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December 31, 2007

Comments

Fr Bill P

I preached on the Hypostatic Union and the Theotokos...so many think it's a kind of Christianizing New Year's. It is not...this Feast happens 1 week after the Feast of the Incarnation and closes the Octave of Christmas. It is a reminder that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man...and that He must be. With so many 'specials' offered in the media (TV shows on Christ in the secular media...DaVinci Code..etc.), we cannot lose sight of this foundational truth of our faith. Otherwise Jesus is nothing more than a wise man who died a tragic death. We must hold strong.

fr. richard

Actually, Tim, it's not the Solemnity of Mary today for all Christians, "north, south, east and west."

Most Eastern Catholics, and all Orthodox, celebrate the Circumcision of Our Lord today, as well as the feast of St. Basil the Great.

We honor the Mother of God at this time of the year on Dec. 26th.

Jordan Potter

so many think it's a kind of Christianizing New Year's. It is not...this Feast happens 1 week after the Feast of the Incarnation and closes the Octave of Christmas.

Very true. In fact, a Marian feast was celebrated on or near Jan. 1 in the early Church, and in those days Jan. 1 was not the New Year. In the Middle Ages in many parts of Europe, the New Year was in March. Celebrating New Year's Day in a secular fashion is a much younger custom than celebrating a Marian feast on Jan. 1.

tau gamma pi

The priest at my church said the Church doesn't know what to do with Jan. 1 but knows should be a feast of something or other, and that Mary, Mother of God has only been around since Vatican II. Thoughts?

And, since it's Jan. 1...GO BLUE! (Who knows that happened 10 years ago today?)

Tim J.

The link in the post indicates that the timing of the Solemnity of Mary has nothing at all to do with the secular New Year;

"The solemnity of the Mother of God, which now coincides with the octave-day of Christmas and the beginning of the new year, was probably assigned this day because of the influence of the Byzantine Church, which celebrates the synapsis of the most holy Theotokos on December 26. This is in accordance with the Eastern practice of honoring secondary persons on the day after the feast of the principal personage (in this case, the birth of Christ)."

Tim J.

According to the EWTN article linked in the post, the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God has nothing at all to do with the secular New Year;

"The solemnity of the Mother of God, which now coincides with the octave-day of Christmas and the beginning of the new year, was probably assigned this day because of the influence of the Byzantine Church, which celebrates the synapsis of the most holy Theotokos on December 26. This is in accordance with the Eastern practice of honoring secondary persons on the day after the feast of the principal personage (in this case, the birth of Christ)."

Mary

Used to be the Feast of the Circumcision, or of the Holy Name, generally, I believe.

David B.

Mary, Mother of God has only been around since Vatican II.

Tim's quote from the fifth century is right. The priest should correct his history lesson.

Tim J.

"Most Eastern Catholics, and all Orthodox, celebrate the Circumcision of Our Lord today, as well as the feast of St. Basil the Great."

Thanks Fr. Richard. I should have known better than to make such a sweeping statement, but I was in a rush. The post has been corrected.

John Damascus

Thanks for the source-quote Tim.

The title Theotokos / Mother of God, explains truth and also exposes error.

Some of my conservative Trinitarian Protestant friends decline to affirm Mary as "Mother of God", because they think it Mariolatry, rather than an affirmation of the Incarnation. I have sometimes used this syllogism in my explanations:

- Mary is the mother of Jesus.
- Jesus is God.
- therefore Mary is the mother of God.


Some of my Muslim friends are convinced that the Christian Trinity consists of Father, Mother Mary and Son Jesus because of this (Nestorian-influenced?) howler in the Quran (5:116).

And behold! Allah will say:
'O Jesus, Son of Mary, didst thou say unto men
"Worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah"?'

He [Jesus] will say,
'Glory to Thee!
Never could I say what I had no right (to say)
Had I said such a thing, Thou wouldst indeed have known it
Thou knowest what is in my heart, though I know not what is in Thine.
For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden.'

