The Christmas Proclamation
Comparative analysis by Fr. Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.


A formal "Proclamation of the Birth of Christ" is traditionally chanted or recited near the beginning of the Christmas Midnight Mass and/or during the Liturgy of the Hours on Christmas Eve. The text, which comes from the "Roman Martyrology" for December 24, situates the birth of Jesus Christ within the context of salvation history. It begins with the creation of the world, mentions certain key events in the history of the people of Israel, and concludes with the birth of Jesus during the Roman Era.

A new translation "Approved for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Confirmed by the Apostolic See" was published in 1994 (repr. in Sacramentary Supplement, 2004). In several respects, the new translation is a significant improvement over the various older translations still in widespread circulation around the world (and on the internet).

For ease of comparison, the following table shows several translations in parallel columns next to each other. After comparing the texts carefully, I trust most readers will agree that although the older translations might seem more attractive in some ways, the new translation is actually much better in many respects, situating the birth of Jesus in historical context as accurately as the best of today's biblical scholarship can reasonably support, but without making claims that are more precise than most contemporary historians would responsibly support. Thus, one can only hope that the new translation will be used more and more in the future.

Traditional Translation Another Old Translation New Translation (USCCB, 1994)
The twenty-fifth day of December. In the twenty-fourth day of the month of December; Today, the twenty-fifth day of December,

In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the creation of the world from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;

In the year five-thousand one-hundred and ninety-nine from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;

unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and the earth and then formed man and woman in his own image.

the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;

In the year two-thousand nine-hundred and fifty-seven from the flood;

Several thousand years after the flood, when God made the rainbow shine forth as a sign of the covenant.

the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham; In the year two-thousand and fifty-one from the birth of Abraham; Twenty-one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah;

the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;

In the year one-thousand five-hundred and ten from the going forth of the people of Israel out of Egypt under Moses;

thirteen centuries after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt.

[x] [x] Eleven hundred years from the time of Ruth and the Judges;
the one thousand and thirty-second year from David's being anointed king; In the year one-thousand and thirty-two from the anointing of David as king; one thousand years from the anointing of David as king;

in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;

In the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;

in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel.

in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome;

In the one-hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
In the year seven-hundred and fifty-two from the foundation of the city of Rome;

In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome.

the forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
in the sixth age of the world,
In the forty-second year of the reign of the Emperor Octavian Augustus;
In the sixth age of the world,
while the whole earth was at peace—
The forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,

Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months having passed since his conception,
was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary,
being made flesh.

JESUS CHRIST eternal God and the Son of the eternal Father,
willing to consecrate the world by His gracious coming,
having been conceived of the Holy Ghost,
and the nine months of His conception being now accomplished,
was born in Bethlehem of Judah of the Virgin Mary, made man.

Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months having passed since his conception,
was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.

The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the flesh.

Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

Text and printed music for the new translation are available on the USCCB website, while various older versions of the text and/or musical settings can be found on many other websites:

Some curious trivia: Searching on Google for a phrase common to all translations (such as "in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad") returns about 70 webpages (as of 12/06). In contrast, searching for a phrase found only in the new translation (such as "Twenty-one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah") returns extremely few websites, not even including the USCCB's Committee on the Liturgy (since their website has the document only in PDF format)! Ironically, the Dec. 2004 BCL Newsletter publicly accessible on the same website concludes with the older version of the Christmas Proclamation!


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This page was last updated on July 12, 2009