Introduction to today’s Celebration
The most basic fact about today is that it is New Year’s Day, the public holiday that marks the end of the holiday season, and the beginning of any number of other things from diaries to keeping accounts of various sorts. In everyone’s eyes it is a special day. If we think of time as made up of ‘stressed’ (= special days; special time) and ‘unstressed’(= ordinary days; everyday time) periods, then this is a ‘stressed’ day par excellence. It is a day that begins very consciously at midnight on New Year’s Eve with parties, fireworks, bells, and street theatre, and is ended by the television news showing how this day, because it is this day, has been celebrated around the world. There are other New Year’s days (Jewish New Year, Muslim New Year, Chinese New Year), but this is the calendar day that is most widely celebrated. So if people do celebrate by joining together for the Eucharist — and it is an excellent way for a Christian community to begin the New Year — they will expect that this is the focus of the celebration. However, if we follow the liturgical calendar they will be disappointed: there is no mention of today being New Year’s Day in the prayers in the Missal — indeed the only mention of New Year’s Day is found in the solemn blessings (Missal, p 368) where there is one for the ‘Beginning of the New Year.’ This failure to celebrate with those celebrating New Year is a major fault of the calendar reform of 1970. While it seemed to the reformers that there was no better way to mark this day than to make it a celebration of Mary’s greatest title, Theotokos, that notion is so far away from most people’s imagination that it just creates confusion.
We might wonder how this occurred, especially when there is a Votive Mass for ‘The Beginning of the Civil Year’ (Missal, p 828) but with this rubric: ‘This Mass may not be celebrated on 1 January, the solemnity of Mary the Mother of God.’ In the pre-1970 rite this day was the Octave Day and the feast of the Circumcision with the single verse, Lk 2:21, as its gospel. In order to make more of this it became the present Marian feast. However, for those parts of the world where New Year was not on 1 January the reform instituted the votive Mass with its more inclusive theology of sanctifying the experience of people as they celebrate. Alas, more and more places are thereby left without a Mass-text today that links with most people’s actual celebrations. This absence indicates a cultural and ritual weakness in the present calendar; and frequently causes a dissonance in celebrations. There is a strong case to approach today by ignoring this day as a Marian feast and as the octave-day of Christmas, and focus on it as New Year’s Day, even using the Votive Mass, praying that in the time-period that is beginning those gathered will grow in holiness.
It is noteworthy that the Church begins the new civil year by celebrating the motherhood of Mary.
The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God provides a possibility to renew our devotion to Mary, who is also Mother of the Church because she is our spiritual mother — and we are the Church. We begin the New Year by reflecting on Our Lady’s humility and faith. She is a model for all Christians, and the beginning of the New Year is a good time to commit ourselves again to imitating her openness to God’s will and her love for Christ and his Church.
From the Connections:
From Fr. Munachi:
In all cultures, the passing of the old year and coming of the new is marked by a two-fold celebration. The first phase of the celebration, on the last night of the old year, is marked by noise-making, drunkenness and disorderly behaviour. In it humanity re-enacts the primordial chaos that enveloped the world before creation. The second phase of the celebration, as the first day of the new year dawns, is, very different. It is marked by calmness, sobriety, and orderly behaviour. In it humanity reenacts creation, the triumph of order over chaos.
- Jesus was God’s Son whereas Adam was only God’s creation.
- Jesus was born of a woman, Mary, whereas the woman, Eve, came from Adam.
- Jesus was born a loyal subject of the law whereas Adam would not obey God’s law.
- Jesu brought us redemption, Adam brought us the Fall.
- In Jesus we regain the dignity of being God’s children, in Adam we lost it.
Fr, Tony Kadavil:
From Fr. Jude Botelho:
One of our traditional invocations when we want to wish people well is to say ‘God bless you’. A Blessing implies finding favour with God. On the first day of the New Year it would be good to bless and thank God for the gift of yet another year and ask for his blessings on every day of the New Year. One of the blessings we have received is the gift of Mary Mother of God and our mother. It would be great if we could count the marvels God does for us every day!
‘Have a blessed New Year!’
Reflection The blessing from today’s first reading is one of the best known sections of the entire Torah, a priestly blessing upon the people. The blessing is threefold, and was used by the Jewish priests to bless the people at the end of the sacrifice in the temple of Jerusalem. The words of the blessing are almost self-explanatory; three times the name of Yahweh is mentioned to remind us that He is the source of all blessing. The blessing firstly recognizes the people’s dependence on God. Secondly, it wishes that God gives the recipients a sign of his pleasure. Thirdly, it wishes ‘Peace’ that precious gift of not only internal tranquility, but prosperity and happiness as well. In summary, what is being said is that we are blessed because we are children of Yahweh, his favoured sons and daughters!
