Archbishop of Westminster

News of Great Joy: Midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral

Cardinal Vincent celebrated Midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral this Christmas Eve 2015. 

In his homily, he focused on the scene at the crib and its significance for all, especially in this Year of Mercy saying: 'The whole story of humanity is here, in the figures of the crib.'

He explained how each of the characters helps us to understand how our own disposition might be towards the infant in the crib. He began with the shepherds, who 'struggle to survive and make good in this harsh and demanding world', and yet come to the crib in 'kindness and wonder'.

He spoke of the wise men, who despite their learning, 'arrive without arrogance or superiority, ready to receive rather than simply impart their knowledge'.

He spoke of Joseph in his role as guardian and Mary as the mother 'who holds and nurtures the child entrusted to her, instinctively conscious of his every need, and remaining so until she stands at the foot of the cross on which he hangs unto death'.

Of the angels, he said they are 'heralds pointing away from themselves to a far greater truth, a far more remarkable event'.

It was St Francis of Assisi, he reminded those present, who is attributed with creating the first crib, because he 'was determined to overcome a common fear of his day, one that still lurks in our hearts even now: the fear that God could never deign to dirty himself with our messed-up world but remains aloof from it all, remote in celestial splendour'.

Cardinal Vincent went on to explain, 'St Francis wanted us all to see that this is not so, that the "news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people" is precisely that God is with us, always, everywhere. His name is Emmanuel, "God-with-us", and his birth in these most lowly of circumstances means that he is within the reach of every person'.

He said that 'we have only to overcome our pride and self-sufficiency' and that 'we have to come down to him so that he might lift us up'.

He said that 'in Jesus, born in the stable, we see the face of God’s mercy', a 'mercy which knows no bounds'. The Cardinal said that this implies a daily test for us: 'will we extend to others the mercy that we ourselves first receive? '

He also explained that another lesson is that 'in the crib there is no place for gratuitous violence' and that 'it means that any claim to justify such violence in the name of God is abhorrent'.

Praying for all innocent victims of violence and especially for Christians who 'suffer grievously for their faith in Jesus as their Lord', Cardinal Vincent explained that the lessons of rejecting violence and saying yes to mercy received and given, we will become 'protagonists of "unarmed goodness"', which is 'indeed news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people'.

The full text of the Cardinal's homily can be read here.

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