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individual rather than of the body of Christians to which he belongs.
Now I wish that every Protestant, who talks of the Catholic Church, or of the Pope, as Antichrist, could just be transported for this one Christmas night to the very centre of the Cath. olic Church, to Rome itself, where the Pope abides. I think he would be amazed at the glow of joy which pervades the whole place. It really gives one the idea that a first-born son must have just gladdened every heart and home within the city; not a pillow is pressed; the streets are as light as in daytime: and all the people are thronging to the churches for the Midnight Mass.
By this Midnight Mass, because our Lord was born at night, the Church marks this sweetest of festivals. At Christmas alone is such a privilege allowed; on Christmas-day alone may
Priest say more than one Mass: at least this is the general law of the Church. In a missionary country, however, such as this is for example, Priests are sometimes allowed to say more than one Mass, in order that all the people may have an opportunity of assisting at the Holy Sacrifice on holydays of obligation; and it is the practice of the Church in Portugal that the
clergy should celebrate three Masses on All. Souls' day. Perhaps also there may be some other partial exceptions; but, as a general rule, this privilege is confined to Christmas; and at any rate, on this day the Holy Sacrifice is thrice offered by every Catholic Priest throughout the world; and that with a mystical meaning: to commemorate the three nativities of our Lord, His birth from His Father from all eternity; His birth, in time, of the Blessed Virgin; His spritual birth daily, by grace, in the souls of the faithful. In one of the churches in Rome, St. Mary Major's, the first of these Masses is sung in the presence of the Pope himself; and nothing can exceed the beauty of its celebration, which is made more interesting still to every Catholic by the presence in that Church of what they all value as a very sacred relic, a portion of the wood of the crib in which our Lord lay in the stable at Bethlehem. Protestants, of course, will laugh at this, as disbelieving the genuineness of the relic; but, if they admitted that, they would surely sympathize with us in loving to look upon it on Christmas night, and in finding the sight of it a help in our devotion to the holy Child. The Midnight Mass at St. Peter's too is beautiful almost be
yond imagination; and so too is the holy office which precedes it, psalms very simply chanted, but with short verses of Scripture interspersed, alluding to the angels' visit to the shepherds, sung to the most beautiful music, such as we can really imagine might have floated through the air, as the angelic host passed back into heaven still singing, "Glory to God, and peace to man.” Many of the poor of Rome and the country round pass the whole of Christmas night within the great church of St. Peter's, hearing the three Masses in succession, and fill. ing up the intervals with their own private devotions. They are more strangers, however, than the Romans themselves, who frequent these grand celebrations; for most people who live in Rome have their own particular church, to which they like to go in quiet to hear the Masses, and to pray uninterruptedly, and—the crowning blessing of the festival - to receive Holy Communion.
It must not be supposed, however, that the Midnight Mass is only beautiful in Rome. Throughout the Catholic world, wherever it is allowed (for in some places it is transferred to daybreak, from the fear of abuses), and in many a small quiet mission in our own country, Prot
estants would be astonished to see how much beauty of decoration, what really good music, and altogether what a devotional and spiritstirring service can be celebrated in the midst of very scanty and rustic materials. Truly, beauty wells out from the Catholic heart, as a bright stream from its fountain; and why, but because He dwells hidden within her who is the source and creator of all beauty? I wish that every Protestant who has the opportunity, and who is willing to behave himself as he ought, would try to be present at the Midnight Mass this next Christmas.
Throughout the Christmas season, in Catholic lands, the Infant Jesus is the one object ever before our eyes ; it is the one thought which fills every mind; adoration of Him is the one occupation of every heart. No child can possibly make a mistake in Rome, as I have known some of our “charity children” do in England, between Christmas-day and Good-Friday; there can be no doubt there as to what event is meant to be commemorated by the Christmas solemni. ties. In many of the churches there are painted representations, as large as life, of the Holy Inmates of the stable at Bethlehem; so that even the most ignorant must needs be familiar from
infancy with the names and persons of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Besides, all the shops are full of smaller models of the same scene, of all sizes and prices, some down to the means of the poorest; and I have heard of many a little Italian boy hoarding up the few pence that had been given him for his breakfasts, or any other purpose, in order that he might be able to get one of these to put in his little oratory, or place for
prayer, which is to be found in every Catholic house; and there, having lighted it up with little tapers, once at least in every day, a lively Christmas hymn is sung before it, of which this is the burden :
u O Jesus, blessed Child,
Made lowly thus for me;
I give my heart to Thee.” Certainly, whatever an Italian may become in after-life, he can scarcely help bringing out of childhood much knowledge and love of the child Jesus.
The very Christmas sports too of Catholic countries bear direct reference to the event of the season. The toy-shops in Rome at this time are full of beautiful little waxen infants, of shepherds, and dogs and sheep, oxen and