Christmas (Midnight) Mass- Archbishop B. O’Brien

Homily by Archbishop Brendan M. O’Brien

Christmas Midnight Mass 2018

The birth of Jesus, as described in Luke’s Gospel, is one of the best-known stories in the Bible.  We depict it in our Nativity scenes and on Christmas cards, and we  celebrate it in the hymns we sing.  Even young children know its details:  the census, the swaddling clothes, the manger, the shepherds, and the angels’ song.

There is something about the story of Jesus’s birth with which we can all identify, because it is a very human story that tugs at the heart:  the fact that Mary and Joseph were displaced from their hometown, that there was no room for them at the inn.  This part of the Christmas story we have a real feel for; we can imagine and identify with the hardships as well as with the joy of giving birth to a child even under these difficult circumstances.

But to simply see this passage as a heartwarming story of the birth of a child is to miss the immensity of what has taken place.  It is only when we remember who this child is, that the full meaning of what has taken place emerges.  The feast of Christmas is about that point in time when the Word, the Son of God from all eternity, entered our world to share in our human condition.  This was the singular moment, the point when the divine mystery, the infinite, the ineffable majesty of God took on human flesh.   When we try to express this momentous happening, we naturally reach into the language of the Bible, the Old Testament.  This morning, it is the image of light in darkness from the prophet Isaiah to which we turn.

We know that, when all is dark, the power of even a flickering candle is most welcome, so that we can find our bearings and not trip or fall.  However, Isaiah does not speak of a flickering candle, but compares the birth of the Messiah to a great light that dispels the deep darkness in which the people live.  This light is the child who will bring much joy; will lift the yoke of their burden; will bring peace and justice.  As Christians, we use this description of the Messiah from Isaiah to describe the coming of Christ into our world.  For, with his birth, God is liberating us from sin and ushering in a new way of living.  At Christmas, we certainly think of Christ’s birth, but we also celebrate what that birth made possible: Christ’s life, his ministry, his death and resurrection.

By becoming like us in all things but sin, we can be sure that God understands the difficulties and hardships that we experience at different times in our lives, because he is Immanuel – God with us.  But he became one of us for a purpose – so that we would become one with him.  When the priest pours the water and the wine into the chalice, he says silently.  “Through the mystery of the water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”  God not only wants to be with us; he wants us to be with him for all eternity.

What happened at Bethlehem is meant to be completed in Christ’s coming into each of our lives; this coming is a work in progress.  And part of the reason is that we have to have spiritual senses, eyes that see and ears that can hear what God is really offering us.  That is why Christmas can be a grace-filled moment when we delve deeper into the meaning of our lives and what our Christian faith has to offer us.  And, so, Christmas is not simply a nostalgic look back, but a hope-filled look forward –  a grace-filled present moment.

When we use those words of Isaiah that we find in the first reading and speak of Jesus as Wonder-Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, we are seeking to convey the message that, in the Word made flesh, a new “era” has begun.  But the story of salvation that we celebrate this morning is quite an unfinished one.  We just have to look around us, and we see people who still bear many burdens: be they spiritual, psychological, or material, and that poverty and violence mar so many people’s lives.

“The light has shone in the darkness”, showing the way forward, but today it requires light-carrying people who, by their commitment to Christ, will continue to communicate Christ’s love and light.  As the second reading reminds us, Christ came into our world “to redeem us from iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:14)  This is how the work of salvation moves forward through the minds and hearts and hands of those who respond to God’s gift of Himself to them.

So, at Christmas, we are not just recalling a birthday, a long ago event from the Bible. At Christmas, we celebrate God’s goodness and generosity on the one hand, and, on the other, the choice we are being called to make: to respond in love to Christ and to one another.

On my own behalf and on behalf of the Rector of the Cathedral, Father Shawn Hughes, the Associate Pastor, Father Paul Mawalla, Deacon Blaine Barclay, and all the priests and lay people who serve here, I want to wish you a Blessed Christmas.  I hope that your celebration of this feast will be an opportunity for God to touch your life with his loving and healing presence and encourage you to carry the light of Christ’s love to others.

A blessed Christmas to all.




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.