On the internet, conservative Trinitarian Protestants are the main defenders against Muslim polemic attacks on Christianity. If our Protestant brethren could embrace this title (and acquit us on this specific charge of Mariolatry), they would have a brilliant apologetic defense by showing that at least one part of the 'perfect' Quran is in error.

deusdonat

Hello John,

Your namesake is one of my favorite Saints; Ioannes Damascenus ora pro nobis!!! I agree wholeheartedly with your commentary, and will add the following Quranic Aya: "O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger from Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not "Three": desist: It will be better for you: For Allah is One God: Glory be to Him: (Far Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs." [Qur'an 4:171]

This also coincides with your statement of the erroneous Mohammedan understanding of Trinity. When confronted with these passages, today's Muslims wriggle and say, "Well, MANY Christians like Catholics and Orthodox DO worship Mary!" What's ironic is that in the Shi'ite tradition of Islam, you will not only see images of Muslim "saints", but also of Christian ones, including Jesus and Mary...and many times Shi'ite Muslims bowing down and "worshiping" them right in front of Christian churches.

I have met many Nestorian Christians and they often joke around to non-Nestorians, saying "You gave us the Chalcedonian persecutions and we gave you Islam. This makes us even."

Blessed and Happy New Year to you and everyone on this site!

Mary Kay

A beautiful solemnity.

Warren Anderson

Relevant to this day I found a statement on the website of the Diocese of Fresno (Bishop Steinbock) www.dioceseoffresno.org:

"The Diocese of Fresno does not observe January 1 as a Holy Day of Obligation and the faithful are not required to attend Mass. The faithful are encouraged to attend Mass on January 1 to seek God’s blessings for a faith-filled New Year."

On holy days: www.usccb.org/liturgy/q&a/general/obligation.shtml. Thoughts, opinions?

Terence M. Stanton

A.M.D.G.

Michigan won the co-national championship on January 1, 1998, by defeating Washington State in the Rose Bowl. I also turned twenty that day which was likewise very important.

Jordan Potter

"The Diocese of Fresno does not observe January 1 as a Holy Day of Obligation and the faithful are not required to attend Mass. The faithful are encouraged to attend Mass on January 1 to seek God’s blessings for a faith-filled New Year."

I was not aware that the Diocese of Fresno had the authority to unilaterally decide not to celebrate a day that the Church has designated as a obligation for the whole church. Rome allows national bishops' conferences some leeway in deciding which festivals will be holy days of obligation, but one that determination is made by the conference and Rome grants its recognitio, all bishops who belong to the conference are expected to abide by it. Unless we're missing something, I'd say it looks like the Diocese of Fresno is in grave violation of church law.

The old Catholic Encyclopedia also has an article on the Feast of the Circumcision that makes clear the Catholic celebration of Jan. 1 is very ancient, and that it very early acquired a Marian aspect that the post-Vatican II celebration of Jan. 1 makes explicit.

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03779a.htm

Pagan customs and festivities on and around Jan. 1 would sometimes threaten to interfere with the celebration of the Octave of Christmas, but the Church instituted the Feast of the Circumcision/Octave of Christmas because Jesus was circumcised when He was 8 days old and Jan. 1 8 days after Dec. 25, not to co-opt a pagan celebration.

Jordan Potter

The old Catholic Encyclopedia also has an article on the Feast of the Circumcision that makes clear the Catholic celebration of Jan. 1 is very ancient, and that it very early acquired a Marian aspect that the post-Vatican II celebration of Jan. 1 makes explicit.

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03779a.htm

Pagan customs and festivities on and around Jan. 1 would sometimes threaten to interfere with the celebration of the Octave of Christmas, but the Church instituted the Feast of the Circumcision/Octave of Christmas because Jesus was circumcised when He was 8 days old and Jan. 1 8 days after Dec. 25, not to co-opt a pagan celebration.