Live the day before you die for God
A group of students being a bit puzzled by problems, went to one of their favourite teachers for advice. This teacher had gained their confidence because he seemed to have something the rest lacked. The teacher tried his best to help them, and in concluding said to them “Live the day before you die for God.” “But”objected one of the boys, “how can we do that? We don’t know the day we are going to die.” “Then,” smiled the teacher, “live every day as if it were the day before you die. It’s as simple as that.”
Antony Kolencherry in ‘Living the Word’
The Gospel reminds us of the journey of the shepherds to Bethlehem. They had heard the good news of the birth of Jesus, they believed and journeyed to discover the child born to be the Saviour of the world. Each one has to make this journey during one’s life. The journey becomes meaningful if we are ready and willing to move on, to journey solely guided by God’s word and God’s promise. This too is the call of every Christian: to listen, believe, and proclaim what we have heard, seen, and experienced in our lives. There is another journey of faith alluded to in today’s gospel narrative, the faith journey of Mary. The faith journey is not necessarily an external journey, but it could very well be the longest journey of one’s life. To discover the face of God, we need, like Mary, to listen, to treasure all these things and ponder them in our heart. One needs to be a contemplative in action. When Mary said ‘yes’ to God she did not understand, but she journeyed in faith. At the revelations of the shepherds, though the others were active in amazement, Mary was silent and pondered all these things in her heart. Mary was blessed at the Annunciation, blessed at the birth in Bethlehem, blessed by the visit of the shepherds, as she contemplated them in the depth of her heart. Each time we reflect, we pray, we let God be born in us and through us. The last part of the gospel says that on the eighth day Jesus was circumcised and given the name Jesus, which means ‘the one who saves’ the one who earns for us the privilege to call God ‘Father’. Thanks to Jesus, we have the greatest blessing, for He is as close as the mention of his name, and in and through His name alone are we saved. Today as we begin a New Year we also thank God for Mary, who gives us Jesus, who makes known to us the face of God, shining on us, looking kindly and tenderly upon us and brings us His peace.
Giving birth to God
Chinua Achebe, the well-known Nigerian author, made an interesting remark in his book ‘The Anthills of the Savanna’. He tells us how in both the Bible and his African traditions, women are blamed for all that went wrong in the world. In our biblical tradition it is the familiar story of Eve. In Achebe’s tradition, women were the reason that God, who once lived very near to his human creation left it. God was so near that the women, who were pounding their millet into flour hit God. God warned them against this. They would be careful for some time, but they would start to chat again, forget about the divine presence, and hit God again. Finally God gave up and left. In both cases, Achebe writes, men told these stories. They knew they weren’t true stories and because they felt somewhat guilty about them, they added another story in which they relate that final salvation will come through a woman, different from all other women, who cooperates with God. That is why it is good to consider that every woman is invited by God to be like Mary, cooperating like Mary, to give birth to God in themselves and in the world in which they live.
Joseph Donders in ‘With Hearts on Fire’
The big difference
A shoeshine boy was plying his trade in New York’s Grand Central Station. A silver medal danced at his neck as he slapped his shine cloth, again and again, across a man’s shoes. “Sonny,” said the man curiously, “what’s the hardware around your neck?” It’s a medal of the mother of Jesus,” the boy replied. “Why her medal?” said the man. “She’s no different from your mother.” “Could be,” said the boy, “but there’s a real big difference between her son and me.” The boy’s devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, invites me to ask: What role does Mary play in my life? How might she play an even bigger role?
Mark Link in ‘Vision 2000’
Come to the stable
“A Legend from Russia” is a poem by Phyllis McGinley about Christmas. The poem begins as the old grandmother, Babushka, is about to retire for the evening: ‘When out of the winter’s rush and roar came shepherds knocking upon her door. They tell her of a royal child a virgin just bore and beg the grandmother to come and adore. Babushka is good-hearted, but she likes her comfort, and so her reaction is to go later. “Tomorrow,” she mutters. “Wait until then.” But the shepherds come back and knock again. This time they beg only for a blanket: With comforting gifts, meat or bread, And we will carry it in your stead. Again Babushka answers, “Tomorrow.” And when tomorrow comes, she’s as good as her word. She packs a basket of food and gifts: A shawl for the lady, soft as June, For the Child in the crib a silver spoon, Rattles and toys and an ivory game . . . but the stable was empty when she came.
