The Catholic Defender: Midnight Mass The First Liturgy ushering Christmas Day
The Midnight Mass is observed on Christmas Eve which is an extremely popular festive custom. It includes the celebration of the Holy Communion. Midnight Mass is the first liturgy of Christmastide that begins at midnight. It is the celebration of Mass or Service of Worship in honour of the Nativity of Jesus.
Pope Telephorus has been accredited with establishing the custom of celebrating the Midnight Mass (for Christmas) in Rome beginning in 125 A.D.
It is just a few more years (129 A.D.) that he began instituting songs for this Mass about angels.
It is probable that all this is true, but St. Telephorus was not the first formerly to offer Midnight Mass!
And in 440, Pope St. Sixtus III erected a small chapel, with a manger, at the Church of St. Mary Major in Rome. Because of the long-standing Christian belief that Christ was born at midnight, the pope celebrated Mass at midnight that year — a custom which he continued year after year.
Acts 20:7 states, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lights in the upper chamber where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus was sitting in the window. He sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer; and being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and embracing him said, ‘Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him. And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the lad away alive, and were not a little comforted”.
Midnight Mass became widely popular by the twelfth century. The tradition was first initiated by a German woman Egeria who, during her pilgrimage to the Hold Land, noticed how in Bethlehem, the early Catholics of Jerusalem celebrated the Christmas mystery with a vigil during midnight.
Midnight Mass is late, but it is ushering in the day of Christmas. This tradition would branch throughout the Christian world as the Church would survive terrible persecutions.
In AD 129, Pope Telephorus said that a song called ‘Angel’s Hymn’ should be sung at a Christmas service in Rome. This tradition would take off as the people developed a universal celebration of Christmas.
Singing on Christmas Eve was symbolic of the shepherds who kept vigil over the flocks when the angels announced the good news, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).
During this time, we also read the following words of Theophilus (A.D. 115-181), Catholic bishop of Caesarea in Palestine: “We ought to celebrate the birthday of Our Lord on what day soever the 25th of December shall happen.”
“The First Advent of our Lord in the flesh occurred when He was born in Bethlehem, was December 25th, a Wednesday, while Augustus was in his forty-second year, which is five thousand and five hundred years from Adam.
In the 2nd century, a massacre in the catacombs on December 25th was recorded as having occurred on the date of the Nativity.
Shortly thereafter in the second century, Saint Hippolytus (A.D. 170-240) wrote in passing that the birth of Christ occurred on December 25:
On Christmas Eve, 1997, after Midnight Mass (Soldiers Chapel at Ft. Campbell KY), I was up near the front of the church talking with some of my friends.
I began to feel eyes drilling holes in my back as I felt someone was watching me.
It was a strong feeling and I noticed two men looking on from the back pew at the back of the church. I ignored them as if they were not there as I continued to talk with friends.
After a few minutes, some of us began to walk down the isle to leave when one of the two men stopped me and asked if I would speak with them. I didn’t know them nor had I ever seen them before, but I sat down in the pew in front of them to speak with them.
They began asking me questions about the Church. They were asking me about the Bible, church history, values and moral. I began to answer their questions.
After about an hour the Chaplains Assistants wanted to kick us out so they can go home. It was nearly 2:00 in the morning. They wanted to continue so we met in the parking lot. This went on until 6:00 in the morning.
I told them that I needed to get home because my children will be getting up and ready for our family gift exchange. The two men asked if we could meet later in the day. I said, yes, but when I was able to do so.
I met with them again for another 5 hours that afternoon. I ended up speaking with them five days in a row for 4-5 hours at a time. Finally, they had to catch a bus back to Atlanta Georgia.
I don’t know how or why they picked me out of a crowd nor why they were so interested in what I had to say. They asked me hundreds of questions! I later learned that they had been homosexual lovers and that they decided to go straight.
I was informed that they had decided to return to the Church! I also was informed that one of them had been diagnosed with AIDS and was accepting responsibility for his actions.
I was further informed that this same individual went to a Catholic Charismatic prayer service and members laid hands on him. He explained that he received warmth throughout his body. He has since, tested negative on his HIV test. That’s after having a positive test and a confirmation test!
The Catholic Church has no power to change or alter the Natural Law of God. We use to say, “Love the sinner, but hate the sin” but now we are moving towards a direction that will ultimately clash as Christian values continue to be swept under the rug.
What a Christmas miracle that I was able to participate and witness. This story shows that God can change the condition of anyone who chooses to follow His voice as opposed to Tom Selleck and the packs of false prophets who are spreading the wrong message. Christmas is a time for miracles, may more young people develop the eyes of faith so they can truly see.