The symbolism of Midnight Mass

December 24, 2016

Dear friends of the Charlotte Latin Mass Community,

Laudetur Iesus Christus and happy Feast of Saints Adam & Eve!  In the ancient Church our first parents were traditionally commemorated on this day of the Vigil of Christmas and some traditions hold that after their original sin, they repented and never sinned again – for 930 years!

Speaking of tradition, we are having our first diocesan Midnight Latin Masses in Charlotte this year and wanted to share with you a little of the symbolism and importance of the Christmas Masses in the Traditional rite. I’m sourcing these from and a recent talk given by Fr. Innocent Smith, OP of New York who based it off of St. Thomas Aquinas’ writings.  NOTE: Our summary is just a layman’s effort and not authoritative or exhaustive.

There are 3 Latin Masses for Christmas, Midnight, Dawn, and Day: Each represent the three-fold Nativity of Christ and the Masses are all connected to each other, becoming a sort of a triduum (like Easter) or a trilogy.  The 3 Masses are:

Midnight Mass: “The Angels’” Mass, symbolizing Christ’s eternal birth, which takes place before creation, hidden from Men. Thus Mass is offered in the hidden darkness at Midnight.  According to tradition, Christ was born at Midnight.

Mass at Dawn: “The Shepherds’” Mass, symbolizing the spiritual birth of Christ into our hearts, where He, the Sun, is like “the morning star that rise in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). Thus typically Mass is offered at dawn or early morning when daylight is breaking. The text of Mass focuses on the coming light of Christ that will shine on mankind.

Mass at Day: “The Kings’” Mass, symbolizing the temporal and bodily nativity of Christ, which He processes to us in a visible and bodily form, having put on the flesh. Thus Mass is offered in full daylight as He is now fully visible to men.  The text of Mass (at least the Introit) focuses on Christ’s humanity.  (N.B. Others like liturgist Dom Gueranger have a different order of the 3 Masses than St. Thomas)

With this rich symbolism, some traditional Catholics have even started to redevelop a devotion to the Incarnation by attending all 3 Masses (where available). God willing, in the future and with more Latin Mass priests, may we in Charlotte be blessed to have that option.  Please offer some prayers up for our Latin Mass priests at Mass Sunday, who often do so much for us and Tradition, on such limited time.

On behalf of the Charlotte Latin Mass Community, Merry Christmas!

P.S. When was Christ Born?  Lastly, this question occasionally arises this time of year – when exactly was Christ born? Some argue we don’t know the date or that its inaccurate. We will close with this question:  Does not a mother always remember when her child was born – especially if the child was the Messiah?   The Blessed Mother never forgot:  It was always December 25, 1 B.C. Source: The dates of the birth and death of Jesus Christ,  by General Hugues de Nanteuil.