Masses and Memories: Missa In Nomine Jesu 2018

. . . omne geneflectatur caelestium, terrestrium, et infernorum

In the name of Jesus let every knee bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.

In the Philippines, the third Sunday of January is the Feast of the Sto. Nino (Holy Child). Today we remember an image of the Holy Infant of Prague, which the first Spanish missionaries gave to the first Filipino converts. After the Spanish fleet had to leave, the Filipinos of Cebu treasured and revered the image for over forty years. (Link) I always think about the great awe the second expedition of Spaniards must have felt when they uncovered the image again. But didn’t they know that He had to be about His Father’s business?

For traditional Catholics, the propers for today’s Mass are the same as those for the Feast of the Holy Name (Link). On this day, I always feel a little homesick for the new Mass. In fact, the first time I celebrated this feast in the old rite was a shock. I felt very let down that the propers were the same ones from the Feast of the Holy Name, which we had just celebrated two weeks earlier. Since then, I have seen the propers of other Masses being “recycled” in similar ways — and none of these bothered me. But on those other occasions, the propers really seemed to fit their new places. This year, the third year in a row that I’ve heard the Missa In Nomine Iesu on the Feast of the Sto. Niño, I still think that the propers are a mismatch.

“Batang sa ati’y sumilang ay anak na ibinigay . . .”

The Tagalog text from Cycle B of the liturgical year comes from the Sambuhay Misallete (Link). The same line in Latin is: “Puer natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis . . .” And in English: “A child is born for us, a son is given to us . . .”

Instead of an Introit, the new Mass has an Entrance Antiphon. This is basically an Introit without a psalm verse and Gloria. That is, the Introit with just the antiphon — so at least the name is accurate! For the Feast of the Sto. Niño, the antiphon with “Puer natus est nobis . . .” is the same as the Introits of the Third Mass of Christmas and the Mass for the Feast of the Circumcision. And I think it suits these three Masses well. In all three, we meditate on Our Lord as a newborn child: first, newly born to Mary; then, newly born to the Jewish people; and finally, newly born to the Philippines.

The traditional Introit “In Nomine Iesus omne geneflectatur . . .” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

“Nakatanaw ng isang malaking liwanag ang bayang malaon na nasa kadiliman . . .”

In Latin: “Populus qui ambulabant in tenebris vidit lucem magnam . . .” And in English: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . .”

The First Reading in the new Mass echoes the Christmas theme again. We’re still reading Isaiah 9, which also gives the Traditional rite two Christmas Introits. And as before, the reading fits the feast. For many, the truth of Isaiah’s prophecy is very general: The world generally walked in darkness until Christ was born. But for Filipinos, who remember every year the moment the Sto. Niño came to us, there is a very definite historical line between darkness and light. On April 24, 1521, the first Filipinos entered the Church, and their queen received the image of the Sto. Niño as a gift.

In the old Mass, the Lectio or reading comes from Acts 4. It is part of the speech that St. Peter gives to an international crowd at the first Pentecost. But the reading stops before it reminds us that people from all over the world heard St. Peter preach the Gospel in their mother tongues. In the 1500s, the Philippines, which was not yet even the Philippines, “heard” the Gospel through the image of the Holy Infant. And we believed in Him and loved Him even when we couldn’t remember His Name.

“Ang sinumang hindi tumanggap sa paghahari ng Diyos tulad ng isang maliit na bata . . .”

Latin: “Quisquis non receperit regnum Dei velut parvulus . . .” English: “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child . . .”

The little child in the Gospel of the new Mass is a sweet mirror image of the Sto. Niño Himself. We should receive Him as little children because He received us as a little Child first. And the first Filipino converts arguably received the Gospel with the simplicity of children.

Our Lord is also still a little child in the Gospel of Missa In Nomine Domini. But again, the story of His circumcision and naming have a different ring to them. They don’t sound like the purposeful Child of the Sto. Niño de Cebu story — the Child Who was deliberately doing His Father’s business, even if none of the adults around Him could understand. But perhaps this is just the way I tell the story. And perhaps it is just because of the way I was formed in the new rite.

Over a year ago, when I chose to attend the Traditional Latin Mass exclusively, it was for the formation. I had experienced formation with the new Mass; now I wanted formation with the old. And in general, I find that what the old Mass offers is richer, deeper, and wiser than the new. Maybe the richness, depth, and wisdom of the Missa In Nomine Domini on the Feast of the Sto. Niño just needs more time to sink in with me. But right now I feel a little homesick for my liturgical childhood.

Do you have something similar to the Feast of the Sto. Niño in your own culture?

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