Feast of the Circumcision of Christ
Initially the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ was celebrated this day, being the Octave Day or eighth day of Christmas and according to the Semitic and southern European calculation of intervals of days, was the day Jesus was named and circumcised.
Circumcison took place not in the Temple, but in the home. Indicating that Jesus’ Circumcision and Naming occured in Bethlehem rather than in Jerusalem as some artist infer.
Traditionally, Jesus’ circumcision is considered to be the first time the blood of Christ was shed and thus the beginning of the process of our redemption and a demonstration that Christ was fully human, and of his obedience to Biblical law.
In earlier times the Church in Rome celebrated a feast on 1 January that it called the anniversary (Natale) of the Mother of God. When this was overshadowed by the feasts of the Annunciation and the Assumption, adopted from Constantinople at the start of the 7th century, 1 January began to be celebrated simply as the octave day of Christmas, the “eighth day” on which, according to Luke 2:21, the child was circumcised and given the name Jesus.
From between1568 and 1960, in the General Roman Calendar this Feast was called “The Circumcision of the Lord and the Octave of the Nativity”. From 1960 onwards it has been named the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and the Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord. Incorporated into the 1962 Roman Missal – the 1969 revision of the Lectionary states: “1 January, the Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord, is the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, and also the commemoration of the conferral of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.”
Mary Mother of God
Mary’s mothership of God is a dogma of the Catholic Church, with supported Scriptural referrences, Jesus is the Son of God, therefore is God and so Mary of Nazareth gave birth to the fulness of God.
Scriptural basis for the dogma is found in
John 1:14 which states “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” and in
Galatians 4:4 which states “God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law”
Luke 1:35 further affirms divine maternity by stating: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee … wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God.”
The dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium at the Second Vatican Council affirmed Mary as the Mother of God. “The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer.”
Lumen gentium, when I was a Catholic Catechist I found this Encyclical quite rewarding.
Importantly – This dogma, of mary Mother of God is integrally related to the Christological dogma of the hypostatic union ( The most basic explanation for the hypostatic union is Jesus Christ being both God and man. He is both fully divine and fully human) which relates the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ. The Catechism teaches that “Mary is truly ‘Mother of God’ since she is the mother of the eternal Son of God made man, who is God himself.” According to Saunders, Mary did not create the divine person of Jesus
who existed with the Father from all eternity.
Each year on January 1 we celebrate the feast of Mary Mother of God, the solemnity of Mary as Theotokos, God-bearer. We honor the woman who physically nurtured the Godhead within her womb for nine months and gave birth to him on our planet Earth. What a mind-stretching, nearly unimaginable reality! God become one of us through a young woman at a singular moment in time!
Yet Mary continually gives birth to God’s and her child in us “to let all God’s glory through”, as Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ captured eloquently in this excerpt from his poem, The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe:
The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe:
Of her who not only
Gave God’s infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk, and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race . . .
Of her flesh he took flesh:
He does take fresh and fresh,
Though much the mystery how,
Not flesh but spirit now
And makes, O marvelous!
New Nazareths in us,
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon, and eve;
New Bethlems, and he born
There, evening, noon, and morn—
Men [sic] here may draw like breath
More Christ and baffle death; . . .