December 29, 2019 – Ruminations by Fr. Pat

Last week we celebrated the Birth of the Lord and how Salvation was brought into the world. This week on January 1, we celebrate a Feast of Mary.

At different times in the life of the Church, the Feast day had different Names. It was known as the Circumcision of the Lord, A World day for Peace, and Mary, the Mother of God.

It was known as the Circumcision of the Lord because it occurred eight days after the birth of the Lord, the time in Jewish Law when the child was Presented in the temple. On this day the child was given his/her official name. If we think about this gesture, it is God Manifesting Himself to the Jewish People. In the Gospel of Luke, Simeon said: and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

The World Day of Peace was instituted by Pope Paul VI in 1968. However, its roots can go back to the days of the Roman Empire. January 1 was known as the feast of Janus, the two-headed god. Janus was the god of change and beginnings. Janus was seen as symbolically looking back at the old and ahead to the new, and this idea became tied to the concept of transition from one year to the next. It was also the day when Roman Consuls, the highest elected political office of the Roman Republic, began their political office.

In today’s age we celebrate January 1 as the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God. This title of Mary actually goes back to the Council of Ephesus, held in A.D. 431, when the Church Fathers were trying to understand who Jesus is; it is the oldest Marian Feast celebrated in the Church. They described Mary as the theotokos, the God-bearer. The title was used to defend that Jesus is both God and Man. There were factions that claimed that Jesus was human but not God, and vice-versa. This title reaffirms Scriptures that claimed that Jesus was both.

Whatever the focus, we celebrate Jesus’ Mission on the earth. We celebrate his birth as both God and human. We celebrate His Mission to the World, that brings Peace and Salvation of the soul. We celebrate that through Him comes Peace and new Beginnings in Life.

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