The three Masses of Christmas celebrate the threefold Nativity of Christ: from the Father, in His Divinity, from all eternity; from His Virgin Mother, in His humanity, in created time; and by grace, in our hearts, in the present moment. This latter birth of Christ is celebrated especially at the Mass at Dawn because His birth in our hearts is the dawn of our salvation, and when He is born in our hearts His Light begins to shine therein.
Christ is born in our hearts principally through baptism, and when we have sinned after baptism, through the sacrament of penance. In baptism we are reborn in Him and His life is born in us. There are three types of baptism: of water (the sacrament), of desire (moral baptism caused by exercise of graced reason), and of blood (death for Christ). Of these, the baptism of blood is most perfect because it most clearly signifies His Saving Death. Christ is most clearly born in the heart of one who sheds his blood for Him.
The most famous instance of the baptism of blood is that of the Holy Innocents, whom we celebrate today. These infants gave eloquent witness to Christ in their martyrdom for Him, as they received His Birth in their hearts through the grace of the baptism of blood. We can see, therefore, that it is most beautiful to celebrate the Holy Innocents during the Octave of Christmas. Christ accomplished His Birth by grace most perfectly in these little babies.
On this Christmas Day, we beg that same grace for ourselves. Through the sacraments and fervent prayer, we can follow the good example of the Holy Innocents and receive the Birth of Christ in our hearts. Then Christmas will not be external to us, but it will be a feast day happening in our souls.
Fr. Joseph Previtali