Inocencio

Warren,

Not sure what spiritual good it encourages but the same thing occurred in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.

Explanatory notes and background on 2008 's holy days and solemnities Archbishop George Niederauer has determined that, in accord with the practice of neighboring dioceses, the obligation to attend Mass on Jan. 1, 2008, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God is dispensed.


The Diocese of Oakland usually observes five (5) solemnities designated as Holy Days of Obligation with the obligation to participate in Mass: Christmas (December 25), Mary, Mother of God (January 1), Assumption (August 15), All Saints (November 1) and the Immaculate Conception (December 8). The Ascension of the Lord is celebrated on the Seventh Sunday of Easter. The obligation to participate in Mass on January 1 has been removed by Bishop Vigneron on a year-to-year basis when it does not occur on Sunday.


Bishop McGrath has dispensed the Diocese of San José from the obligation to participate in Mass on January 1, 2008.

The last link offered this explanation:

By law, all Catholics are obligated to participate in Mass on these days. However, the Bishop of each diocese, whenever he judges that it contributes to their spiritual good, may dispense the faithful of his diocese from the obligation to participate in Mass for a particular holy day.

The Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God was a Holy Day of Obligation in our diocese and our bishop announced all the Holy Days for the year in our diocesan newspaper a month ago.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Jordan Potter

However, the Bishop of each diocese, whenever he judges that it contributes to their spiritual good, may dispense the faithful of his diocese from the obligation to participate in Mass for a particular holy day.

Ah, there's a loophole you could drive a Mack truck through. So all a bishop has to do is judge each year that it will contribute to the spiritual good of his flock not to come to Mass for one or all of the holy days of obligation, and he's got it covered. As Innocencio said, it's not at all apparent how it contributes to their spiritual good not to come to Mass on Jan. 1. It's one thing is winter weather or sickness is a problem, but that's a matter of physical or material good, not spiritual good.

deusdonat

I'm not condemning any of the bishops for making their decisions to dispense with the Jan 1 day of obligation. I will say to EVERYONE here that using the San Francisco archbishop Niederauer as an example or lithmus test for anything concerning Catholic dogma or orthodoxy would be a mistake. Not only has he continued his ban on the Tridentine (Latin) mass in his archdiocese (as did his processor, the scurrilous and fugitive Levada) but he tolerates AND officiates at masses and other events in San Francisco which are contrary to church teaching.

If you are not of the faint of heart or weak of stomache, you can watch the archbishop in action here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrDbgjLKoxU May God help him and correct him in his ministry.

Warren Anderson

Thank you fellow contributors for your thoughts. A follow up.

One would think it obvious that Catholics should understand the value in honouring Mary by going to Mass on January 1st and giving corporate witness to the theological importance of her title Mother of God. Furthermore, one would hope that, as members of a family, Catholics would appreciate the opportunity to visit with the Mother of Our Lord, and our Mother, and implore her maternal intercession (e.g., for issues germane to the family). Is it unreasonable to remind one another that family obligations exist? Can it hurt to offer such a reminder when a brother or sister or spouse puts work or recreation (or football) above a visit with the family? If an obligation is asserted in a timely and consistent manner, people will make time in their schedule for important dates. It seems to me that for people who love our Lord Jesus, Mary and the Church, no reminder is required. To those ill formed in the Faith, i.e., those possessing a low sense of obligation or commitment, no kind of reminder will suffice. How then can it hurt to speak about the necessity of commitment? Is it possible that the bishops who have dispensed with the obligation are attempting to soften a negative connotation associated with the word itself? Personally, I can appreciate how stressful it can be to visit with family at Christmas. Nevertheless, the right thing to do is to show some maturity and make an effort. If we don’t appreciate the value of meeting one’s responsibilities in life, how loose will be our sense of commitment (to the Church? to others in need? to one’s spouse?)? We teach our children (coworkers, students, etc.) to honour their commitments. When necessary, we provide guidance and perhaps impose sanctions in order to help the person better meet their obligations. The fourth commandment seems clear enough. A good mentor teaches students how to balance their responsibilities: how to work, maintain health and how to be an effective team player if you will. One might argue, “Well, if they’re going to miss Mass, we might as well not add insult to injury.” Making it easier to divorce has certainly helped society. (cough). If the problem is one of semantics, rather than avoiding a teachable moment by dispensing with the spiritual discipline and the term that represents it, I respectfully suggest that some of the bishops might refine their approach by reflecting on the authoritative model of parenting/teaching (maintain high expectations: call people to live the Gospel in an uncompromising manner; provide a high level of support: help people meet their obligations by providing reasons for the Faith) versus the three other less effective models: authoritarian (high expectation; low support); permissive or doting (low expectation; high support); and indifferent (low expectation; low support).

