A reflection for January 1st

Feast of the Mother of God, of the Circumcision of Jesus, World Day of Peace

by Isabelle Denis, nds
In the 7th century Church of Rome, January 1 was the first feast during the days following Christmas in honor of the Virgin Mother of God – Theotokos, as the Oriental Church calls her. To this Octave of Christmas was then added the Gospel’s remembering of the Circumcision of Jesus, whereby several Christian communities also made January 1 into a day of penance in reaction to the pagan festivities in honor of Janus.

 “The circumcision of Jesus on the eighth day after his birth (Lk 2:21) is a sign of his incorporation into Abraham’s descendants, into the people of the covenant. It is the sign of his submission to the Law (Gal 4:4) and his deputation to Israel’s worship, in which he will participate throughout his life”, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls. “After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Lk 2:21) Jesus,Yehoshua, “God saves” in Hebrew, a name that expresses his entire mission as beloved Son of the Father (Mk 1:11). 

Celebrating January 1 this year, during the 50th anniversary of the Declaration Nostra Aetate, gives this remembrance particular solemnity. In the 16th century Russian icon, Mary points to Jesus who is holding the scroll of the Torah, thus showing that according to the Scriptures, he assumes the whole history of the Jewish people’s covenant with God in order to bring it to the final fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation for Israel and the Nations. Mary, “Mother of God”, is “the daughter of Sion par excellence, in whom, after a long period of waiting for the promise, the times are fulfilled” (L.G. no. 55). The liturgical texts on January 1 recall this by means of the Letter to the Galatians 4:4-7 and the Gospel according to Luke 2:16-21, while the first reading, Numbers 6:22-27 and the Psalm 67 (66) call upon Israel and the Nations the blessing of God, from whom comes all peace.

This year 2015, the year of consecrated life, gives us an even greater responsibility as witnesses. As Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, together with the brothers, the associates and the friends who share the same charism in the Church, is it not our task to remember the significance of the circumcision of Jesus? Of this sign of the Covenant, which reminds Jews and Christians of the promise and of waiting for the Reign of God, for which we are called to work with one another, so that more justice, sharing, peace might come to all of humanity, especially to the most destitute.

January 1 is also the World Day of Peace. At the dawn of the third millennium, John Paul II recalled the importance of the protection of Mary, “Queen of Peace” and “Gate of Mercy”. Let us not forget this! Confronted with the extreme forms of violence that are invading our societies, Mary is at our side to act with us, and “The history of the Jewish people makes us particularly sensitive to the rights of minorities, of the poor, and of all who are marginalized in our society…” (Constitution art. 15) May Mary, “Mother of God” and of humankind, daughter of Israel, guide us all together on the path on which “steadfast love and faithfulness will meet, righteousness and peace will kiss” (Ps 85 (84):10), making us creative Ithrough the power of God’s Spirit who overshadowed her (Lk 1:35), so that we might live her Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55) with her. “Contemplating in her, the Holy Virgin, the torch that in the darkness bore the light, we joyfully acclaim her: Rejoice, Gate of Salvation, rejoice, first fruit of the new Kingdom… rejoice, you in whom those whose past has been wounded are strengthened, rejoice, you who entrust to the God of love those who give themselves to Him… Rejoice, Dawn of the rising Sun, rejoice, Torch that bore the true Light, rejoice, Brilliance of Him who enlightens our heart. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.” (Acathistis Hymn to the Mother of God)

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