Strange Things Have Been Known To Happen on the Night of Christmas

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Jesuit Father Segundo Llorente (1906-1989) was an outstanding missionary to the faithful of Alaska. A brilliant and humble priest, Father Llorente spent himself in the service of the indigenous of Alaska for decades.

Years ago, in a meditation entitled “Strange Things Happen on the Night of Christmas,” this Spanish religious offered his thoughts on the adoration due the Most Holy Eucharist. This powerful essay, which was published in the February 1998 newsletter of the Catholic Society of Evangelists, seems more pertinent now than when it first was penned.

A priest told me what happened to him once in his first parish. After the Midnight Mass on Christmas Day he personally locked the church. With the keys in his pocket he went to his room and had a good sleep. At 7:30 in the morning he got up and went back to the church intending to have one hour of prayer all to himself. He opened the side door leading to the sacristy, turned on a light and then turned on the lights for the church. As he opened the sacristy door and walked into the church, he literally froze. Strange people clad in the poorest of clothes occupied most of the pews and all were in total silence. No one so much as wiggled and nobody cared to look at him. A small group was standing by the Nativity Scene contemplating the manger in total silence.

The priest recovered quickly and in a loud voice asked them how they got in. Nobody answered. He walked closer to them and asked again. “Who let you in?” A woman answered totally unconcerned: “Strange things happen on the night of Christmas.” And back to total silence The priest went to check the main door and found it locked just as he had left it. He was now determined to get the facts and turned his face to the pews; but they were empty. The people had vanished.

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Holy Week: Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

44. With the celebration of Mass on the evening of Holy Thursday “the Church begins the Easter Triduum, and recalls the Last Supper, in which the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, showing his love for those who were his own in the world, he gave his body and blood under the species of bread and wine offering to his Father and giving them to the Apostles so that they might partake of them, and he commanded them and their successors in the priesthood to perpetuate this offering.”50

45. Careful attention should be given to the mysteries which are commemorated in this Mass: the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood, and Christ’s command of brotherly love; the homily should explain these points.

46. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated in the evening, at a time that is more convenient for the full participation of the whole local community. All priests may concelebrate even if on this day they have already concelebrated the Chrism Mass, or if, for the good of the faithful, they must celebrate another Mass.51

47. Where pastoral considerations require it, the local Ordinary may permit another Mass to be celebrated in churches and oratories in the evening, and in the case of true necessity, even in the morning, but only for those faithful who cannot otherwise participate in the evening Mass. Care should nevertheless be taken to ensure that celebrations of this kind do not take place for the benefit of private persons or of small groups, and that they are not to the detriment of the main Mass.

According to the ancient tradition of the Church, all Masses without the participation of the people are on this day forbidden.52

48. The Tabernacle should be completely empty before the celebration.53 Hosts for the Communion of the faithful should be consecrated during that celebration.54 A sufficient amount of bread should be consecrated to provide also for Communion on the following day.

49. For the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, a place should be prepared and adorned in such a way as to be conducive to prayer and meditation; seriousness appropriate to the liturgy of these days is enjoined so that all abuses are avoided or suppressed.55

When the tabernacle is located in a chapel separated from the central part of the church, it is appropriate to prepare the place of repose and adoration there.

50. During the singing of the hymn “Gloria in excelsis” in accordance with local custom, the bells may be rung, and should thereafter remain silent until the “Gloria in excelsis” of the Easter Vigil, unless the Conference of Bishops’ or the local Ordinary, for a suitable reason, has decided otherwise.56 During this same period the organ and other musical instruments may be used only for the purpose of supporting the singing.57

51. The washing of the feet of chosen men which, according to tradition, is performed on this day, represents the service and charity of Christ, who came “not to be served, but to serve.58 This tradition should be maintained, and its proper significance explained.

52. Gifts for the poor, especially those collected during Lent as the fruit of penance, may be presented in the offertory procession, while the people sing “Ubi caritas est vera.”59

53. It is more appropriate that the Eucharist be borne directly from the altar by the deacons, or acolytes, or extraordinary ministers at the moment of communion for the sick and infirm who must communicate at home, so that in this way they may be more closely united to the celebrating Church.

