In case you have been wondering, January 1- the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God- is not a day of obligation this year because it occurs on Saturday. However, we will be having two Masses for the feast day: this Friday, December 31 at 4:00 in Antwerp, and on Saturday, January 1 at 9:00AM in Payne.
You might be intrigued to learn that the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, which we celebrate on January 1, was introduced into the Church’s liturgical calendar in the 1960’s, with the many liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council. Of course, the Church has always believed in the theological matter celebrated on that liturgical day- that Jesus, remaining truly God, truly took his human nature from Mary, who can rightly be called the Mother of God. In fact, there was a battle over this topic in the early centuries of the Church, the end of which came about at the Council of Ephesus in 431, at which the title “Mother of God” was definitively confirmed as the proper title for Mary.
However, for centuries prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Church celebrated a different feast day on January 1: the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ. By today’s standards, it might sound strange that this event would be on the liturgical calendar, or even something that we would celebrate. But that is simply because we are not accustomed to it in our own day. The feast of the Circumcision dates back to the 1500’s and had a much more powerful meaning than one might expect. Firstly, according the Jewish religious practice, the Mosaic Law required that on the eighth day after birth, a child receive its name and, if male, be circumcised. As Luke records the event, “When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb” (Lk. 2:21). Why is this detail important enough for Luke to include in his Gospel? Because, by taking on a human nature and being born from Mary, Jesus came to bring us salvation, which he accomplished in perfect obedience to the Father. The first act of the baby Jesus after his birth was his circumcision, an act of obedience to the Father through obedience to Jewish tradition. See how, only after 8 days, he is already carrying out the Father’s will and already pointing towards the obedience by which he would offer himself for us on the Cross?!
Naturally, then, the second important point about the feast of the Circumcision comes to us immediately. The event of Christ’s circumcision was a foreshadowing of his Passion on the Cross. By Jewish religious practice, circumcision made a baby a child of the covenant that God made with his people. But here, Jesus shows that he has come to fulfill the old Mosaic Law and bring it to completion, and to inaugurate the new Law, by which he wants to draw all things to himself. For centuries the Church has seen Christ’s circumcision as the first shedding of his Precious Blood- innocent, vulnerable, and completely obedient. All of this is a foreshadowing of Christ shedding his blood on the Cross on Good Friday- the innocent Lamb giving his life for the sheep, the all-powerful King making himself vulnerable out of his love for us, the Suffering Servant who is completely obedient to the Father. Again, we see here that already in the first few days after his birth, he makes the first steps toward accomplishing the mission that he came to fulfill.
May Christ’s many blessings be upon you in the year of our Lord 2022!