Jordan Potter

Used to be the Feast of the Circumcision, or of the Holy Name, generally, I believe.

The Feast of the Holy Name on the old calendar is usually Jan. 2, or (I believe) the Sunday after Jan. 1 unless that Sunday is Epiphany (which is always Jan. 6 on the old calendar).

Mary

*blink*

His circumcision was the day that he got the name. . . .

(Ah, the odd stuff that can enlighten Scripture. Reading a manners book that observed that until eight days after the birth of a Jewish boy, or the Sabbath after the birth of a Jewish girl, one does not properly ask what the baby's name is, one asks what it will be. The Gospel doesn't refer to the "baby Jesus". . . .)

Ray from MN

When did the angels become "women" or "infants?" The first references to them in the Bible are Raphael ("God Heals"), Gabriel ("Master of God") and Michael ("Who is like God").

Why don't we see more "male" angels who don't spend their time playing harps and singing "Hosannahs?"

Inocencio

Ray from MN,

More like this?

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

labrialumn

If Mary's role is to point to Jesus, why did Rome take away a feast focused on Jesus to give us one focused on Mary?

Theotokos = God-bearer. Mater Theos - mother of God. Mary's title is Theotokos.

Ray:
Gibor-El - warrior of God
Micha-El - mighty of God.

And Rapha-El is of course Gandalf, if Peter Kreeft is to be believed :-)

Mary

The term "Theotokos" cut off any number of heresies about the nature of Jesus.

The Masked Chicken

Labrailumn,

Wikipedia makes the following points (the whole article is well worth reading -- I hope the Greek characters are displayed, properly):

Theotokos (Greek: Θεοτόκος, translit. Theotókos) is a title of Mary, the mother of Jesus used especially in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its literal English translations include God-bearer and the one who gives birth to God; less literal translations include Mother of God...

The main use of the English term Mother of God has been, and still is, as an imprecise translation of Theotokos that frequently requires explanation.[1] The other principal use of Mother of God has been as the precise and literal translation of Μήτηρ Θεού, a Greek term which has an established usage of its own in traditional Christian theological writing, hymnography, and iconography. In an abbreviated form ΜΡ ΘΥ it often is found on Orthodox icons (see illustration above), where it is used to identify Mary...

The difference between the two terms is that the former, Theotokos explicitly refers to physical childbearing, while the latter, Mother of God, describes a family relationship but not necessarily physical childbearing. Within the Christian tradition, Mother of God has not been understood, or intended to be understood, as referring to Mary as Mother of God from eternity, that is, as Mother of God the Father, but only with reference to the birth of Jesus, that is, the Incarnation; but this limitation in the meaning of Mother of God must be understood by the person employing the term. By contrast, Theotokos makes it explicit, thus excluding any misunderstanding of Mary's divine maternity.

I do not know why the feast was changed (or rather, added), but it seems to make some sense. In the hospital, after a birth, it is common to say that both mother and child are doing well. Christ is directly referenced on Christmas; why not Mary at the end of the octave: a way of making reference to both Mother and Child. God was sent; Mary received.

