The Vigil of the Nativity is unique in the Liturgical Year in that it is of simple rite at Mattins and then becomes of double rite from Lauds onwards. The liturgical colour of the Vigil is violet. At Mass the ministers do not wear folded chasubles but dalmatic and tunicle.
Mattins has a single nocturn of three lessons. The invitatory is Hodie scietis and the Office hymn is Verbum supernum. The antiphons, In Deo salutare meum etc., and psalms are from the ferial psalter for Thursday but the versicles, lessons and responsories are proper to the day. The homily is taken from St. Jerome's commentary on the first chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel. At Lauds the antiphons, Judaea et Jerusalem nolite timere etc, are sung with psalms 92, 99, 62, Benedicite and 148. The Office hymn is En clara vox. The chapter, antiphon on the Benedictus, and collect are proper to the Vigil. The ferial preces are not sung the Office now being of double rite.
Prime is festal with the first antiphon from Lauds, as usual, and psalms 53, 118(i) and 118(ii). The Martyrology is sung with extra solemnity today. The Hebdomadarius dons a violet cope and preceded by acolytes bearing candles and a thurifer with incense enters the choir. After reverencing the choir and altar the Martyrology is censed, as a Gospel book, three times. The the choir rise and the Hebdomadarius chants 'Octavo Kalendas Januarii. Luna quarta. Anno a creatione mundi, quando in principio Deus creavit coelum et terram, quinquies millesimo centesimo nonagesimonono: A diluvio etc., listing the years since the birth of Abraham, the Exodus from Egypt, the anointing of David, the time since Daniel the Prophet, since the founding of Rome and the conception of the LORD by the Holy Ghost. He continues until '...novemque post conceptionem decursis mensibus', then raising the pitch of the chant, whilst the choir kneel, he continues, 'in Bethlehem Judae nascitur ex Maria Virgine factus Homo'. Then, in the tone of the Passion: 'Nativitas Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundem carnem.' The choir then rise and sit whilst in the normal tone the Hebdomadarius (or a lector, depending on the custom of the place) continues with the entries for the day: 'Eodem die natalis santae Anastasiae etc. The lectio brevis, Per quem accepimus, is proper to the Vigil. The antiphons from Lauds are used in sequence at the rest of the Hours.
Mass is sung after None. Today the ministers do not wear folded chasubles but violet dalmatic and tunicle. There is just one collect. The dismissal, Benedicamus Domino, is sung by the deacon to a most beautiful and ornate tone reserved for today, the feast of the Holy Innocents and pro re gravi Masses.
First Vespers of the Nativity are sung in the afternoon. The antiphons Rex pacificus etc are sung with psalms 109, 110, 111, 112 & 116. The Office hymn is Jesu, Redemptor omnium. All hymns of Iambic metre have the Doxology Jesu, tibi sit gloria, qui natus es de Virgine for the Octave and up until the feast of the Epiphany. At Compline the Domincial psalms are sung, Te lucis has the Doxology of the Incarnation and the Domincal preces are omitted.