Before Midnight Mass begins, there is a special proclamation that dramatically sets the stage for Jesus' birth.
In the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, it has become customary to recite or sing a special proclamation of Jesus’ birth at Christmas Midnight Mass. The proclamation summarizes salvation history by placing Jesus’ birth in the context of various historical events.
The proclamation begins with the creation of the world and then gradually goes through many biblical events before it explains the Roman world into which Jesus was born.
The text for his proclamation is from the Roman Martyrology, which is the Roman Rite’s official catalogue of liturgical dates and celebrations. The Church has used a martyrology since at least the 4th century and it has expanded every year to include new saints and feasts.
Here is the latest English translation of the proclamation, which can be used as a beautiful Christmas meditation, reflecting on the reality of Christ’s birth and where it was situated in the history of the world.
The Twenty-fifth Day of December,
when ages beyond number had run their course
from the creation of the world,
when God in the beginning created heaven and earth,
and formed man in his own likeness;
when century upon century had passed
since the Almighty set his bow in the clouds after the Great Flood,
as a sign of covenant and peace;
in the twenty-first century since Abraham, our father in faith,
came out of Ur of the Chaldees;
in the thirteenth century since the People of Israel were led by Moses
in the Exodus from Egypt;
around the thousandth year since David was anointed King;
in the sixty-fifth week of the prophecy of Daniel;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
in the year seven hundred and fifty-two
since the foundation of the City of Rome;
in the forty-second year of the reign of Caesar Octavian Augustus,
the whole world being at peace,
JESUS CHRIST, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to consecrate the world by his most loving presence,
was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and when nine months had passed since his conception,
was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judah,
and was made man:
The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.