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Saturday, December 10, 2016
Midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral
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Westminster Cathedral was full to capacity for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve,  celebrated by Archbishop Vincent with singing by Westminster Cathedral Choir and orchestra. The music  included Mozart’s ‘Coronation Mass’ and Bach’s ‘Ehre sei dir’ from the Christmas Oratorio.

In his homily at the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster,  urged those struggling for faith to reach out and accept the outstretched hand of God. Archbishop Nichols said: "This holy night is as important as ever. On this night there will be many sharing Joseph’s struggle for faith. May they, too, reach out and accept the outstretched hand of God coming to us in the child so as to be close to us in our vulnerability."

Reflecting on the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain he said that it  restored the confidence of Catholics. It has also made people value the importance of the  spiritual dimension of their lives and want to give more time to their family and close relationships .

"The marvellous scenes during the Apostolic Visit of Pope Benedict in September suggested that faith in God is like an underground stream. Largely invisible, the stream nurtures so much fertile growth on a rocky landscape, and only every now and then, burst out in a glorious and reassuring sight. The Visit strengthened our faith and restored so much of our confidence. Indeed, faith in God is not a problem to be solved but a gift to be discovered afresh, and a gift which serves the deepest good of our society.

"There are other strong indications to support this conviction. Opinion polls conducted both before and after the Holy Father’s visit, indicated clear trends in public opinion. After the Visit, there were more people insisting that the spiritual dimension of their lives is really important. There were far more people saying that they wanted to give more time to their family and close relationships, and a significant majority agreeing with the message of the Holy Father that aggressive secularism is to be resisted as it minimises values crucial for our well-being."

The full homily text follows:

The events we celebrate so joyfully this evening form a story which has been told and retold over 2000 years. The telling of it has called upon art and poetry, music and drama in order to catch its beauty and express its meaning. Some attempts are more successful than others: they stand the test of time. So we are grateful to our splendid choir for giving us some of the best musical retelling of this Christmas story. And we love our carols, too.

This year we are also grateful to the BBC for the retelling of the story it has commissioned and broadcast over the last four days. I hope many of you had the opportunity to be moved by the beauty and drama of ‘The Nativity’ programmes.

There was one point at which their narrative departed from the Gospel accounts. When Joseph heard the message of the angel that he was ‘to take Mary home as his wife’, he did not do so. In the televised story Joseph’s struggle to believe Mary that her baby was of God, was central to the drama. It had to be carried through to the end.

This reflects a tendency in our society to present faith simply as a problem. Some cast belief in God as marginal and not a serious factor in how life is to be shaped. Today is a moment to challenge those assumptions.

At the end of the filmed ‘Nativity’, Joseph comes to believe that Mary’s son is indeed of God, born in a truly virgin birth. The Wise men, who travelled a thousand miles, bow in worship, exclaiming him to be ‘The Lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world.’ The hot-headed shepherd, Thomas, who struggles with the expectations of his faith, bends to kiss the child’s tiny foot.

This holy night is as important as ever. On this night there will be many sharing Joseph’s struggle for faith. May they, too, reach out and accept the outstretched hand of God coming to us in the child so as to be close to us in our vulnerability. The author recognises that faith in God appeals, even today.

In this he is not wrong. The marvellous scenes during the Apostolic Visit of Pope Benedict in September suggested that faith in God is like an underground stream. Largely invisible, the stream nurtures so much fertile growth on a rocky landscape, and only every now and then, bursts out in a glorious and reassuring sight. The Visit strengthened our faith and restored so much of our confidence. Indeed, faith in God is not a problem to be solved but a gift to be discovered afresh, and a gift which serves the deepest good of our society.

There are other strong indications to support this conviction. Opinion polls conducted both before and after the Holy Father’s visit, indicated clear trends in public opinion. After the Visit, there were more people insisting that the spiritual dimension of their lives is really important. There were far more people saying that they wanted to give more time to their family and close relationships, and a
significant majority agreeing with the message of the Holy Father that aggressive secularism is to be resisted as it minimises values crucial for our well-being.

This holy night brings a renewing light into our world, the light of revelation. This revelation is God showing to us fundamental truths which we cannot attain on our own. These are truths about our deepest human nature and truths about the nature of God. Some find such a notion abhorrent, for they insist that only that which can be demonstrated by observable facts and scientific investigation may be held to be true. Yet love and beauty continue to move us and claim our commitment. Often it is through such love and beauty, supported by reason, that we are drawn to recognise the hand of the Creator and the longing He has planted within us. On this night, in
great love, He shows himself to us that we may indeed strive to know and love Him.

The Creator’s gift to us, on this night, is indeed that of revelation, but it is given not in the form of a theory or a book, but in a person. Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, opens for us a truth known and experienced in a way of living founded on our relationship with him. Such truth is indeed within our grasp, as the story we celebrate this night makes so clear.

Tonight, we also draw lessons for our living. St Paul is forthright, as you would expect: ‘God’s grace has been revealed and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God.’ This is the challenge of this Holy Night. God alone is the One who, properly understood, rejects no-one, forgives all, and invites us into the fullness of life itself. With God we live not with our eyes fixed simply on short-term happiness and gain, but on a long-term hope which carries us beyond sight and understanding to ‘the blessings which will come with the Appearing in glory of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus’.

Tonight we go out of our way to wish each other a Happy Christmas and New Year. May our good wishes be founded on the glory of the gift we have received in Christ Jesus. Our Happiness lies in Him, as he blesses our families and all our efforts. Our prospering in the New Year is best founded on the call of the Lord that in all we do we are never forgetful of those in need around us, especially in these testing times. The family of the crib, whom we praise this night, is a symbol of human solidarity, to be kept in our hearts long after the holidays are over. This will direct us in a continuing care for the most vulnerable and sustain us in a unity of effort. It is also a revelation of the truth of God. With this in my heart, I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Source: Archbishop's House

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Tags: Archbishop Vincent, Christmas Eve, Midnight Mass, Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral Choir


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