Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

The Circumcision of Our Lord—1 January AD 2010

    On the fourth day God said: “Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven, to divide the day and the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years....”  And it was so done.[1]


For Seasons and For Signs

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

    Today on the Church calendar we celebrate the Circumcision of our Lord, the Octave day of His birth, and a feast day in honor of the Holy Mother of God, the Immaculate Virgin Mary.  The Church’s liturgical calendar year began a few weeks ago with the first Sunday of Advent, and today we begin the civil new year—the year of Our Lord, 2010.  The Church’s year is intended to call to mind the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, as well as to acknowledge the contributions of His Holy Mother, the angels and the saints.

    The civil calendar is intended more for secular things like work schedules, vacations, and contracts, but the Church ties Herself to that calendar for many of Her Holy Days.  And, in at least two cases, the Church has even made modifications to the civil calendar that goes back to the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar.

    Around 527 the monk Dionysius Exiguus, began the practice of calculating years from the Incarnation of Christ, instead of from the founding of the City of Rome.  He placed the Incarnation on March 25th in the year corresponding to the year 753 after the foundation of Rome.[2]  Today the civilized world dates its calendar in terms “Anno Dómini,” or the “Year of our Lord.”

    A second intervention came in 1582 A.D. when Pope Gregory XIII removed ten days from October of that year, and issued new rules for counting leap years, so that Easter would remain in the spring of the year and stop getting closer and closer to Christmas as it had been.[3]  It took a number of years, but ultimately even the non-Catholic countries of the world adopted the Gregorian calendar.

    For many years the Church has placed a religious significance on the end of one year and the beginning of the next.  Yesterday Catholics sang  (or recited) the hymn “Te Deum,” thanking God for the gift of another year completed.  Today the hymn “Veni Creator” invokes the blessing of the Holy Ghost on the new year of our Lord, 2010.  In the (Mozarabic) rite of Mass used in Toledo, Spain there is a special preface for the new year:

    It is meet and just that we should give thanks to Thee, O Holy Lord, Eternal Father, Almighty God, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord:  who being before all time born of Thee, God the Father, did, together with Thee and the Holy Ghost, create all seasons, and deigned himself to be born in time from the womb of the Virgin Mary.[4]

    Perhaps the most obvious religious significance of the passing of the year is the recognition that we have each drawn one year closer to eternity—even the youngest person in this church.  The new year should remind us that there are only so many more years for each of us—a number known only to the father in heaven—for the completion of which we always must be prepared, “for we know not the day, nor the hour.”[5]  It is foolish to think that we can put off repentance for our sins, and the reform of our lives “until next year,” for there is no guarantee that we will live until 2011—indeed, there is no guarantee that there will be an A.D. 2011!  I am not predicting the end of the world, just saying that we simply don’t know.

    The second significance of the new year may be less obvious to modern people.  If we want to know the date, we look at a paper calendar, or perhaps we have a calendar wristwatch, or an application on a computer or cell phone.  To our forebears it was quite different.  They know the date, or they approximated it, by observation of God’s creation.  They knew summer from winter, from spring or fall by the temperature, by the length of the day, by what was growing and what was not.  They observed the sun and the moon and the stars, for these things had been placed in the heavens “for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years....”  The year might be measured by the sun, in solstice or equinox.  The month ran from new moon to new moon.

    God had created the universe to “to show forth his goodness in this world.”  He made His intelligent creatures “to be happy with Him in the next world.”  That Spanish preface tells us that:

    He, though the eternal One, established the fixed revolutions of years through which this world runs its course, and divided the year by regular and suitable changes of seasons, wherewith the Sun in orderly variety marks the round of the year, as he runs the measured circuit of his course.[6]

    The modern era has lost something by its detachment from the “signs and the seasons” of God’s creation.  In many cases people have lost the wonder that our ancestors saw in Divine Providence.  In many cases people have lost the reality that we must call upon God to:

Fill the earth with its fruits, and deliver our souls and bodies from sickness and sin.  Take away scandal, defeat our enemy, keep away famine, and drive far from our country all that would bring evil upon her.[7]

    Without this wonder, without this reality, mankind has given itself over to theories of materialism and nihilism.  Not knowing Divine Providence, people begin to think that it is man who “fills the earth with its fruits,” and man who “delivers our bodies from sickness,” and man who “drives from our country all that would bring evil upon her.”  Without the wonder of Divine Providence, many have ceased to believe in “the enemy” of mankind;  ceased to believe in “souls,” and “scandal” and “sin.”

    Materialism has brought collectivism—ownership by the state—often destroying the nature that God has created, for “when something is owned by everyone it is cared for by no one.”   The near disappearance of the Aral Sea in the Soviet Union is a good example—the air pollution in China makes New York and Los Angeles seem like garden spots—not to mention our own Tennessee Valley Authority’s pollution, or the toxic wastes like depleted uranium produced by our war machine.[8]  Or the Cuyahoga River catching fire![9]

    Some of the materialists have called for deep cut backs in the human population, saying that human beings are responsible for the hoax which they call “global warming” (or “climate change” when their meetings are snowed out![10]).[11]  Others want the cutbacks because they think humans are taking more than their fair share, leaving too little for the snail darters and the spotted owls.[12]

    On losing sight of God’s providence, man tries to replace God.  But finding that by comparison he is an utter failure, he proceeds to destroy himself and much of what God made for our good.  The way we measure the passage of time may seem like a small thing, but we must not lose sight of “the signs and the seasons that mark our days and our years.”  These things reflect the Providence of God, and in so doing they remind us of our humanity—the humanity that God created on the sixth day—“God created man to His own image ... male and female he created them.... saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.”[13]  As we celebrate the beginning of this new year—this year of our Lord 2010—may an appreciation of God’s Providence remind all of mankind that we are His stewards and His vicars—but certainly not His replacements.

May God bless us, and grant us a holy, happy, and prosperous AD 2010.


[2]   Catholic Encyclopedia s.v. “Dates and Dating”;
and s.v. “Dionysius Exiguus.”

[12]   Peter Chojnowski, “The New Environmentalism: Shades of Green and Red,: The Angelus, March 1996, pp.10-15  
        NOT yet online at

[13]   Genesis i: 27-28.





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