Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Octave of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ—1 January A.D. 2012

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Veni Creátor Spíritus - Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest

 “And after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised, his name was called JESUS, which was called by the angel, before he was conceived in the womb.”[1]

     Even among Catholics, there is the tendency to refer to this day as New Years’ Day, rather than to refer to its ecclesiastical titles.  For example, if you ask someone to name the holy days of obligation, usually the first two days they mention are “Christmas and New Year’s” before they get to the Assumption or to Ascension Thursday.  This is rather understandable, because the Church celebrates a number of things on January 1st, and over the years the title of the feast has varied a little.

    When I was a boy the feast was generally called the “Circumcision of our Lord,” but probably around the 1950s that gave way to calling it the “Octave of Christmas.”  Around 1970 we began to speak of the “Solemnity of the Mother of God.”  In reality, it is all three of these things, plus a commemoration of the Holy Name of Jesus.

    According to the great Benedictine liturgical writer, Dom Prosper Guéranger, the Roman Church used to offer two distinct Masses on this day.[2]  One commemorated the Octave of the feast, while the other acknowledged that Mary is the true Mother of God.  Among Byzantine Catholics and Orthodox, the Divine Motherhood is celebrated as what the Greeks call a “synaxis,” or the joining of a second mystery to a great feast on the following day.[3]  Clearly, the Divine Maternity cannot be separated from the Christmas celebration, for without Mary’s cooperation with the will of God there would have been no Christmas.

    To be clear about what we are saying, there is no claim here that Mary predates God, for Mary is but one of God’s many creatures, although perhaps the greatest of them.  But, in created time, Mary gave birth to the God‑man, the eternal Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, who united human nature to His divine nature in her womb, and that she gave birth to Him, who is true God and true man, on Christmas day.  This truth was called into question in the fifth century by the impious Nestorius of Constantinople, but was pronounced authentic by the Council of Ephesus in AD 431.[4]

    The other Mass formerly celebrated at Rome was the Mass of the Octave of Christmas.  The great feasts of the Church’s year are all celebrated on the feast and for the following seven days, making eight days in all.  The celebration for eight days seems to have its roots in the Old Testament celebration of the feast of tabernacles, and of the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem,[5]  “The eighth day also shall be most solemn and most holy, and you shall offer holocausts to the Lord.”  It may also relate to the Christian conception of the Resurrection taking place on the “eighth day,” the Sunday following the Saturday Sabbath of the Jews.

    As we read in today’s Gospel, the Holy Family followed the Mosaic Law and circumcised the baby Jesus on the eighth day of His life.[6]  The passage of eight days guaranteed that the child had seen the Sabbath, and had developed the appropriate clotting factors.  As the Gospels unfold throughout the year, we will see that Mary and Joseph, and later Jesus, observed all the rituals of the Old Law that were in force until the Resurrection.  We are asked to follow their good example, and observe all of the precepts of the Catholic Church.  The ritual of circumcision was a sign of the covenant made between God and His chosen people.  Imperfectly, it corresponds to the Sacrament of Baptism which our Lord established to incorporate men and women into His Church.

    Finally, we read in the Gospel that today the Child was given the name Jesus—or rather that He was “called Jesus” for that name had already been given Him by God the Father through the Angel Gabriel;  first to Mary:  “Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus”;  and then to Joseph:  “And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name JESUS. For he shall save his people from their sins.”[7]  “Jesus” means “savior.”  He is often called “the Christ,” which means “the anointed One.”  The Holy Name was revealed to both Mary and Joseph, perhaps as a means of authenticating the revelation in the minds of both.  

    Saint Bernard of Clairvaux pointed out that at the circumcision it was “an appropriate time for calling Him “Savior,” since [at] that time He began to actualize our salvation, shedding His immaculate blood for us....  He was circumcised for the same reason that He was born and suffered.  He did all of these things ... for His chosen ones.”[8]

    Saint Bernard also alludes to the Divine Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin, and the two natures of her Son:  “Being a true son of Abraham, He is circumcised;  being the true Son of God, He is called Jesus.”[9]

    So today, we continue the sacred story of the Incarnation and Christmas.  We celebrate Mary as true Mother of God, and Jesus as true Savior of the world.  Already, on this eighth day of His life, he begins to shed His Precious Blood for our redemption.  As Pope saint Leo the Great told us just one week ago, for saint, sinner, or pagan“ it would be unlawful to be sad today” ... today we draw closer to victory, God grants us pardon, and God calls us to life![10]


[2]   Dom Prosper Guéranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year, Vol. II, p.371

[3]   Most Reverend Joseph Raya and Baron José de Vinck, Byzantine Daily Worship, p. 572.

[8]   Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon ii on the Circumcision (third nocturn of the Holy Name).

[9]   Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon i on the Circumcision (ibid.).

[10]   Pope Saint Leo I, Sermon i on the Lord's Nativity (second nocturn of the Nativity).

Dei via est íntegra
Our Lady of the Rosary, 144 North Federal Highway (US#1), Deerfield Beach, Florida 33441  954+428-2428
Authentic  Catholic Mass, Doctrine, and Moral Teaching -- Don't do without them -- 
Don't accept one without the others!