Today (January 1st) we celebrated the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. In the past we celebrated the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord, a Feast that is currently missing in action. We can discuss that in a moment.
But as for the Feast of Mary Mother of God, it is a great opportunity for us to reflect on who Jesus Christ is. Mary is Mother of God because Jesus is God. Some may want to argue that she only gave birth to his human nature and hence is only mother of what is human in him. But Jesus is ONE PERSON with two natures. This is something called in theology the “hypostatic union” and it is an essential teaching of Christ. He unites in one person the human nature and the divine nature. There are not two Jesuses. Neither is it true that his divine nature came upon him at a later time such as his baptism. No, his two natures were united in his one person from the moment of of his human conception. And since Jesus is one, Mary gives birth and is mother to the whole Christ. Mary is Mother of God because Jesus is God. This title was given to Mary at the Council of Ephesus in 431 in defense of Christ’s divinity. The Greek form of this title is Θεοτόκος (Theotokos) translated more literally as “God Bearer.”
Evidence for the celebration of this feast goes back in the Roman Church all the way to the 7th Century. Prior to that there is evidence of this feast being celebrated in other parts of Europe but usually on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. By the 13th and 14th Centuries However the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord came to replace this feast, and the Feast of Mary Mother of God was eventually moved to October 11th and renamed the feast of the “Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Just after Vatican II The more ancient Feast of Mary Mother of God was restored to January 1st.
That said, and as much as I love the Blessed Mother and affirm her under this proper title, I regret the loss of the Feast of the Circumcision. I generally prefer to stick as close to the Biblical narrative as possible. In this case Scripture is clear, on the eighth day (i.e. January 1st for us), Jesus was Circumcised and his name given. Three important truths and events are celebrated here. First that Jesus was born under the law and submitted himself to it so that he might fulfill it. Secondly there is the first shedding of blood, and this refers to the passion. Thirdly his name is announced: Jesus, a name which means “God saves.” There is no other name given to men by which we are to be saved, there is no other blood that can atone for our sins than the blood of Jesus and there is no one who can fulfill the Law as Jesus does. It seems a bit of a loss not to explicitly celebrate these events in Jesus life and these truth about him on the very day (the eighth day) they happened.
You may wish to dispute this regret of mine and I hope you will use the comments section to advance your points. Obviously the Church has decided to return to the more ancient observance of Mary Mother of God and so this is out of my hands. But I thought it might be appropriate at least give a nod to the Feast of the Circumcision.
I suppose if I had it my what here is what I would do:
- Celebrate the Feast of Mary Mother of God on the Sunday Between Christmas and January 1st.
- Move the Feast of the Holy Family to the Sunday after Epiphany (where it used to be before 1968). In fact, I would also like to say that the Feast of the Holy Family is rather confusing where it currently is since most the Gospel most years is of the Finding of Jesus in the Temple when he was 12 years old. So, suddenly after Christmas he is 12, and then at Epiphany, days later he is back to being an infant. A little confusing. So this Feast seems better celebrated after Epiphany as a kind of bridge: Jesus at 12 years of age links the infant Chirst and the adult Christ as we return to Ordinary time.
- Restore the Feast of the Circumcision to January 1st.
- But nobody is asking me from Rome what I think! So enjoy my “rant” for what it is, just a slight grief for a feast that is missing in action and a wish to tweek the Christmas calendar so it flows a little better.
For the record, it is still possible to celebrate the Feast of the Circumcision using the Old Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form). However even there, the prayers are a little unusual in that none of them mention the circumcision at all. Rather, they are prayers that focus on the motherhood of Mary. Only the Gospel mentions the Circumcision. Any way don’t fail to thank the Lord Jesus for accepting humbly the obligations of the Law, shedding his first Blood and for revealing his precious and saving name!
Enjoy The Ave Maria by Rachmanivov on this Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.