Bethlehem and the Christ Child’s manger were the highlights of the homily Cardinal Dolan delivered at Christmas Midnight Mass he celebrated Dec. 25 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“Every Mass is a live Nativity scene again,” the cardinal said. “Our souls become a manger, where the newborn Savior resides. We all become like Mary and Joseph, holding Christ close. The deepest longing of the human heart is satisfied.”
This holy night, this silent night, “we come together to have our Christmas here in this House of Bread, this new Bethlehem, at this miracle not on 34th Street but on Fifth Avenue,” the cardinal said, “with our Savior away in a manger in a feedbox to nourish His people.”
The little town of Bethlehem, in the City of David, where Joseph and Mary traveled and where Jesus was born, the cardinal explained, is the Hebrew word for “House of Bread.”
“The Messiah, our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, the promised of ages, was born in the House of Bread,” the cardinal said. “And then He was placed in a manger,” a feedbox, the wooden box where food for the cattle and the sheep was kept.
Retired Pope Benedict XI, the cardinal said, connected the theme of the House of Bread and the manger “in his Christmas book.”
The manger becomes a reference to the table, the altar of God, the cardinal explained.
“This is the Holy Infant who 30 years later would feed miraculously those 5,000 with bread, who would announce Himself as the Bread of Life and who, on the night before He died on a cross, would exhort His friends, ‘This is my body, this is my blood, take this all of you and eat of it.’
“So from His birth, that silent night, the Savior was already teaching us about the Holy Eucharist, the Mass where He feeds His people with the Bread of Life in Holy Communion.”
Christ came to be consumed, the cardinal said, “to nourish us, to satisfy the deepest hunger of the human heart, in His gift of the Most Blessed Sacrament.”
After the processional, Cardinal Dolan placed a statue of the Infant Jesus in the Christmas creche at a side altar. He then knelt in prayer before the Nativity tableau and incensed the serene depiction of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Concelebrants included Auxiliary Bishop Edmund Whalen; Msgr. Joseph LaMorte, vicar general and moderator of the curia of the archdiocese, and Father Enrique Salvo, rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“A Blessed Christmas everybody, and welcome to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Midnight Mass. We’re all at home here for Christmas, and we’re sure glad you’re all with us,” said the cardinal to the congregation assembled in person, and through the Catholic Channel, Sirius XM 129, the Catholic Faith Network, Pix 11 and the cathedral livestream.
The cardinal acknowledged the attendance of “brother bishops and priests and deacons, religious women and men, a fine representation of our Coptic Orthodox brethren,” as well as Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis.
He also welcomed New York City Mayor-Elect Eric Adams, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea and FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
The Prayer of the Faithful was offered in English, Italian, German, Creole, Igbo, Polish, Chinese, Spanish and Tagalog.
Covid-19 was among the prayer intentions: “For all those suffering from the effects of the pandemic—that they may receive from God, who in Jesus became man for us, fortitude and serenity of heart.”
Shea, speaking with CNY after the Mass, said, “It’s just a great event to be here, and it’s great to see my good friend, Cardinal Dolan.”
A Catholic and alumnus of Xavier High School in Manhattan, Shea added Christmas is about “faith and hope. It’s a great night for all Catholics.”
Father Salvo spoke with CNY in the doorway of the cathedral after the Mass as he and congregants were wishing each other a Merry Christmas.
“It’s been one of the best Christmases of my life,” said Father Salvo, whose appointment as cathedral rector took effect Nov. 15.
“Not only tonight, but the whole season has been such a beautiful time of just welcoming so many people from throughout the world and excitement to see how beloved the cathedral is.”