St. Anastasia – December 25th
This second Christmas Station dates from the 6th century, when there was on the Palatine at Rome a Byzantine governor with a court Eastern functionaries; their nearest church was St. Anastasia’s. Besides, this saint (mentioned in the Canon of the Mass, second list) was an oriental virgin and martyr, burnt alive at Sirmium (the present Mitrowitza in Yugoslavia) one 25th December, during the persecution of Diocletian (beginning of the 4th century). The Byzantine court obtained from the Pope that, between the Night-Mass at St Mary Major, and the Day-Mass (then at St. Peter’s) he should celebrate at dawn a Mass in honour of St. Anastasia, on her “dies natalis” and in her church.
When Rome ceased to belong to the Byzantine empire, this Station remained, but the text of the Mass was altered into a second Nativity-Mass, keeping only the commemoration of St. Anastasia.
After this Mass at dawn, the Pope, instead of going to St Peter’s for the third Station, returned to St Mary Major, because the distance was shorter.
The Child whom the liturgy makes us greet with gladness, lying in the crib, is in reality He who should in truth be called “Wonderful, God, the Prince of peace, the Father of the world to come: of whose reign there shall be no end” (Inroit). He is the Man-God who comes to transform our human life and, by allowing us to partake of His divine life, to make us “heirs of life everlasting” (that is the note running through the whole of this Mass). The dawn which the Church calls on us to greet this morning is, therefore, the dawn of that day of salvation which, begun on earth, stretches out into eternity and never comes to a close.
Let us make haste to go with the shepherds to whom almighty God showed forth the Incarnation of His Son (Gospel), to adore at the altar, our manger, the Word born from all eternity of His heavenly Father, born of Mary upon earth, and who should be born increasingly by grace in our hearts, while we await the time when He will cause us to be born into His glorious life in heaven.