Happy New Year….

Today we celebrate the beginning of the New Year 2012 with a liturgical day that has had several names over the years: Octave Day of Christmas; Circumcision of the Lord; World Day of Peace; and its more usual designation: The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

This latter name can be a bit misleading to the average person. The “solemnity” referred too has nothing to do with a somber or dignified bearing or mood. It is a technical term in “liturgics” that refers to a particularly important ( “solemn”) feast day. The Mass texts for the Octave Day of Christmas always centered on the figure of the Virgin Mary regardless of the title of the day, so in the latest reforms of the liturgical calendar, it was given this new designation. January 1st is the feast day of Our Blessed Lady as “God-bearer:, she who brings forth God-in-the-flesh: Jesus Christ.

It is worth noting that only later in history did this feast become associated with the beginning of the new “civil” year. For many centuries in the Western Christian world, the year began on March 25: the feast of the Annunciation which is the feast of the Incarnation. It only became the practice to date the new year on January 1st in the 18th century in the English-speaking world!  It was the introduction of the “Gregorian Calendar” in the 16th century under the auspices of Pope Gregory XIII that started the process and used the traditional ancient Roman month dedicated to Janus the god of beginnings and endings as the first month of the year. This accounts for the odd fact that in our calendar ( a bit of a mish-mash of Greco-Roman deities, emperors, and Nordic weekday names) the month of December ( meaning “the 10th month” is, in fact, the 12th!)

With all that, we start every New Year by entrusting it to Our Blessed Lady, the “Gate of Heaven”, that she might open that gate for us as we journey into the future.

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