In St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., and the faithful welcomed the feast of Christmas and the Birth of Jesus during midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Bishop O’Connell was principal celebrant of the Mass and homilist. Among the priests concelebrating the Mass with the bishop were Msgr. Joseph Roldan, cathedral rector; Father Carlos Castilla, parochial vicar; Father Douglas Freer, diocesan vicar for Catholic education; Msgr. John K. Dermond, diocesan judicial vicar and former cathedral rector; and Father Cesar Rubiano.
A pivotal moment of the Mass occurred at the beginning when the bishop carried a figure of the Christ Child in procession around the cathedral. The procession traveled to the manger scene which was set up on the far side of the cathedral and the bishop laid the Christ Child in the crib.
In his homily, Bishop O’Connell reflected on the readings proclaimed during Mass and spoke of why “one of the greatest feasts” of the Church is celebrated “in the middle of the night.”
“We celebrate midnight Mass on Christmas night because we, as Catholics, just cannot wait till morning; we cannot hold back our desire to tell the world what we have heard throughout our readings tonight.”
“Can anyone blame us for not wanting to wait till morning to share this ‘Good News?’” queried Bishop O’Connell. “It is simply human nature, the nature that God assumed at the Incarnation when ‘the Word became flesh’ and by his birth in Bethlehem.
“The story of Jesus’ Nativity is such a marvelous and miraculous one. In his birth – Son of God and Son of Mary – brings together divinity and humanity in such a way that it can never be separated again,” said Bishop O’Connell. “What a joy for all of us!”
Bishop O’Connell exhorted the congregation to reflect on the Birth of Christ with renewed joy.
“Joy is often easier to hear about in ‘glad tidings’ that are shared with others,” he said. “The One who was delivered that Christmas night has brought deliverance. The One who was innocent has saved the guilty. The one whose birth was so humble has scattered the proud and lifted up the lowly. The One who was born has given new birth to us all,” said Bishop O’Connell. “What was once beyond our grasp has become, is now and ever shall be among us. We’ve heard it before, ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ But there is new joy in hearing it again, differently and more clearly. And when we hear it and the joy becomes our own, then is the best time to return to others and bring them ‘glad tidings of great joy.’”