As a Catholic feast day, January 1 has historically brought together various aspects. For a long time, it was called the “circumcision of the Lord” because on the day of the octave of Christmas and in accordance with Jewish law (Genesis 17:12; Luke 2:21) Jesus was circumcised. Since the time of Abraham, circumcision has been a sign of inclusion in God’s Covenant with Israel.
From January 1, 1968, Pope Saint Paul VI also designated January 1 as “World Day of Peace,” possibly even introducing an optional votive mass for the celebration.
What the Church has not observed January 1 is the start of the new calendar year. The new ecclesiastical year begins on the first Sunday of Advent (i.e. November 28, 2021), when the ecclesial year returns to the beginning of Christ’s life, marking the preparation for his birth. Historically, the civil new year began on different days, including March 25 (the solemnity of the Annunciation, marking the conception of Jesus and nine months before Christmas). While many European countries moved to January 1 in the 16th century, Britain and the 13 colonies kept the Marian New Year correlated with the conception of Jesus until 1752.
Since the reform of the Roman calendar of 1969, the Church observes January 1 as the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. This is not, however, a drawn-out observance. Honoring Mary as the Mother of God on January 1 is, in fact, the first celebration of this date in the Roman Church.
Speaking of Mary as Theotokos, the “Bearer” or “Mother of God” is not just a nice way to state the obvious. The title was linked to the Christological disputes of the early Church.
Nestorius was a 5th century heretic. He rejected the title “Theotokos” because of its underlying (and deficient) Christology. Orthodox Catholic theology teaches that Jesus Christ is a anybody, who has two natures, Divine and human. Jesus is completely God and completely human by virtue of two complete natures. But Jesus is not two people. Jesus is one anybody.
Nestorius rejected this teaching. According to him, Mary is “Mother of Jesus” man, but not “Mother of God”.
But Nestorius’ position is schizophrenic, truly a “divided personality”. It would turn Jesus into two people, one divine, the other human. The first heretics who occupied these various positions basically adopted positions close to the ancient Gnostics who, seeing the body as bad, sought to escape it. The almost universal common thread that ran through the early heresies of Christianity was an effort to deny some aspect of Jesus’ humanity, rendering that humanity in some way incomplete or inoperative. Simply put, all of these visions are based on the clear teaching of the scriptures that Jesus was “a man like us in all things except sin” (Hebrews 2:17).
Because the little boy of Mary is really a Person, “true God and true man” as the Council of Chalcedon would later teach, the Anybody to whom Mary gave birth was both fully human and fully divine. And because he is both, she is “Mother of God”.
“Nature” is, after all, something of an abstract concept. Because we all have a human “nature,” we share common characteristics with humanity, for example, being subject to space and time, being flesh and spirit and, since the Fall, being weakened because of sin. . But we do not meet abstract “natures” running in the streets. We only meet real people of human nature (because there are no people without nature). So why would we think that Mary gave birth to an abstraction?
If Jesus is not the true God, he cannot to save we. He’s a wise teacher, a gentle role model, and maybe a nice guy in every way, but he’s not God and, if he’s not, he’s as helpless as any other being. human to to save we.
If Jesus is not a real man he cannot save we. He may be Almighty God, but He cannot replace, represent, or do anything on our behalf. God’s relationship to us would be entirely extrinsic. But god wants we involved in the work of our Redemption.
Either the person Jesus is “the true God and the true man” – and Mary is that person’s Mother, or Christmas was a lie.
Now, Orthodox Catholic teaching has maintained the “one person / two natures” mystery from the start. This is why, already at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD, the Council Fathers called Our Lady what we celebrate today: “Theotokos, Mother of God.
These are not just old debates. What we say about Christology also expresses what we believe about human anthropology, which we are. Our modern culture increasingly divides the human person from human nature, reducing our naturalness – which is an integral part of our humanity – to something that is thought to be “subpersonal”, instrumental, subject to manipulation. Catholic theology resists this because what our quasi-Gnostic mentality calls “subpersonal” is actually quite personal, and since people are to be loved and not used, attacks on human nature are hardly “loving”. These are attacks against the human person, considered as a whole. Saint John Paul II worked tirelessly to emphasize this truth.
Today’s holiday is represented in the 15th century icon, “The Nativity”, prayed Andrei Rublev. I say “prayed” because in the Orthodox tradition the sacred images of icons are not “painted”, “made” or “created”. They are “prayed”, confident that the inspiration of God guides the earthly hand. Rublev prayed to this icon for the Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Moscow.
Like medieval Western art, icons do not adhere to the simple canons of space and time as “realistic art” does. Because an icon speaks of spiritual realities, its representations bring together several symbols, concepts and events to express the spiritual truth that the icon represents. Icons are, after all, glimpses of heavenly realities, and our human understanding of heaven is limited. Because this is a glimpse of Heaven, which is usually why the icons are gilded and limited to spiritual realities, with no added “extras” like landscapes or time scenes.
In this icon, the “Theotokos”, the Mother of God, is in the foreground. She is the tallest person of this icon, on her delivery bed. His Son, wrapped in swaddling clothes, is in the adjacent manger, the animals closest to him, the angels above him. The manger is in a cave, symbolizing the darkness of human sin from which, entering this world, Jesus comes to save us. The shepherds approach from the right, passing by a plant that Orthodox commentators say is a “tree of Jesse,” affirming the Davidic lineage of Jesus. At the top left, the Three Kings are also approaching. Help and assistance is also found on the right: top right, angels worship and wait to minister, bottom right Orthodox commentators say they are human midwives. Where would this notion come from, given the abandonment of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem overbooked, I could not say. Further, since tradition holds that Mary’s childbirth was painless (since the pain of childbirth is presented in Scripture (Genesis 3:16) as part of the punishment for sin, that is, to say that nature and even his body rebel against the person and resist him), we still wonder where this orthodox notion can come from. At the bottom left is Joseph, somewhat isolated since his role is that of adoptive father, not father. Again, some Orthodox commentators say the figure next to him is a devil, tempting his pride in his limited role in these events.
Rublev is honored by art historians for being the start of a new and distinctive style in Russian icons, a softer and less harsh style, especially in color. Perhaps his best-known icon in the Western world is the “Icon of the Holy Trinity”, in which the three persons are represented by the three angels mentioned (Genesis 18: 1-13) as visitors in the tent. Abraham who promised that in a year Sarah and Abraham would have a son.
Holy Mother The Church calls her sons and daughters at the start of the new year to honor the Mother of God – who is also our Mother (see John 19:27). The Redemption of humanity began with Mary, who accepted to be Mother of God. There is no better person for a great start …