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Christmas 2023 – Homily in Varignano/Viareggio

Exploring the Triple Celebration of Christmas: Night, Dawn and Day – A Journey into the Heart of the Christmas Liturgy

The liturgy of Christmas, by very ancient tradition, involves the celebration of three Masses with their own prayers and readings. Three celebrations that are called: Mass of the Night – Mass of the Dawn – Mass of the Day.

The rich liturgical proposal is intended to help Christians penetrate the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God in our mortal flesh and bring out all its richness to give depth and concreteness to our life of faith.

I would like to take up this tripartition in order to enter into the depth of the liturgy and its very relevance for each of us, for the Christian community and for all humanity. Yes, because, whatever one may say, the birth in the flesh of Christ the Savior concerns all humanity.

It begins with the night

The Night Mass is an invitation to joy. This is how the angel addresses the shepherds: “Do not be afraid: behold, I proclaim to you glad tidings, great joy, which will be to all the people: today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

Certainly the night is, first and foremost, an experience of darkness: “The people walked in darkness,” says the prophet Isaiah (9:1).

And like, the ancient people of God, so are we today:

  • We feel plunged into the night and grope in darkness in search of a way of salvation;
  • We feel the oppression of an increasingly thick night weighing down our today and our future;
  • We experience, albeit from a distance, the night of wars, of unrest, of daily violence that thrusts us further and further into the darkness of uncertainty.
  • And then there are our daily nights, such as those of Mary and Joseph, who, having responded to the emperor’s law, have abandoned the security of their home and now find themselves in trouble. Mary has to give birth, but there was no room for them in the hotel, so they have to invent a makeshift shelter.

Everything seems shrouded in darkness… Yet, on that night, in our night, something totally unexpected happens: “Today is born for us the Savior: Christ the Lord.” “Today the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people” (Titus 2:11). “Today the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light: Christ the Lord” (cf. Isaiah 9:1). In the child who has been given to us, “the night is clear as day” (Psalm 138:12).

An early Church tradition states that Adam and Eve were cast out of paradise at the end of the day and came to earth at midnight; the second Adam, Christ Jesus, was born at midnight. “In the night, God causes songs of joy to be sung” (Job 35:10), because a child has been born for us, a Son has been given to us: Christ the Lord. He is the true light that illuminates the night of humanity.

The Christmas Night Mass is a pressing invitation to welcome the joy, which God the Father gives us in abundance in his Son made flesh for us.

After the night comes the Dawn

The Mass of Dawn is an invitation to silence. An invitation to contemplate, with the astonished eyes of the heart, the light of the Savior shed upon us and the whole world.

The shepherds, urged by the Angel, go to see the “Child” who is born and laid in a manger; they wish to contemplate and see the love of God that illuminates the hearts of men.

The light of the Incarnate One is like a “dew” that regenerates and renews; it is like a dew that rests on the earth, nourishes and guards it, even if it is winter.

The Savior who is born is that “bright morning star“-as Revelation warns (22:16)-that makes light and color reflect the dew that envelops the earth, gives it warmth and gently fertilizes it. Earth that wrapped in the light and “fire” of the dawn, in Christ the Savior, rediscovers itself “redeemed by the Lord, sought by him, a city not forsaken” (Isaiah 62:12).

But the transformation and consolation given to the earth, by the child who was born, need to pause silently in the heart in order to be welcomed and experienced. This is what Mary teaches us. She is the woman who guards all that happens in the heart and in that deep silence contemplates in the night the light given by the Son of God who is her own Son, whom she bore first in the heart and then in the flesh (cf. Luke 2:15-20).

The Mass of Dawn is the immersion in the silence of the heart to contemplate the light of the Savior shining upon us; it is the invitation to experience the dew of Christ, bright morning star that, if welcomed, transforms us into a gentle and engaging caress.

And finally, the Mass of the Day

In it, the liturgy invites us to witness. The joy of the night and the silence of the dawn cannot be withheld; it must be offered and witnessed.

The Mass of the Day is an invitation to become “sentinels” capable of seeing with the eyes of the heart the Word of God who became a sharer in our human condition (cf. Isaiah 52:7-10).

Sentinels capable of seeing and “sharing in the divine life of the Son of God, who wanted to take on our human nature today.

Sentinels capable of discovering:

  • In the nights of life, the intimate joy given to humanity by the Word of God made flesh;
  • In the darkness of the world, the light of dawn;
  • In the cloying and deafening chatter, the silence of the reconciled heart;
  • In the multiplicity of human words, the authentic Word, the Word embodied and spoken with truth, humility and meekness;
  • In the violence of tormentors’ sticks and instruments of oppression, the meekness of the child born for us today;
  • In the brokenness and disorder of sin, the mercy of a God who repeats to us, “You are my son, today I have begotten you” (cf. Hebrews 1:1-6).

The three Christmas Masses accompany us on this poignant and enveloping journey of faith; they invite us to Christian joy, to silence of heart, to humble and authentic witness.

They are a reminder not to forget the warning of an ancient bishop, who addressed to his Christians exhorting them, “If even Christ were born a thousand times in Bethlehem, but is not born at least once in your heart, in vain would be the birth of the Word of God in the flesh.

May this be the good time for us – brothers and sisters.

Merry Christmas

Don Marcello Brunini


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