Cardinal Dolan, celebrating Midnight Mass at Christmas at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Dec. 25, began his homily with a prayer he said he learned as a boy and has whispered ever since.
“Hail and Blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the Most Pure Virgin Mary, at Midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour please, dear God, hear our prayers through the merits of our Savior, Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother Mary. Amen.”
The cardinal, in his homily, reflected on the significance of midnight, including its silence and darkness. “The Christ, the Savior, the Messiah, was born at midnight, our solemn tradition holds,” he said. “Thus do we gather for prayer at midnight.”
“There’s darkness in the world, folks, there’s darkness in us, there’s darkness in the Church we love…Jesus, born today, is the light of the world that shatters the darkness…
“Midnight tells us we’re at the start of a new day,” the cardinal continued. “The old day has passed. That daily hint of a fresh start, a new chapter—you have another chance—it’s God’s gift of hope and renewal that’s unwrapped each midnight.”
“Midnight can find us feeling at times alone or afraid,” the cardinal said. “And this is the moment Emmanuel, God is with us, is born, assuring us we are never alone or isolated. When angels announced to shepherds shivering from both cold and trepidation, ‘Be Not Afraid’…
Concelebrants included Auxiliary Bishops John O’Hara and Edmund Whalen; Msgr. Joseph LaMorte, vicar general and moderator of the curia of the archdiocese, and Msgr. Robert Ritchie, cathedral rector.
“You’re all very welcome to Midnight Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral,” said the cardinal at the beginning of the liturgy to those physically present in the packed church as well as to “those who unite with us in prayer at home, or on the road…families and friends, our neighbors, our parishioners, our benefactors, so many visitors…our Coptic Christians, members of other faiths or…none in particular…You’re all very much at home at Christmas here…”
Cardinal Dolan acknowledged civic officials in attendance: NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro and Corey Johnson, speaker of the New York City Council.
After the liturgy, CNY caught up with FDNY Commissioner Nigro outside the cathedral, who said of Midnight Mass at St. Patrick’s: “We look forward to it every year. The cardinal never disappoints with his beautiful message, so we always come out of church feeling better than we did when we came in.
“The cathedral has meant a lot to our department over the years,” the commissioner said. “We celebrate happy occasions and sad occasions here, but it is our Church, as the cardinal says.”
Before processing to the sanctuary to celebrate the liturgy, Cardinal Dolan gently placed a statue of the Infant Jesus into the Nativity manger and blessed the Christmas crèche.
Deacon James Bello, director of ministry and life in the archdiocesan Permanent Diaconate Office, proclaimed the Gospel of Luke (2:1-14).
The General Intercessions were prayed in English, Italian, German, Creole, French, Chinese, Spanish and Tagalog.
From the prayerful faithful in the pews to the resplendent music resounding throughout the cathedral, all was calm, all was bright at Mass at Midnight. Music included St. Patrick’s Cathedral Choir, the New York Symphonic Brass, trumpet, horn, tuba, trombone and percussion, as well as the flute and harp.
The entrance hymn for the Mass was a hopeful “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and the recessional hymn was a spirited “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”