Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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THE CHRISTIAN FEAST
of the Sun of Righteousness. Rorate> coeliy desuper—the mood comes at times to all idealists, and even those moderns who hope not for a supernatural Redeemer, but for the triumph of social justice on this earth, must be stirred by the poetry of the Advent offices.
It is at Vespers on the seven days before Christmas Eve that the Church's longing finds its noblest expression—in the anti-phons known as the " Great O's," sung before and after the " Magnificat," one on each day. " O Sapientia," runs the first, " O Wisdom, which earnest out of the mouth of the Most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things : come and teach us the way of prudence." " O Adonai," « O Root of Jesse," " O Key of David," " O Day-spring, Brightness of Light Everlasting," "O King of the | Nations," thus the Church calls to her Lord, " O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations, and their Salvation : come and save us, O Lord our God." 4
At last Christmas Eve is here, and at Vespers we feel the nearness of the great Coming. " Lift up your heads : behold your redemption draweth nigh," is the antiphon for the last psalm. " To-morrow shall be done away the iniquity of the earth," is the versicle after the Office Hymn. And before and after the " Magnificat" the Church sings : " When the sun shall have risen, ye shall see the King of Icings coming forth from the Father, as a bridegroom out of his chamber."
Yet only with the night office of Matins does the glory of the festival begin. There is a special fitness at Christmas in the Church's keeping watch by night, like the shepherds of Beth­lehem, and the office is full of the poetry of the season, full of exultant joy. To the "Venite, exultemus Domino" a Christmas note is added by the oft-repeated Invitatory, " Unto us the Christ is born : O come, let us adore Him." Psalms follow—among them the three retained by the Anglican Church in her Christmas Matins—and lessons from the Old and New Testaments and the homilies of the Fathers, interspersed with Responsories bringing home to the faithful the wonders of the Holy Night. Some are almost dramatic ; this, for instance :—
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