Monday, December 31, 2007
Octave of Christmas and Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, our Lady's greatest title. This feast is the octave of Christmas. In the modern Roman Calendar only Christmas and Easter enjoy the privilege of an octave. Before the Calendar was reformed this was the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord.
"Mary, the all-holy ever-virgin Mother of God, is the masterwork of the mission of the Son and the Spirit in the fullness of time. For the first time in the plan of salvation and because his Spirit had prepared her, the Father found the dwelling place where his Son and his Spirit could dwell among men. In this sense the Church's Tradition has often read the most beautiful texts on wisdom in relation to Mary. Mary is acclaimed and represented in the liturgy as the "Seat of Wisdom." — Catechism of the Catholic Church 721
The Eighth Day of Christmas
Mary the Mother of God
Like the Churches of the East, Rome wished to honor the Virgin Mother of God during the days after Christmas. As a result the ("Anniversary of St. Mary") made its appearance on January 1 in the seventh century; it has accurately been called "the first Marian feast of the Roman liturgy." — The Church at Prayer
On New Year's Day, the octave day of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Holy Mother of God. The divine and virginal motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a singular salvific event: for Our Lady it was the foretaste and cause of her extraordinary glory; for us it is a source of grace and salvation because "through her we have received the Author of life" (127).
The solemnity of 1 January, an eminently Marian feast, presents an excellent opportunity for liturgical piety to encounter popular piety: the first celebrates this event in a manner proper to it; the second, when duly catechised, lends joy and happiness to the various expressions of praise offered to Our Lady on the birth of her divine Son, to deepen our understanding of many prayers, beginning with that which says: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners."
In the West, 1 January is an inaugural day marking the beginning of the civil year. The faithful are also involved in the celebrations for the beginning of the new year and exchange "new year" greetings. However, they should try to lend a Christian understanding to this custom making of these greetings an expression of popular piety. The faithful, naturally, realize that the "new year" is placed under the patronage of the Lord, and in exchanging new year greetings they implicitly and explicitly place the New Year under the Lord's dominion, since to him belongs all time (cf. Ap 1, 8; 22,13)(128).
A connection between this consciousness and the popular custom of singing the Veni Creator Spiritus can easily be made so that on 1 January the faithful can pray that the Spirit may direct their thoughts and actions, and those of the community during the course of the year (129).
New Year greetings also include an expression of hope for a peaceful New Year. This has profound biblical, Christological and incarnational origins. The "quality of peace" has always been invoked throughout history by all men, and especially during violent and destructive times of war.
The Holy See shares the profound aspirations of man for peace. Since 1967, 1 January has been designated "world day for peace."
Popular piety has not been oblivious to this initiative of the Holy See. In the light of the new born Prince of Peace, it reserves this day for intense prayer for peace, education towards peace and those values inextricably linked with it, such as liberty, fraternal solidarity, the dignity of the human person, respect for nature, the right to work, the sacredness of human life, and the denunciation of injustices which trouble the conscience of man and threaten peace.
Excerpted from the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy.
The Circumcision of Our Lord
The old liturgy celebrated three feasts in one. The first was that which the old Roman sacramentaries called "the octave of the Lord," and indeed the greater part of the Mass was of the octave of Christmas with many extracts from the Masses of Christmas. Various portions of the Mass and Office celebrated the divine maternity of Mary. The third feast was that of the Circumcision which has been celebrated since the sixth century. Eight days after His birth Christ underwent, like all the Jews, this rite enjoined on Abraham by God as a pledge of his faith, and He received the name of Jesus.
When Our Lord submitted to the cut in His flesh at the Circumcision he began His work as Redeemer. He commenced that shedding of Blood which would reach its highest point of generosity in the Passion and Death.
In giving to Abraham the law of circumcision God bestowed on him his new name — Abraham. With the Jews henceforward the giving of a name had a spiritual significance; like circumcision it meant that the person belonged to the people of God. The bestowal of the name of Jesus has an even loftier significance: it is an assertion of His mission as Savior of the world.