A Lectionary for Vigils
On any day for which this reactionary does not appoint readings, Vigils maybe said with three readings which shall be the Gospel appointed for Mass and the Old and New Testament readings appointed for Matins.
The Nativity of Our Lord
Commonly Called Christmas Day
For the First Nocturn
The First Reading
(from the Gospel of St. John 1:1-3)
IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
The Second Reading
(from John Wesley's notes on the Gospel: John 1:1-3)
1 In the beginning - (Referring to Gen 1:1, and Prov 8:23.) When all things began to be made by the Word: in the beginning of heaven and earth, and this whole frame of created beings, the Word existed, without any beginning. He was when all things began to be, whatsoever had a beginning. The Word - So termed Psa 33:6, and frequently by the seventy, and in the Chaldee paraphrase. So that St. John did not borrow this expression from Philo, or any heathen writer. He was not yet named Jesus, or Christ. He is the Word whom the Father begat or spoke from eternity; by whom the Father speaking, maketh all things; who speaketh the Father to us. We have, in John 1:18, both a real description of the Word, and the reason why he is so called. He is the only begotten Son of the Father, who is in the bosom of the Father, and hath declared him. And the Word was with God - Therefore distinct from God the Father. The word rendered with, denotes a perpetual tendency as it were of the Son to the Father, in unity of essence. He was with God alone; because nothing beside God had then any being. And the Word was God - Supreme, eternal, independent. There was no creature, in respect of which he could be styled God in a relative sense. Therefore he is styled so in the absolute sense. The Godhead of the Messiah being clearly revealed in the Old Testament, (Jer 23:7; Hos 1:6; Psa 23:1,) the other evangelists aim at this, to prove that Jesus, a true man, was the Messiah. But when, at length, some from hence began to doubt of his Godhead, then St. John expressly asserted it, and wrote in this book as it were a supplement to the Gospels, as in the Revelation to the prophets.
2 The same was in the beginning with God - This verse repeats and contracts into one the three points mentioned before. As if he had said, This Word, who was God, was in the beginning, and was with God.
3 All things beside God were made, and all things which were made, were made by the Word. In Joh 1:1,2 is described the state of things before the creation: Joh 1:3, In the creation: Joh 1:4, In the time of man's innocency: Joh 1:5, In the time of man's corruption.
The Third Reading
(from Isa 9:6,7)
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
For the Second Nocturn
The Fourth Reading
(from the Gospel of St. John 1:4-9)
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
The Fifth Reading
(from John Wesley's notes on the Gospel: John 1:1-14)
4 In him was life - He was the foundation of life to every living thing, as well as of being to all that is. And the life was the light of men - He who is essential life, and the giver of life to all that liveth, was also the light of men; the fountain of wisdom, holiness, and happiness, to man in his original state.
5 And the light shineth in darkness - Shines even on fallen man; but the darkness - Dark, sinful man, perceiveth it not.
6 There was a man - The evangelist now proceeds to him who testified of the light, which he had spoken of in the five preceding verses.
7 The same came for (that is, in order to give) a testimony - The evangelist, with the most strong and tender affection, interweaves his own testimony with that of John, by noble digressions, wherein he explains the office of the Baptist; partly premises and partly subjoins a farther explication to his short sentences. What St. Matthew, Mark, and Luke term the Gospel, in respect of the promise going before, St. John usually terms the testimony, intimating the certain knowledge of the relator; to testify of the light - Of Christ.
9 Who lighteth every man - By what is vulgarly termed natural conscience, pointing out at least the general lines of good and evil. And this light, if man did not hinder, would shine more and more to the perfect day.
The Sixth Reading
(from the 39 Articles of Religion)
II. Of the Word or Son of God, which was made very Man. The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.
For the Third Nocturn
The Seventh Reading
(from the Gospel of St. John 1:10-14)
He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to be come the Sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
The Eighth Reading
(from John Wesley's notes on the Gospel: John 1:1-14)
10 He was in the world - Even from the creation.
11 He came - In the fulness of time, to his own - Country, city, temple: And his own - People, received him not.
12 But as many as received him - Jews or Gentiles; that believe on his name - That is, on him. The moment they believe, they are sons; and because they are sons, God sendeth forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
13 Who were born - Who became the sons of God, not of blood - Not by descent from Abraham, nor by the will of the flesh - By natural generation, nor by the will of man - Adopting them, but of God - By his Spirit.
14 Flesh sometimes signifies corrupt nature; sometimes the body; sometimes, as here, the whole man. We beheld his glory - We his apostles, particularly Peter, James, and John, Luke 9:32. Grace and truth - We are all by nature liars and children of wrath, to whom both grace and truth are unknown. But we are made partakers of them, when we are accepted through the Beloved. The whole verse might be paraphrased thus: And in order to raise us to this dignity and happiness, the eternal Word, by a most amazing condescension, was made flesh, united himself to our miserable nature, with all its innocent infirmities. And he did not make us a transient visit, but tabernacled among us on earth, displaying his glory in a more eminent manner, than even of old in the tabernacle of Moses. And we who are now recording these things beheld his glory with so strict an attention, that we can testify, it was in every respect such a glory as became the only begotten of the Father. For it shone forth not only in his transfiguration, and in his continual miracles, but in all his tempers, ministrations, and conduct through the whole series of his life. In all he appeared full of grace and truth: he was himself most benevolent and upright; made those ample discoveries of pardon to sinners, which the Mosaic dispensation could not do: and really exhibited the most substantial blessings, whereas that was but a shadow of good things to come.
The Ninth Reading
(Christmas Sermon by Saint Isaac of Ninevah)
This night bestowed peace on the whole world; so, let no one threaten;
This is the night of the Most Gentle One - let no one be cruel;
This is the night of the Most Humble One - let no one be proud.
Now is the day of joy - let us not revenge;
Now is the day of good will - let us not be mean-spirited.
In this day of peace let us not be conquered by anger.
Today the Bountiful impoverished Himself for our sake; so, rich one, invite the poor to your table.
Today we received a gift for which we did not ask; so let us give alms to those who implore us and beg.
This present day cast open the heavenly door to our prayers; let us open our door to those who ask our forgiveness.
Now the Divine Being took upon Himself the seal of humanity, in order for humanity to be adorned by the seal of Divinity.