Midnight Mass of Christmas

The Most Reverend Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool, has celebrated Midnight Mass of Christmas in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King.  The Mass was broadcast live on BBC 1 television.

In welcoming the congregation and viewers to the Mass the Archbishop invited those who, because of the severe weather, were unable to attend their own Church this Christmas to be very much part of the celebrations in the Cathedral.  In his homily he urged people to stive for peace, particularly in Afghanistan and the Holy Land.  He also spoke of the many ways in which the Christmas Feast reflects the realities of life.  Before the final blessing he thanked all those who had made the celebration possible, particularly those from the BBC who had made  'it possible for our knowing, loving and following of Mary’s Child to reach out, in this very bleak mid-winter and its chill, to tens of thousands who have joined us at home, in hospital, in prison. One Church, one family this night hearing the Herald Angels sing.'

Introduction to Mass and Homily preached by the Most Reverend Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool at Solemn Midnight Mass of Christmas. Friday 24 December 2010 at 11.45 pm in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool. Mass televised live by BBC 1.

Introduction to Mass:

In the name of a mother and her child, I welcome you to Midnight Mass in Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. I am certain many of you who had hoped to keep Christmas Midnight in your own Church have wisely decided the journey would be a risk for yourself, and injury for you would cause problems for others. I can tell some usually here are not. We promise to pray not so much for you as with you. One with our Lord we are one with each other.

The image of Mary and her Son before you is rugged, not soft; the brown of earth; arms stretched out: the shadow of a cross. Because this night’s song is silent but strong: and earthed; not an escape into fantasy, virtual reality; but a powerful song of glory because it is the song of those seeking justice for all and so on a road to peace. And now in the words the choir now sing: God says to Mary’s child ‘You are my child, my Son’, that is why we shall all come to Bethlehem, see and adore him.


Blue and green and gold, the colours of this night, blues and greens could sound like a regiment in the army; at once let one word claim every heart and mind. That word is Afghanistan: but I ask you to notice something that usually just passes us by: the angels are described as a heavenly army; and that heavenly army gave us this night’s song: ‘Glory to God: peace on earth.’ So that song and this night belong to everyone striving, struggling, yes, fighting for justice with their eyes fixed on the goal: reconciliation and peace.

Families touched by Afghanistan; tens of thousands of hearts are wide open to you at this midnight hour across the land. For the child born to us came into our night, into our sorrow and fears at least as much as our joys and hopes.

Blue and Green and Gold: blue is not so much a colour as light and space; by day this Cathedral is filled with serene blue light; since I first came here in the 1960s I always feel I am invited into a space to rejoice in ever more wonderful life; to be raised up towards the boundless beauty of God, to glimpse an ocean of joy.

And the road to that dancing, overflowing, helpless joy is in the green of this night: in green wood. I have good authority to call wood green: one day, on a dark Friday, when he met grieving women of Jerusalem, the Nazarene carpenter carrying a cross described himself as wood still green, alive, sap still rising.

So, do not see his first wooden bed in any colour but green: he has come that we may live for ever: that first wooden bed promises a final wooden bed, a cross: but that wood too is green: for his death destroys our death and all evil. That is why shepherds, not pillars of society, were the first to come to his bed this dark night. And one day thieves were at his side on his final bed: the cross: the green life, the blue joy of tonight is for all. That explains how, when morning comes and I go to celebrate Mass in Her Majesty’s Prison Liverpool, I can wish Christmas joy to the prisoners there.

And best of all this is Midnight Mass: not just carols, or trees, or lights it is Christ-Mass. The Mass, we come to the table of the Lord; it is not strange to colour the cross, the manger green, the colour of wood, full of sap and life; and it is not strange but truth to colour the table for the Mass, the Lord’s Supper green: for we are certain: ‘When we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim your death Lord Jesus until you come in glory’. We are caught up into the deed for which he was born of Mary: his death on the cross, with her at his side, to be our Saviour: our liberation, our mercy, our life and joy and song.

The former poet laureate John Betjeman asked the question:

‘and is it true, and is it true, that most tremendous tale of all, that
God was man in Palestine, and lives today in bread and wine’

His answer, our answer, and the answer of Christians now and as it has been for 2000 years and will be for ever is a resounding ‘Yes’.

A Saviour has been born for us and is with us: great joy is enfolding us: life without end is the assurance reaching out especially to those who this night keep watch alone, perhaps with approaching death, or a memory of death touching their heart with a pale, cold, clammy hand.

But all shall be green: life shall prevail, green blue and the gold of songs of glory to God because there shall be peace in every heart, every home, in Bethlehem and every city.

Peace on earth: this night is an event that is goodness, selflessness, joy: can any but children lead us to his crib and hear his Mother’s lullaby?

Conclusion of Mass:

The beauty of our prayer and praise this night has been made possible by the skills, the dedication, the painstaking labours of many to whom we are deeply grateful. In particular Liverpool thanks the BBC for making it possible for our knowing, loving and following of Mary’s Child to reach out, in this very bleak mid-winter and its chill, to tens of thousands who have joined us at home, in hospital, in prison. One Church, one family this night hearing the Herald Angels sing.