“Happy New Year” is the greeting we hear many times on this first day of the new year. However, the Church celebrates this first day of the new year in a very different way from the rest of the world.
For the Church, today is the eighth day of Christmas. It is the octave of that great feast we began celebrating a week ago, concluding with the celebration of the Divine Maternity of Mary, the Mother of God.
Today, we celebrate the mysteries of Christmas
As the conclusion of the Octave of Christmas, New Year’s Day, then, for the Catholic faithful, is a most fitting day for probing the deeper mystery of Christmas. Today’s feast of the Divine Maternity of Mary celebrates a number of important truths of the Christmas mystery.
First, it celebrates the mystery of Christ’s relationship to the Virgin Mother, who with Him, and as His Mother, has a divinely willed role to play in the salvation of mankind. Without Mary’s cooperation, there is no incarnation, and with no incarnation of God, there would be no salvation for man.
Mary, we profess, is thus truly the New Eve who, together with, and obviously subordinate to, her divine Son, brings forth new life in this world. For as the Gospel of John says, “What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race.” Mary then is the new Eve through whom Life itself came into the world to recreate us as His living image.
Thus, the mystery of Christmas opens up magnificent panoramas of the divine activity on our behalf: God’s loving determination to rescue us from our own foolishness and sin and make us once again children of the Most High God. Again, today’s particular feast of Mary not only celebrates the birth of Jesus from the Virgin Mary, but also celebrates our birth from the Virgin Church, from whom we receive the new life brought to us in this child of Mary.
The hope of the believing Christian
For the world, this hope is merely directed to a better worldly life, and it is based largely upon wishful thinking and nothing concrete which grounds that hope for a better life. For the believing Christian, however, this hope for a better life is not simply for a better earthly life but a better Godly life, and the Christian’s hope is based upon something very concrete—not just wishful thinking, but a reality which gives a well-founded hope that this supernatural life can always be better for us, and thus we have a real hope for a greater happiness each year.
Why? Because we believe that the birth of Jesus has brought a truly new life into the world and a new life for us—a life which He came to give to us and actually gave to us on the day of our Baptism.
This new life is nothing other than the life of God. It follows then that for the Christian who possesses this divine life, and who strives to live this life to the full, every year that comes and goes only draws us closer to our God and to the sharing in His happiness forever in heaven.
The Church was born on Christmas day, in the child of Mary
How joyful it makes believing Christians, then, to celebrate each New Year the Divine Maternity of Mary and the gift she gave to the world—the gift of a Life that knows no end! The Church celebrates and honors Mary today not only as the mother of the child in the crib, but also as the mother of the Church which is born together with the Christ child. The Church is truly the extension of that child’s body in the world. Yes, the Church was born on Christmas day, in the child of Mary.
The Church would become visibly present in this world only when she would come forth sacramentally from the side of Christ on the Cross, the body of the second New Eve coming from the New Adam as he slept on the Cross. But the Church was also present in Christ from the beginning of his life in this world, and was born with him in that stable in Bethlehem.
The Church, after all, is part of Christ; she is his mystical body in this world. The union between Christ and His Church is properly described only when we see that the Church is mystically and organically united to Him, to his body—the body He received from Mary, the body he offered for us on the Cross, the body that is now raised and seated at the right hand of the Father.
A Church so intimately one with Christ
Yes, Christmas points us to the mystery of Mary as the New Eve and the Church as the Mystical extension of the body of the New Adam. So the Church is so much more than just a collection of individuals, a series of offices and functions. She is the full Christ, the Mystical Body and Bride of Christ, flesh of His flesh and blood of his blood, nourished from the mystery of the Eucharist which contains His Body and Blood.
Christmas point us to the truth that the Church, which was always the object of his love, is more intimately united to and one with Christ than husbands and wives are united to each other—than our souls are united to our bodies. Indeed, what makes each of us a member of the Church and one with Christ, is the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit who unites whatever is of God.
Because the Church is so intimately one with Christ—sharing His Spirit—the life of God can flow from Christ to us, from His body to our souls, and even to our bodies. He is our Life, the only Life that ultimately counts, and the Life that never ends, because it is God’s Life.
When we celebrate the birth of any child, we are rejoicing in the renewal of life itself—the gift of life that makes our world ever young and ever renewed. When we celebrate the birth of Christ we celebrate that infinitely greater Life that has come into the world to renew the face of the earth: the Life that has always existed, and is now ours because we are His, the members of His body, the Church.
Mary, blessed among women
Today we thank Mary for the role she played in His birth and our rebirth in Him. We praise and thank you, Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, for the yes you said to God when he asked you to be His mother and ours. It is for this reason that all ages call you blessed among women, truly blessed, because truly are you the Mother of God. And we in turn ask you to pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.
A version of this reflection by Rev. Mark A Pilon appeared first at his blog, Littlemore Tracts. Republished with permission.