Our minds enlightened and our love enkindled by the record of the Evangelists and the utterances of the Prophets, we do not seem to regard the birth of Christ as an event of the past, but as one present to our sight. For we hear proclaimed to us what the Angel announced to the shepherds: “Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy . . . this day is born to you a Saviour.” (Luke 2:10-11).
Every day we may be present at this happy birth, every day our eyes may behold it, if we will but go to Mass. For then it is in very deed renewed, and by it the work of our salvation is carried on.
The same is told us in the revelations of the Abbess Hildegard: “At the moment when in the Mass the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, the circumstances of His Incarnation and birth are mirrored before us as clearly as when these mysteries were accomplished by the Son of God when He was on earth.”
This testimony has been confirmed by the Church; she bears witness to the truth that the birth of Christ is renewed and represented afresh in the sight of Heaven, just as when it took place more than 1900 years ago.
In what manner and by whose agency Christ is born in Holy Mass St. Jerome tells us in these words: “The priest calls Christ into being by his consecrated lips,” that is to say, Christ is born into the world at the bidding of the priest when his lips utter the words of Consecration.
Pope Gregory XV declares the same in the prayer he enjoins upon the priest to recite before saying Mass: “I am about to celebrate Holy Mass and to call into being the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Holy Church herself teaches us that the birth of Christ is effected anew after a spiritual manner in the Mass, for she places on the lips of the officiating priest the self-same song of praise which the Angels sang on Christmas morn: “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.” (Luke 2:14).
Let us, when these words sound in our ears, imagine ourselves listening to the Angel who thus spoke to the shepherds. “I bring you good tidings of great joy . . . for this day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord . . . You shall find the Infant wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laid in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12).
This instance has been given in order that we may know and believe that in Holy Mass Christ is not present to the imagination alone or in a purely spiritual manner, but really and truly, and in bodily form—the self-same Infant Christ to whom the Mother of God gave birth at Bethlehem, and whom the Three Kings came to adore. Here, as there, His countenance is concealed by “swaddling clothes,” that is, by the external shape of the Consecrated Host which we see with our eyes. But the Tender Child who lies hidden beneath those outward forms can only be perceived by the interior sight of faith, the faith that believes undoubtedly that Our Lord is in truth concealed beneath this lowly form.