Pope Benedict’s liturgical to-do list

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his Christmas Day blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city of Rome and the world) in 2007. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his Christmas Day blessing in 2007. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican recently updated its calendar of Pope Benedict’s liturgical celebrations through January 2009, and confirmed that, as in previous years, the 81-year-old pontiff will preside over a full slate of Christmas activities.

The pre-Christmas season begins when the pope celebrates evening prayer Nov. 29 in St. Peter’s Basilica on the vigil of the first Sunday of Advent. A more popular ceremony, at least among the Romans, occurs Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, when the pope will say a prayer and lay a basket of flowers before a statue of Mary next to the Spanish Steps in downtown Rome.

Thanks to a satellite feed that now reaches more than 70 countries, the world will tune in when the pope celebrates Christmas Midnight Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and delivers his urbi et orbi blessing — to the city (urbi) and to the world (orbi) — on Christmas Day from the central balcony of the basilica’s facade.

On New Year’s Eve, the pope will return to St. Peter’s to lead evening prayer and sing a hymn of thanksgiving for 2008. Then on New Year’s Day, he’ll celebrate Mass in the basilica to mark the feast of Mary, the Mother of God, and the 42nd World Day of Peace. On Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, he will preside over another major liturgy.

Pope Benedict, maintaining a tradition of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, will baptize infants during a Mass in the Sistine Chapel Jan. 11, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. It’s the one day of the year the Sistine guards don’t shush people, and crying babies usually out-decibel the Sistine Chapel Choir.

The calendar contains two somewhat out-of-the-ordinary celebrations. The first comes Nov. 30, when the pope makes a pastoral visit and celebrates Mass at the Rome Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, on the occasion of the 1,750th anniversary of St. Lawrence’s martyrdom.

The second will take place Jan. 25 at the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, when the pope leads evening prayer on the feast of St. Paul’s conversion. What makes this celebration unusual is that it comes during the jubilee year dedicated to St. Paul, which commemorates the 2,000th anniversary of the saint’s birth.

4 Responses

  1. You can watch The Vesperes on EWTN (live 90 min)
    ALSO on http://www.EWTN.com !!
    Sat. 11/29/08 11AM and encore: 3;30PM

    God Bless!

  2. Let us hope the papal master of ceremonies will introduce the rite of the lucernarium to First and Second Vespers at the Vatican. As it stands now, too many liturgies at St. Peter’s become stage shows for displaying the pope’s entrance and exit, and a concert hall for the choir.
    The time has arrived to make St. Peter’s less a theater and more a house of prayer. The very thing Pope Benedict criticized the most in his writings on the liturgy was the rise of the celebrant as the center of attention. Now the pope is one himself. Often in place of or competing with the presiding celebrant, Jesus!!!

  3. I agree. The roles of museum and house of prayer need to be prioritized correctly.

  4. I believe Pope Benedict is highly in favor of the most exalted and abundant sacred music that is possile without detracting from the essence. In heaven the Angels and Saints always sing, and so shall we, Deo volente, for all eternity. Because of the immense number of tourists and hightened security it is unfortunate that one cannot just walk into a dimly lit and quiet St. Peter’s to pray during most of the day.

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