Monday, February 9, 2015

January 1st- Circumcision or Holy Mary Mother of God?

A day late and a dollar short. Or rather a month late and c-note short. Though belated, I could not help but post on this great feast and point out an element of the traditional approach to liturgy in these feasts.

Those readers familiar with both forms of the Roman Rite are aware that January 1, the Octave of Christ, is titled Holy Mary Mother of God in the new calendar, but (usually) Circumcision in the old calendar. And not a few sources will claim that this feast of Mary has been restored, as if it had not been celebrated in the pre-1970 Missals.

But in reality the feast as formerly celebrated was Marian, in addition to being primarily an extension of Christmas (as the Octave) and the Circumcision. Also included, of course, would be the naming of Jesus.

When we examine the 1st Vespers, we find that they are Marian. The antiphons are all Marian, e.g. the 3rd antiphon- In the bush which Moses saw unconsumed, we recognize the preservation of thy glorious virginity: holy Mother of God, intercede for us.

The collect at Vespers and Mass continues the Marian theme. O God,  Who by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary, hast bestowed upon mankind the rewards of eternal salvation

The post-communion also invokes Mary under the title of Mother of God.

The Introit, Puer natus est nobis  is taken from the Mass during the day of Christmas. The same is true of the Gradual, Offertory and Communion antiphons.

The Gospel, of course, recounts His circumcision and naming.

It was seen fit, in recent times, to give these different aspects of the feast, their own proper liturgical days. October 11th was the Divine Maternity. The Sunday in between January 1st and January 6th, or January 2nd if there was no Sunday, was the Holy Name of Jesus. With the institution of the new calendar, they removed those extra feasts (though Holy Name was restored with the 2003 MR on January 3rd). But it was deemed better to focus on a single central"theme" of the Mass. So rather than a restoration of a lost Marian feast, we have instead a simplification of a feast that is multi-faceted.

The same dynamic is observed with January 6th (Epiphany and also the same day Christ is held to have been baptized, hence Pius XII re-christened the Octave of Epiphany as the Baptism of the Lord (though oddly enough abolishing the octave of Epiphany, which was older and of higher rank than Christmas's!). There we have two aspects of the same day separated, or at least one of them given a separate feast, in order to emphasize all aspects of the feast.

And recently we have observed the Presentation of Our Lord (NO), or the Purification of Mary (TLM). This is a feast where one might think a Mariological feast was turned to a Christological feast. But though titled the "Purification of the B.V.M," one is struck that the preface of the Mass is not that of the BVM, but rather of the Incarnation. And the prayers will likewise refer to one or both aspects rather equally.

What these feasts illustrate are two things. One is the connection of various truths of the faith to one another, especially Mariological and Incarnational connections. Two is a tendency, both before and with the new liturgy to want to have a simpler presentation, ether by separating the mysteries into different liturgical days, or by shifting focus onto one of them rather than the others. This tendency to compartmentalize, as you might say divide into specializations, liturgical commemorations is, while itself relatively minor, indicative of a trend of certain rationalization of the faith. One I believe that, while often well intended, has more often than not undermined not just the beauty and depth of the faith, but has often dumbed it down to the point that much of the faith falls into oblivion. I choose to use the liturgy as a segue to this because it is precisely through the liturgy that the faith is presented to the faithful and hence the liturgy which bears the marks of underlying currents in the Church.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.