54. After the post-Communion prayer, the procession forms, with the crossbar at its head. The Blessed Sacrament, accompanied by lighted candles and incense, is carried through the church to the place of reservation, to the singing of the hymn “Pange lingua” or some other eucharistic song.60 This rite of transfer of the Blessed Sacrament may not be carried out if the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion will not be celebrated in that same church on the following day.61

55. The Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a closed tabernacle or pyx. Under no circumstances may it be exposed in a monstrance.

The place where the tabernacle or pyx is situated must not be made to resemble a tomb, and the expression “tomb” is to be avoided. The chapel of repose is not prepared so as to represent the “Lord’s burial” but for the custody of the eucharistic bread that will be distributed in Communion on Good Friday.

56. After the Mass of the Lord’s Supper the faithful should be encouraged to spend a suitable period of time during the night in the church in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament which has been solemnly reserved. Where appropriate, this prolonged eucharistic adoration may be accompanied by the reading of some part of the Gospel of St. John (chs. 13-17).

From midnight onwards, however, the adoration should be made without external solemnity, because the day of the Lord’s passion has begun.62

57. After Mass the altar should be stripped. It is fitting that any crosses in the church be covered with a red or purple veil, unless they have already been veiled on the Saturday before the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Lamps should not be lit before the images of saints.

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Pope Benedict XVI on the Mass, the Eucharist, and Eucharistic Adoration


Receiving the Eucharist means adoring Him whom we receive. Only in this way do we become one with Him, and are given, as it were, a foretaste of the beauty of the heavenly liturgy. The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself.

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More on this, by Doug Lawrence: The reality of the Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist is probably the single most significant difference between the Protestant and Catholic faith traditions.

For the last 500 years or so, Protestants of all kinds, due to their voluntary separation from the true church of Jesus Christ, and their rejection of the ministerial priesthood, as well as many other related Catholic doctrines and dogmas, have concentrated on trying to develop a relationship with Jesus through the use of the Bible, fore-going the authentic, personal, grace-giving sacramental union that Jesus had already prepared and prescribed for us, while he still walked the earth.

It is only through the authentic sacraments of the church that we, in this life, are enabled and empowered to encounter the risen and triumphant Jesus Christ, in a way that even our fallen, myopic humanity can actually touch, comprehend, and assimilate.

While any attempt to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ is commendable … there can be no doubt that a long-distance, “pen pal” type of approach cannot compare to the awesome and all encompassing, physical and spiritual “hug” we receive from Jesus himself, whenever we Catholics receive him, in the holiest Sacrament of the Altar.

Catholics have always understood that the divine inheritance we presently receive through baptism in Christ, is infinitely richer than anything we can ever hope to read in any book. Yes … even the God-inspired, Holy Bible.

Catholics have been blessed, from the earliest days, to personally encounter Jesus Christ, in both a physical and spiritual way, through our regular reception of the sacraments. Hence, as a Catholic, Jesus’ flesh and blood already nourishes my flesh, while his supernatural grace simultaneously refreshes my soul.

To put it simply, the only way most of us can hope to experience true holiness in this life is by personally encountering the Holy One … Jesus Christ … in and through the grace-giving sacraments that he personally instituted … for that express purpose.

Sure, I love to read the Bible … the written Word of God
but, for the very practical reasons already mentioned, I love to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus Christ, who is
God, the Word … much, much more.

From the “old” Baltimore Catechism:

Q. Why did God make you?

A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.

Hopefully, on the great day of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9) thanks to the church, the sacraments, and of course, Jesus … he and I will “know” each other, in the most intimate way possible … as the here-to-fore “Mystical” Body of Christ reaches its ultimate, divine potential … in and through an incredibly awesome, glorified and eternal, one-flesh union with our Holy, Creator God.

And that is precisely what the highest form of the biblical term “to know” actually means.