The Octave of the Nativity, January 1, 2017

In octava Nativitatis: Circumcisionis DNIC

Evening, 31 December 2016

St John the Evangelist / Agawam

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and might cleanse to himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works (Titus 2:14).

Today’s liturgy is dense; there are a number layers running through our worship. Remember that the liturgical year is given for our spiritual good: so that by understanding what we worship, we can be caught up in love of God.

Today is the octave day of Christmas. Today, the eight-day feast of Christmas is ended and completed. “Today for the last time the Church leads us to the crib at Bethlehem;”[1] hereafter, other mysteries will be considered: Epiphany, the Holy Family, the Lord’s Baptism. Yet eight days the Church gives us to ponder the Birth of the Savior, as our Lady pondered them in her heart,[2] and today is that eighth day. Puer natus est nobis: et Filius datus est nobis. 

Today is the Circumcision of Christ. Today, he gives his first visible act of obedience to the Father: he is circumcised on the eighth day according to Mosaic law and receives his name, Jesus. (Remember: out of reverence for that Name, the rubrics of the Mass order the priest to bow his head at each and every mention of it.) Today Christ’s precious Blood is shed for the first time: “[T]oday a drop, after thirty-three years the full measure of His Blood will flow.”[3] Today, in winter, he makes the early morning sacrifice of his priesthood; tomorrow, in spring, he will offer the evening sacrifice on the Cross.[4] Today, the swaddling bands of the infant Christ prefigure the burial cloths of the adult Christ. 

Today is also about the Mother of God. Today, we honor the glorious Mother of God because of her constant presence within the mysteries of the Faith. Listen again to the words of the collect: “by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary, you [O God] have given the human race the rewards of eternal life.” The celebrations of our liturgical year are beautifully ordered: and no matter which mystery we commemorate, the Virgin Mother is never far. In truth, she presides over the whole liturgical year, because she can never be separated from any of Christ’s mysteries. Today, because that supreme union that exists between him and her, we honor her. Today, we glory in the motherhood that gave us so precious a Savior.

Today, is also the last day of the civic year; in a matter of hours a new year will begin. Well, then, that all these mysteries should be called to mind when we are considering the year behind and the year ahead—in truth, these mysteries are for all times, for our yesterday and tomorrow, until this life is over and we are ushered into the eternal today. He is the Alpha and Omega: there is not a second when the Father’s grace and goodness do not shine on his creation. 

Friends, we are going to sing the Te Deum at the end of Mass, and so receive the indulgence and help of the Church. It is a hymn of gratitude and praise. For, despite whatever trials have beset us over the past year, God never ceases to be good. We just heard all the mysteries that are concentrated in today’s feast, and once again, all these are for our good. Paul wrote as much to Titus: God “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and cleanse to himself a people acceptable.” Think back on the events of this year and consider whether you could say with honesty that the good God has failed to give you all that you needed for the increase of your life. At every moment he is giving himself in order to perfect and gather a people to himself. We are that people, unworthily. He stops at nothing to see to it that we become his.

It is all the divine goodness. As a final thought, I ask of you one thing. Whatever 2017 will mean for you, make it a Marian year. We will witness the centenary of the apparitions at Fatima, and there are many graces stored up for the Church in the year ahead. Redouble your love of the Virgin Mary. We see how she is with us at every turn during our liturgical year; so must she be in our daily life. I recently came across a quotation from St Maximilian Kolbe: “Never worry about loving the Blessed Virgin too much: you can never love her as much as Jesus did.”   


[1] Parsch, The Church’s Year of Grace, vol 1, p 245.
[2] Lk 2:19.
[3] Parsch, p 245.
[4] Vide ibid.

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