Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God

Normally on the First Sunday of Christmas we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, but since this Sunday is New Years Day, we defer to the celebration that is traditional to the 1st of January, which is the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.

Numbers 6:22-27
Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 2:16-21

Our first reading comes from the book of Numbers.  The book of Numbers, a second re-telling of the Exodus story (after Leviticus), takes its name from the census that was taken of the Hebrew people, one at the beginning of the Exodus, and one at the end.  This passage, from the early part of the book, is the priestly blessing given to the people of Israel, and remains a popular blessing to this day.  On the occasion of celebrating the Blessed Virgin Mary, it reminds us that Mary was beloved of God for being willing to take on the task of bearing and raising his son.  While our Psalm reflects this same blessing, the refrain, “My God bless us in his mercy,” reminds us of the mercy God has for his people.

Our second reading is from Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  In this passage Paul is summarizing the Christmas story… how God sent his son to redeem us.  Not only that, but through our relationship with Christ, we also become sons and daughters of God, our Father, and heirs to the Kingdom.  This was the promise of the savior, a promise that could only be fulfilled through Mary’s “yes” to God.

Our Gospel from Luke continues the Nativity narrative from where we left off at Christmas (from the Mass at Midnight and then at Dawn).  As we enter the passage the shepherd arrive to see the child in the manger, and we are reminded how Mary kept all these events in her heart.  Then, at the appointed time, according to the Jewish customs of the day, the child is circumcised and given his name… the name the angels gave him before he was conceived: Emmanuel, Yehoshua, Jesus, all of which translate to “God Saves.” 

Final thoughts:

During the Christmas Season we normally celebrate the Holy Family on the 1st Sunday of Christmas, the Epiphany on the 2nd Sunday of Christmas, and the Baptism of the Lord on the 3rd Sunday as the final day of the Christmas season.  But since Christmas fell on a Sunday this year, with New Years Day the following week, our usual celebrations have been moved to other dates.  This year we celebrate the Holy Family Friday, December 30th.  The Epiphany, a major feast, follows as usual on the 2nd Sunday, January 8th, but then The Baptism of the Lord follows the next day on Monday, January 9th.

So why all the changes this year?  Simply put, certain Liturgical celebrations take precedence over others.  This is not as unusual as you might think, since a number of Liturgical celebrations follow particular dates (like Christmas falling on December 25th) whereas other celebrations always fall on a particular Sunday (like Easter).  Believe it or not, there are actually certain rules for what is celebrated when, and why.  Not only that, Bishop’s councils and even local bishops have some latitude on what and when to celebrate certain solemnities and to designate which are Holy Days of Obligation. 

While this can be confusing for a lot of the people in the pews, and aggravating for some Liturgy Coordinators, there is some method to this calendaring madness.  But rather than stressing over what we celebrate when, I think it’s best to follow the advice of Jesus:  Just roll with it.  Or perhaps more accurately:  Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. (Matthew 6:34)

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