Today, on the second day of the Octave, Monday 26th December, the feast of St. Stephen the First Martyr, whose name is inscribed in the Canon, is celebrated. Stoned to death in Jerusalem, the incidents leading up to his martyrdom are related in the Epistle, a reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Great benefit may be gained from reflection on St. Stephen's last words, as he was stoned to death, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." The saint emulated Our Lord, Who on the Cross of Calvary, asked the Eternal Father to "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."
On the third day, Tuesday 27th December, within the octave is feast of St. John, the beloved Disciple of Our Lord. The Gospel relates how Simeon blessed Our Lord and said the prophetic words, "Behold, this Child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel," and the prediction of the sorrow of Our Blessed Mother was made, "...and thy own soul a sword shall pierce that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed."
The fourth day of the octave, Wednesday 28th December, the joy of the Nativity is somewhat reduced for the Holy Innocents, those innocent children slain by the wicked King Herod, are recalled. Red, rather than the gold or white vestments of joy, previously used during the octave, are worn by the priest. The Gospel relates how St. Joseph was warned by an angel to take the Holy Family and flee into Egypt to protect the Christ Child. The sad prophecy of Jeremias is fulfilled: "A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning: Rachel bewailing her children and would not be comforted because they are not." The prophecy is repeated in the Communion of the Mass for emphasis and edification.
The following day (Thursday 29th December), the fifth in the octave, is a Class I feast in England and Wales and therefore first Vespers of the feast of St Thomas of Canterbury occur the evening before. The feast recalls St. Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered by the followers of King Henry II, on 29th December 1170, because while serving as Chancellor, he tried to protect the Church from the encroachments of the king.
No saint's feast is celebrated on Friday 30th December, the sixth day of the octave, and the Mass of days within the Octave of the Nativity is celebrated.
On New Year’s Eve, the 31st December, the seventh day in the octave, recollects St. Sylvester I, the Pope and Confessor, who ruled the early church in the IV Century and organized the worship of the Church, who later assembled the First Ecumenical Council of the Church at Nicea to condemn the Arian heresy. The Octave of Christmas ends with the Octave Day of the Nativity of Our Lord, which is of the First Class, and was formerly named the Feast of The Circumcision of Our Lord. This year there is no Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity.