Start of the New Year is opportunity for new beginnings in faith…
Tonight (that is, Sunday night) and tomorrow, while the whole world celebrates the beginning of the new year, we additionally celebrate the 8th (or Octave) day of Christmas. This day is designated by the present day Church calendar as the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. In former times, a greater emphasis was placed on celebrating this day as the circumcision of Jesus – in keeping with the Scripture reference to this event in the life of Christ. More recently in the year 2002 (in the aftermath of the Sept. 2001 terrorist attacks), Pope John Paul II designated this day as World Day of Peace. Our prayers for Mass on January 1 center upon the motherhood of Mary, celebrating her singular vocation in God’s saving plan. Yet, all of the other meanings applied to January 1 in the Church can provide for our reflection and faithful celebration of the new year.
Of course, January 1 as the beginning of a new year also marks a day when people seek to commit to new ways of living or to turn away from weaknesses – what are commonly called “new year’s resolutions.” These resolutions are frequently well thought out and contain a certain motivation toward a goal or goals that may be well summed up as “becoming more of who I am supposed to be.” Often they involve eating habits or diet, but they can even include the “turning over of a new leaf” in relationships. It is on this subject of relationships that I would like to invite all to take advantage of this new beginning in your relationship with Jesus Christ.
First of all, may I invite all to reflect on the reality that January 1 is the octave day of Christmas and is therefore truly meant to be the culmination of Christmas. Both at Christmas and Easter, the first eight days of these feasts are meant as particularly solemn days, with the feast being celebrated as much on days 2-7 as it was on the first day of the feast. The 8th day is truly then the highest feast, when hopefully we are able to know with even greater joy the grace and love of God that is offered to us. Though January 1 falls on a Monday (and thus, we are dispensed of the obligation to participate in Mass for this year), perhaps an immediate “resolution” could be to keep the 8th day with greater solemnity by participating in Mass. Additionally, might we also consider some other resolutions:
Might we each, in accord with our given way of life, consider real resolutions in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Some simple suggestions include our recommitting to habits of daily prayer, or simply committing to greater prayer. Other suggestions pertain to the sacraments – perhaps committing to a more frequent habit of
confession during the new year and beyond – such as once each month. Likewise, depending on our current habit, we might consider committing to faithfulness to
Sunday and Holy Day Mass (if we are not in the habit already). For those whom Mass is already a regular and valued part of life, maybe to commit to participating in the daily Mass in a manner beyond what you already do. Then there is the opportunity for prayer before the Eucharist during Eucharistic Adoration. Finally, as offered by today’s celebrating of Mary, why not commit to a greater devotion to Mary, through a more consistent praying of the Rosary?
These suggestions are but a few of the many possibilities for us to begin again in faith. May all have a safe and blessed New Year, and with the help of God’s grace, may we all grow more deeply in love with Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has come to us, and desires to be with us forever.