibid.
3 Id, p.70-71.

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.