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’
Being given a name
In his book Roots, Alex Haley tells how his African ancestors name their children. Eight days after the child’s birth, the father took the child into his arms whispered its name into its ear. That night the father completed the ceremony. Carrying the child out under the stars, alone, he lifted the baby up to the sky and said, “Behold the only thing greater than yourself.” This naming rite helps us appreciate better the two rites that surrounded the birth of Jesus: circumcision and presentation. Circumcision initiated Jesus into the community of God’s chosen people. Presentation consecrated Jesus to God.
Mark Link in ‘Daily Homilies’
Thanks for all that has been!
In the popular musical 'The Fiddler on the Roof' someone asks the wise Rabbi: Is there a blessing for the Czar?” The Rabbi replies, “May God bless and keep the Czar....far away from us!” Indeed, there is a blessing for everything and everyone. So, don’t hesitate to breathe a Spirit-blessing upon your whole world –your body, your work, your studies, your friends and the New Year. Let everything and everyone fill your mind as you whisper the words, “I bless you with the holy name of Jesus!” Remember, God has created you to be a blessing. May the New Year find us being a blessing unto all. Thus, with the name of Jesus under the protection of Mary, and with the breath of God’s Spirit, let’s pray the prayer of Dag Hammarsjold: “Lord, for all that has been, Thanks! For all that will be, Yes!”
May we be blessed each day of the New Year!
2. I'm going to follow my husband's suggestion to put a little excitement into my life by living within our budget.
3. I'm going to apply for a hardship scholarship to Weight Watchers.
4. I will never loan my car to anyone I have given birth to.
The security guard's eyes widened as he watched the monitor. He asked Tom what he had in the bag. Then the guard slowly pulled out of the bag this strange looking device, a six-by-three-inch black box covered with dials and switches. Other travellers, sensing trouble, vacated the area.
"I am that," said the monk.
"Who is that working on the abbey?"
"My monks. I'm the abbot."
"It's good to see a monastery going up," said the pilgrim.
"They're tearing it down," said the abbot.
"Whatever for?" asked the pilgrim.
"So we can see the sun rise at dawn," said the abbot.
I heard about one poor fellow who decided to make only resolutions this year he could keep. He resolved to gain weight, to stop exercising, to read less and watch more TV, to procrastinate more, to quit giving money and time to charity, to not date any member of the cast of Baywatch, and to never make New Year's resolutions again.
Maybe he's onto something. Why torture ourselves when we never keep those resolutions more than a week anyway?
What we need, of course, is not another resolution, but a revolution. We need a turning point in our lives. Like the wise men of old we need to catch a glimpse of a guiding light, and we need to follow that light to a New Life in Christ.
The first is WAKE UP--Begin the day with the Lord. It is His day. Rejoice in it.
The second is DRESS-UP--Put on a smile. It improves your looks. It says something about your attitude.
The third is SHUT-UP--Watch your tongue. Don't gossip. Say nice things. Learn to listen.
The fourth is STAND-UP--Take a stand for what you believe. Resist evil. Do good.
Five, LOOK-UP--Open your eyes to the Lord. After all, He is your only Savior.
Six, REACH-UP--Spend time in prayer with your adorations, confessions, thanksgivings and supplications to the Lord.
And finally, LIFT-UP--Be available to help those in need--serving, supporting, and sharing.
If you're going to make New Year's resolutions this year, let me suggest Rev. Schoedel's list.
Why do we bother to make New Year's resolutions in the first place? Why do we feel this need each January 1 to set new goals? Maybe it is because resolutions help us to identify our priorities. They answer the Question: how do I want to invest my time, energy, money, and talents in this New Year? The New Year reminds us that time is passing. It is up to each of us to maximize the potential of every moment.
"Billy, I don't care whether your feet were together or not," Brown shouted back. "Make sure your head is straight, then everything else will work out."
The next time Billy would stand on the edge of the pool and really concentrate. Then he would dive and, once again, make a mess of it. "Mr. Brown, were my hands together?"
"Billy," Brown would groan in frustration, "I'm going to get you a neck brace and weld it onto your head. For the hundredth time, if your head is right the rest of you will be right. If your head is wrong, the rest of you will be wrong."
And isn't that true in all of life? If our head is wrong, our marriage will probably suffer. If our head is wrong, our priorities will be fouled up. If our head is wrong, it may even affect our health in a negative way. God understands our distress and God seeks to make us new persons so that we can handle our distress more effectively.
I heard one guy say he already dreads the New Year. He said, "The holidays aren't quite over and already I'm about 90 days ahead on my calories and 90 days behind on my bills." Some of you can identify with him.