The Christmas Praeconium
"On Christmas Eve in the old liturgy there took place a solemn chapter, which all the brethren were strictly bound to attend. The chapter room, says our Dominican Caeremoniale, is fittingly adorned with hangings and lights. The lectren is surrounded by flowers and richly veiled. The brethren stand for the reading of the Martyrology, the book which each day tells you the feasts which are being celebrated that day in all the different churches of the world - in theory, at least. Today, instead of monotoning the Martyrology, the cantor sings it. When he reaches the key section of it he raises his voice a full fifth and sings the crucial words, the good news of Christmas, 'solemniter ac morosius', solemnly and with dignity. When he tells how the eternal Son of the eternal Father was made man, all the brethren prostrate themselves and pray in silence for a while. Then they sit down and listen to the rest of the Martyrology, to the account of the lives and deaths of those Christians who were born into heaven on the day in which Christ was born on earth. After the Martyrology, according to the tradition of the English Province, the youngest novice preaches a Latin sermon, asking a blessing beforehand for his efforts, and making the 'venia', or ritual kissing of the scapular and prostration, when he has finished, in recognition of his temerity in speaking before the grave fathers. Then the prior is supposed to say a few words inviting the brethren to the celebration of so great a solemnity. The chapter closes with a general absolution so that nothing may hinder the joy of the feast.
Nowadays, this traditional chapter business has been spread around the day, so that the general absolution and the sermon (Latin or otherwise) comes during the Mass of Christmas Eve, and the Martyrology itself is read in the Vigil that ends with the Mass of Christmas Night. 'O come, o come, Emmanuel', we sing at the beginning of the Vigil, for the last calling out from our Advent. And in answer to our call we hear the words of the Martyrology telling us how he did come and save us."
On the twenty fifth day of December, the twenty sixth of the moon;
In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year since the creation of the world,
when in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;
In the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year since the flood;
In the two thousand and fifteenth year since the birth of Abraham;
In the one thousand five hundred and tenth year since the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt under Moses;
In the one thousand and thirty second year since the anointing of David as King;
In the sixty fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
In the seven hundred and fifty-second year after the foundation of the city of Rome;
In the forty-second year of the reign of the Emperor Octavian Augustus,
when the whole world was at peace, in the sixth age of the world,
Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
longing to hallow the world by his most gracious coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months after his conception was born
in Bethlehem of Judah as man from the Virgin Mary.
The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
The illustration above by someone called 'Mary Jane' is found on a card which is kept in our liturgy storeroom. Some have commented on how the foremost figure looks like me! Thus, I thought it a fitting illustration of me singing the Christmas Praeconium later tonight, and as such, may it be my virtual 'greeting card' to who read and visit this Blog. May I wish you all a BLESSED AND HOLY CHRISTMAS!