The Chicken

labrialumn

Mary,
Indeed, the term and title Theotokos is very important indeed. No question. But it doesn't translate to "mother of God" but to "God-bearer" the point was that Jesus was God the Word incarnate in Mary's womb from the moment of conception, not adopted at baptism as the Adoptionists had been teaching.

The incorrect English translation to "mother of God" has led to any number of idolatries - granted, the magisterium does not teach such idolatries, but the term is so bound to cause confusion, as "mother of God" while technically true when explained as referring to Deus homo factus est, is not true when taken in the natural sense of being a divine being greater to and older than the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, begetting them/him in eternity past.

Chicken, quite so. It is just that while "Mother of God" is entrenched in Latin-rite Catholic popular devotion, I do not think that it is necessarily a wise term, and that we might be better off using the correct concilliar term Theotokos or God-bearer. I'm reasonably certain that Our Lady's response to people who cross over into eidolatria is that of the angel in John's apocalypse when John committed the proskunæsis of worship "9But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!" and 10At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." And I am confident that the Magisterium is in agreement with that.

Jordan Potter

Mary said: His circumcision was the day that he got the name. . . .

True -- even so, on the old calendar the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus on a day other than Jan. 1, which celebrates the circumcision, and yes, naming, of Jesus.

Labrialumn said: Indeed, the term and title Theotokos is very important indeed. No question. But it doesn't translate to "mother of God" but to "God-bearer"

Yes and no. "Mater Dei" is not an exact translation, but many, many centuries ago it became a synonym for Theotokos (which in Latin would be Deiparus, I believe). Only Protestants and uninformed or misinformed Catholics seem to have a problem with "Mater Dei." I recall a long disquisition on that point in the old Protestant multi-volume set of the Ante-Nicene and Nicene Fathers.

The incorrect English translation to "mother of God" has led to any number of idolatries

Name just one idolatry that the Church's words "Mother of God" has led to.

the term is so bound to cause confusion, as "mother of God" while technically true when explained as referring to Deus homo factus est, is not true when taken in the natural sense of being a divine being greater to and older than the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, begetting them/him in eternity past.

No, that is not the natural sense -- that is only the sense that the uneducated assume is the natural sense. For centuries "Mother of God" has meant Mary's Son is True God and True Son of Mary. It isn't going to stop meaning that just because some don't know or care what it means.

It is just that while "Mother of God" is entrenched in Latin-rite Catholic popular devotion

Not just popular devotion -- also in liturgical tradition and Magisterial teaching. It's not a term that can be abandoned, not after all this time.

I do not think that it is necessarily a wise term, and that we might be better off using the correct conciliar term Theotokos or God-bearer.

The Church disagrees, and in this I happily agree with the Church. "Mater Dei" is a correct conciliar term too.

Mary Kay

(echoing Jordan) Theotokos does indeed translate to God-bearer. At the same time, Mother of God is a correct description. Jesus took his physical being from Mary. Echoing Jordan again, "It isn't going to stop meaning that just because some don't know or care what it means."

Charles R. Williams

BTW, God-bearer is not really an accurate translation of Theotokos/Deipara/Bohorodice. The Eastern Church recognizes several God-bearers. A literal translation of Theotokos would be birth-giver of God. It refers precisely to the act of giving physical birth. There is probably no better way to refer to the Theotokos in English than Mother of God, but it has to be understood correctly.

Jordan Potter

Theotokos is "God-bearer" as in "to bear a child," to give birth to a child, not Theophoros, "God-bearer," "God-carrier," as St. Ignatius of Antioch was called, meaning someone who "bears" (carries) God within him by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. "God-bearer" is an accurate translation of Theotokos, but there is more than one meaning of the English verb "to bear."

Jeff

How lucky we are for the Virgin Mary. The ultimate gift was given to the world, Jesus Christ

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