Octave of Christmas and Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Although New Year’s Day is not celebrated by the Church, this day has been observed as a holy day of obligation since early times due to the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Families around the world have different secular traditions, many involving various foods to eat on January 1. I have recently read that lentils are one of these foods: if one does not eat lentils at the beginning of the year, back luck will come to them. Growing up as a child of two Hungarian immigrants, I knew two things about New Year’s Day. The first was that we always went to church and the second was that we ate a hearty bowl of black-eyed pea soup. No matter where I am for New Year’s, I still manage to uphold these two New Year’s “obligations,” so to speak.
Today, January 1 (which is the Octave of Christmas), we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Honoring Mary as the Mother of God can be traced back centuries, to the early days of the Church. The celebration has carried a few titles during this time, including the celebration of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (7th century) and the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ (13th century). Interestingly it was not until 1974 when Pope Paul VI removed the feast of the Circumcision of Christ from the liturgical calendar and replaced it with the feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, that Mary’s feast day was brought back to January 1.
Today we are reminded of the role that the Blessed Virgin played in the plan of our salvation. Through the Holy Spirit, God the Father prepared Mary to conceive His Son so that he could live among people. Christ’s birth was made possible when Mary embraced God’s will and freely chose to cooperate with God’s grace, proclaiming, “Be it done to me according to thy word”. So it is that this feast is a celebration of Mary’s motherhood of Jesus. This, the most significant of her titles and roles – Mother of God – comes from the Greek Theotokos or “God-bearer”.
Calling Mary “Mother of God” is the highest honor we can give her. The Church honors her as the Mother of God, looks to her as a model of perfect discipleship, and asks her to pray to God on our behalf. Just as Christmas honors Jesus as the “Prince of Peace”, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, honors Mary as the “Queen of Peace.” New Year’s Day is also designated as the “World Day of Peace”, giving even more credence to the role of Mary throughout the world.
In mid-December, Pope Francis released his message for the 54th World Day of Peace. Pope Francis appealed to the international community and every individual to foster a “culture of care” by advancing on the “path of fraternity, justice and peace between individuals, communities, people and nations.” Pope Francis offers the Church’s social doctrine as a “compass” to foster a culture of care for peace in the world.
Over the years, each of the World Day of Peace prayers has been archived. Naturally it was an easy choice to selection the Prayer of Pope St. John Paul II for the World Day of Peace, January 1, 2002.
Together we pray:
“Salve, Madre santa!”
Virgin Daughter of Zion,
how deeply must your Mother’s heart suffer for this bloodshed!
The child you embrace has a name that is dear to the peoples of biblical religion: “Jesus,” which means “God saves.” So the Archangel named him before he was conceived in your womb (cf. Lk 2,21). In the face of the newborn Messiah, we recognize the face of all your children, who suffer from being despised and exploited. We recognize especially the faces of your children, to whatever race, nation or culture they may belong.
For them, O Mary, for their future, we ask you to move hearts hardened by hatred so that they may open to love and so that revenge may finally give way to forgiveness.
Obtain for us, O Mother, that the truth of this affirmation — No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness — be engraved on every heart. Thus the human family will be able to find true peace, that flows from the union of justice and mercy.
Holy Mother, Mother of the Prince of Peace, help us!
Mother of Humanity and Queen of Peace, pray for us!
All of us at St. Catherine of Siena Academy wish you a blessed feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and a happy, healthy New Year.
Image credit: Stoyanka Ivanova