A few changes for the pope’s midnight Mass

VATICAN CITY — Like anyone preparing a traditional Christmas celebration, the pope’s master of liturgical ceremonies said he wants the venerable, tried and true elements to speak to people’s hearts as if they were brand new.

On Monday Msgr. Guido Marini, the papal Mass organizer, gave the Vatican newspaper a listing of rites and furnishings that have been added or moved for the pope’s Yuletide celebrations this year.

First, a prayer vigil will precede the pope’s Christmas Mass at midnight with “an alternation of readings, prayers and music to help the souls of everyone present enter a climate of prayer,” Msgr. Marini said. The vigil will end with the singing of the “kalenda,” an official proclamation of Christmas that had been part of the papal entrance procession for more than 20 years.


Pope Benedict XVI blessed the children who brought flowers to the Baby Jesus during his midnight Christmas Mass in 2007. (CNS/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Then, he said, the bells of St. Peter’s will ring during the singing of the “Gloria” to join the angels in announcing Christ’s birth with joy.

In the past, children from around the world, dressed in their native costumes, would bring flowers to the statue of the Baby Jesus and receive a blessing from the pope during the “Gloria.”  This year, Msgr. Marini said, the children will bring their flowers to the basilica’s Nativity scene at the end of Mass when the pope goes over to lay the Baby Jesus in it.

Another change involves the Vatican’s wooden statue of the Virgin Mary holding the Baby Jesus on her lap — a statue usually placed by the altar on the Jan. 1 feast of Mary, Mother of God. This year, Msgr. Marini said, the statue will be near the altar from Christmas Eve onward in order to “underline how Christmastime is also a Marian time. The Holy Virgin does not take anything away from the mystery of the Son of God made man, but helps us understand its real meaning.”


Pope Benedict XVI at the main altar in the Sistine Chapel Jan. 13, 2008. (CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, Reuters)

He also said that on the Jan. 11 feast of the Baptism of the Lord, when the pope will baptize 13 newborn children of Vatican employees in the Sistine Chapel, he would celebrate Mass at the chapel’s fixed altar, as he did a year ago. Under Michelangelo’s fresco, “The Last Judgment,” the altar is against the wall, requiring the pope to celebrate part of the Mass with his back to the congregation.

This entry was posted in CNS, Vatican and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A few changes for the pope’s midnight Mass

  1. Marco Elliott says:

    Cindy Wooden’s statement that, because the Sistine altar is against the wall,it will be necessary for “the Pope to celebrate part of the Mass with his back to the congregation” shows a total lack of understanding of liturgical orientation.
    The Pope will not have his back to the congregation any more than those in the front row will have their backs to those behind them.
    At certain times during the Mass,eg during the Eucharistic Prayer, the Pope will turn “towards the Lord” that
    is,towards the Liturgical East. The enire congregation,
    including the Pope as celebrant, will then be orientated.

    As I am sure Cindy knows, the Liturgical East can be
    either real, that is the church building is designed for the orientation of the celebrant and congregation,
    or, “symbolic” that is, the “all facing the one way” is
    done as if the church were orientated, even though it is

    Cindy, you now know why the “front” doors of a church are called the West Doors.

  2. euandus2 says:

    it is interesting that no one has picked up on the pope’s citation of Origen in the homily–namely, Origen’s insistence that pagans such as Hindus can’t love or reason. I’m surprised India hasn’t objected to the insult.

Comments are closed.