I have a post to post in the next day or two on my initial meeting with the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music and my thoughts coming out of that. In the meantime, a topic has popped up on the Society of Catholic Priests list that might be edifying beyond that group.
A question was asked about the Christmas Proclamation—what kind of beast is it, what is to be done with it, and where is the best place and time to use it?
Here’s my take…
This proclamation was originally part of the martyrology. In the intentional liturgical communities of the medieval period—monastic establishments, priories, cathedrals, etc—the office of Chapter functioned both as a quasi-business meeting and a liturgical office. One of the components was the reading of the martyrology which informed those present of the saints who would be celebrated on the coming liturgical day. Outside of these environments (and even there over time) it was collapsed into the Office of Prime. So—this was the proclamation’s original habitat. It’s properly an Office “thing” rather than a Mass “thing.” Hence, you’ll not find it in the missals.
What do we do with it? I’m personally in favor of re-purposing good liturgical material as long as it’s done within the scope of prayer book theology and does not do violence to the rite. As was noted, the classical form of this is based on a faulty understanding of biblical dating and geological science. While I appreciate the intention and poetry of the original form, it ties us liturgically to a stance on the Bible and science that we just don’t believe. The version put out by the US Council of Catholic Bishops adheres much better to our own theology and biblical understanding. The St Meinrad version mentioned by Fr. Steve Rice is different but takes the same factors into account: http://www.saintmeinradmusic.org/downloads/ChristmasProclamation.pdf
The notes in the bishops’ version suggest putting the proclamation after the initial greeting. That’s one option. I think a better option is to include it with any para-liturgical devotions before the service. For instance, a common custom is a Christmas carol hymn-sing before the Midnight Mass concluding with a blessing/censing of the creche—this would fit in perfectly and naturally at that point.
Fr. Tobias Haller recommended that his usual practice was to sing it (or have it sung by the deacon if you have a deacon who can sing) at the door before the processional hymn which is an excellent place for it as well.