Dear Fellow Parishioners,
On Saturday, January 1, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. It is, to use the traditional term, a Holy Day of Obligation. This year, since it falls on Saturday, the obligation to attend Mass is set aside. For that reason, I will share a few thoughts on the feast, and then on New Year’s Day.
The historical roots of this Marian feast go back at least to 431 A.D. to the First Council of Ephesus. In short, one of the thorny issues raised regarded the various statements in Scripture about the divinity of Christ, and the humanity of Christ – as well as the divinity of God and the humanity of God. Were they all interchangeable? For example, could one say that God suffered on the cross or that Jesus created the world? And can we say that Mary is the Mother of God – and not just the Mother of Jesus?
“Mother of God” – that is, “Theotokos” – literally “God-bearer,” thereafter became one of the main titles used to refer to Mary. The title “Theotokos” appears nowhere in the New Testament, but it is the product of what was then nearly four centuries of reflection on Mary’s motherhood of Jesus who was also a co-equal member of the Holy Trinity.
Christmas is more a season than a single day. Within approximately two weeks, we celebrate four major and related feasts which, when taken together, provide a much fuller picture of the birth of Jesus: Christmas, Holy Family, Mary, Mother of God, and Epiphany. The Christmas season ends on the evening of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which fall on January 9 this coming year.
On January 1, we also celebrate New Year’s Day. Because of COVID, many traditional celebrations have been restricted in one way or another, or canceled altogether. The magic moment is a bit of an anti-climax for those of us who see news coverage of the festivities in Sydney, Australia, broadcast 17 hours before the clock strikes midnight in Petaluma.
Many people observe New Year’s Day by reflecting – however informally – on the year’s ending and on hopes for a new beginning. A national newspaper occasionally solicits responses from readers on the question, “How has an act of kindness – either given or received – affected you?” As each of us takes stock in his or her own way, this might be a good point of reflection on our own experiences and standards of success. Whatever else we may hope for, a good year for a Christian is one in which both joys and sorrows have helped him or her love God and neighbor a little more.
Happy New Year 2022,
Fr. Bill Donahue