by Lady Lucy Herbert
A Manner of Hearing Mass,
In Honour of the Incarnation and Nativity of our Saviour; to be used on the 25th of each Month, that being the Day of the Month that Jesus Christ was incarnate, and born for Love us.
The Adoration of the Shepherds by Abraham Bloemaert, 1612
At the Beginning of the Mass
When the priest descends the steps of the altar, reflect how the world had been irrecoverably lost, if the Word of God had not been pleased to descend from heaven into the womb of the Blessed Virgin, and become man to redeem us from eternal misery.
Render thanks to the most Blessed Trinity, for being pleased to make use of so admirable a means to work our Salvation. Thank God the Father for loving the world so much as to give his only Son for it. Thank God the Son for abasing himself so far, as to clothe himself with our flesh, and subject himself to our miseries. Thank God the Holy Ghost for operating this so admirable a mystery; and for forming the Blessed Virgin's purest blood the body of Christ, which afterwards was to be nailed for us upon a Cross.
Detail from The Adoration of the Magi by Dominico Ghirlandaio, 1488
At the Gloria in Excelsis.
Reflect how all the Angels in heaven celebrated a feast at the moment the Word was incarnate; rejoicing that by that means men would fill up the vacant places, caused by the fall of Lucifer and his followers. What ought to be our joy who have so great an interest in it!
But this advantage, we must understand, regards only person of good will; that is, of a will conformable to God's will, docile to his voice, and who faithfully practice his law. Endeavour to be of that number.
At the Offertory.
Consider how Jesus Christ, from the first moment of his conception, clothed with human nature, as with sacerdotal vestments, begins his Sacrifice. My God, said he, you would have no more oblations nor victims, but you have formed me a body. Holocaust and Sacrifices are no more agreeable to you for sin; then, said I, behold I come, as it stands written at the beginning of the book. I come, my God, to do your will.
Since Jesus Christ is willing to be immolated for your sins, conceive a firm hope to obtain remission of them; beg him to offer himself again for those you have lately committed, that you may obtain pardon for them, and the grace of a sincere repentance and contrition.
Grieve that it was not in your power to consecrate yourself to Almighty God from the first moment that your soul animated your body. At least, offer yourself now to Jesus Christ, united to him as a member of his mystical body; and resolve to sacrifice the remainder of your life to the accomplishment of his divine will.
At the Canon of the Mass.
Call to mind the longing desires of the Patriarchs and Prophets, to see the Messiah, and the continual sighs sent up to heaven to beg him to hasten his coming. Join yours to theirs, and press our Saviour to descend upon the altar, saying with those holy souls, O heaven, grant us the just man we expect; he will be to us as a refreshing dew, and will render our souls fruitful of all good works.
At the Consecration.
At the very moment that the priest pronounces the words of Consecration, imagine how the angels in great numbers descend with the Lord King: We announce to you great joy, for this day your Saviour is born for you.
Acknowledge him and adore him under the appearance of bread and wine. It is the same God whom the Blessed Virgin held in her arms, wrapt in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.
At the Division of the Host.
When the priest parts the Host, call to mind the painful circumcision of our Saviour. See how at the same moment that he takes the name Jesus, he does the office, shedding his blood for our salvation. Desire ardently to receive that Sacred Blood into your heart, one drop of it is capable to sanctify the whole world. Reflect what may be the reason why, after having so often received it, you remain still the same.
At the Agnus Dei.
Reflect that it is not without mystery that Jesus Christ is born in a stable, which is to signify that there is no heart, however poor and vile it be, which he disdains to enter, provided it desires his coming, and disposes itself for the same. Secondly, reflect that he is the Lamb of God who was sacrificed on the Cross for our sins, and is desirous, on the altar of our heart, to offer himself again to his Eternal Father for the same end.
Prepare yourself for this Divine Victim, that your soul may be fed with the Body and Blood of the Innocent Lamb.
At the End of Mass.
After having received him really or spiritually, entertain your Divine Saviour, and beg him to remain hidden in your heart as he was at Nazareth, that so he may help you to labour and work as he did his blessed parents; and work with you joining his hand to yours, without which, acknowledge that nothing will be done well.
Resolve as much as he shall, by his grace enable you, to be watchful, and careful to secure him from the persecutions which daily and hourly will be raised against him, attempting at his life: For sin, as well as Herod, seeks to destroy him. See how you may defend him, and arm yourself against that monster.