Kevin McHugh, MSSC, recently retired to Dalgan Park, Navan, writes:
I am Kevin McHugh, Columban Missionary, recently retired to Dalgan Park. After almost 40 years working in the Southern Philippines, I was assigned to Manila in the year 2000 where I served in Our Lady of Remedies parish that has been staffed by Columbans since 1929.
Every Christmas Eve, before the Midnight Mass, the PROCLAMATION of the Birth of Jesus from the MARTYROLOGY was read by one of our Lectors. This helped the assembly to appreciate the principal events in salvation history that preceded the coming of Christ into our world. As you may know, the old text was eventually revised and updated in the Roman Missal and by several Conferences of Catholic Bishops.
My fellow priests, however, felt that there was a much wider story to be told. Billions of years have elapsed from the time that God created the world until the emergence of the first humans on planet earth.
If the story of the momentous, cosmic events that took place as the Earth evolved could be woven into the text the assembly would have a much deeper understanding of and appreciation for the marvellous world into which Jesus was born. As Columbanus put it: “If you wish to know the Creator, know the Creation”.
We were fortunate that one of our colleagues had studied under the late Fr. Thomas Berry, so it was he who selected the principal stages in the unfolding story of the evolution of the planet. (In the revised text there is no reference to the Foundation of the City of Rome and the celebration of the Olympiad).
We were conscious all the while that the proclamation of the text needed appropriate Choreography. In the attachments which I have provided you can find the Text and the Guidelines. The later were written for a particular church building in a particular culture. Naturally, these would need to be tailored to suit a celebration in other settings.
PROCLAMATION OF THE BIRTH OF CHRIST
[The Proclaimers – when they reach the steps leading to the Sanctuary – bow to the Altar, towards each other, and take up assigned positions]
Commentator: Throughout the Season of Advent, the Church reflected on God’s promises to send a Saviour to the people of Israel. He would be called Immanuel, that is, God-with-us. In the fullness of time these promises were fulfilled.
With joyful hearts let us listen to the PROCLAMATION of the Saviour’s birth.
L&R The twenty-fifth of December.
L In the fourteen billionth year since God created energy which eventually became atoms, stars and galaxies…
R In the eight billionth year since God created stars in our Galaxy, the Milky Way, the whole range of elements in the Supernova…
L In the five billionth year since God allowed a Star to go ‘Supernova’, leading to the birth of our Sun with its planetary system which included Earth and the Moon.
R In the four point five billionth year since God caused Earth to bring forth single cells of life, teeming in the oceans….
L In the six hundred millionth year since God brought forth multi‑cellular life in its myriad forms; sponges, worms, invertebrates, and later -vertebrates, reptiles, mammals, primates….
R In the two hundred thousandth year since modern humans emerged from the animal kingdom as hunter-gatherers…
L In the eight thousandth year since humans learned to plant seeds… and breed animals…
R In the three thousandth year since the Great Civilisations appeared…
L In the two thousandth year since God called Abraham, our father in faith, to leave the cradle of civilisation of Ur of the Chaldees…
R In the one thousand two hundredth year since God brought his People out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses……
L In the one thousandth year since God permitted the people to have David as their King…
R In the six hundredth year since God allowed the kingship to be destroyed and his people were exiled for betraying the Covenant…
L In the two hundredth year since the Land of Judea and Galilee came under the yoke of Roman Rule…
R “In the forty second year of his reign, Augustus Caesar issued a decree that a census should be made of the whole inhabited world.…”
L “Joseph set out from Nazareth to Bethlehem…. to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child…….”
R In a lowly manger… in the company of animals and shepherds… Mary bore her Son, Jesus… Immanuel… God is with us.
L & R THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST according to the flesh.
[The Proclaimers bow to the Altar, then to each other and follow the other ministers directly to the Sacristy. The lights are switched ON and Midnight Mass follows]
Guidelines for the Proclamation of the Birth of Christ
To be celebrated/staged in Church
Two Bookstands – with hidden Electric lamps, suitably draped and facing the assembly – are already in place in the Sanctuary about 2 meters from the edge of the sanctuary.
Two open folders containing the Proclamation plus hand-held Mics are ready for immediate use on the Bookstands.
The COMMENTATOR (CM) informs the assembly that most of the lights will be put OFF in order that the Church will be in semi-darkness.
The Ministers – 2 Proclaimers (L & R), 2 young adults with lighted candles – an Acolyte with a bell – assemble at the Front Door. When they are ready the CM says to the Assembly: Please stand and face the Nave.
The Acolyte goes first, walking at a moderate pace.
He rings his bell opposite the 1st door – once
” ” ” 2nd door – twice
At the base of the Sanctuary he rings – three times
He ascends the Sanctuary, stands on the top step and faces the Assembly.
The Candle bearers follow, keeping about 3 metres behind. When they reach the bottom of the Sanctuary they bow to the Altar, to each other, and take up positions at Right and Left of the Bookstands. They assist the Proclaimers with their light – if needed.
The Proclaimers follow the Candle bearers, keeping about 2 metres behind. When they reach the bottom of the Sanctuary they bow to Altar, towards each other and then take up assigned positions.
The CM reads the introduction and the Proclaimers begin. Their voices should be slow and measured. They recount the history of Salvation from the beginning of the Universe until the Birth of Jesus. It is good news, joyful news, news that people on earth had been awaiting for thousands of years. A pause of 2/3 seconds should follow each statement. They pause after each Section to allow the Acolyte the opportunity to ring the Bell. [Once after the first section; twice after the 2nd; three times after the 3rd].
When the Proclaimers have read the words, THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST according to the flesh, he rings it vigorously 7 times.
Bell Ringer now bows to the Altar and proceeds directly to the Sacristy.
The Candle Bearers do the same; Altar first, then to each other and then proceed to the Sacristy.
The Proclaimers bow to the Altar, then to each other, and follow the others to the Sacristy.
ACOLYTE with bell ______________________
CANDLE BEARER L _____________________
CANDLE BEARER R _____________________
PROCLAIMER L ________________________
PROCLAIMER R ________________________
Proclamation of the Birth of Christ
Instructions for the Commentator (CM)
11:45PM The CM says: The Electric Lights will now be dimmed.
Throughout the Season of Advent, the Church reflected on God’s promises to send a Savior to the people of Israel. The Saviour would be called Immanuel, that is, God-with –us. In the fullness of time, these promises were fulfilled. With joyful hearts we shall now listen to the Solemn Proclamation of the Birth of Jesus, the Son of David – the Son of God.
Upon receiving a Signal from the proclaimers at the Front Door that they are ready s/he says:
Please stand and face the Nave.
The CM and the Projectionist/Power Pointer follow the Texts in their folders..
After the Proclamation has ended, and the Proclaimers and Ministers have left the Sanctuary, the CM says: Please be seated.
However, if she sees that the Presider and the Ministers are ready to begin the procession she does not ask the Assembly to sit but, using the Commentators Folder, welcomes people to the Celebration in the usual way.
Proclaimers: 2 men or 2 women or one man and one woman. Attire: suitably dressed
Candle bearers: These should not be teen agers but young people e.g.20-25: suitably dressed
Acolyte: could be a Teenager -Male or Female. Perhaps s/he could wear a garment e.g. white ‘alb’.
Those responsible for the celebration – Priest and Committee – may decide that those in the Assembly be requested to SIT before the Proclaimers begin to read.