Happy New Year & the 8th Day of Christmas

New Year’s Day 2023 Anno Domini  & on this, the 8th Day of Christmas, the Solemnity of Mary, and in days gone by, the Feast of the Circumcision and the Feast of Fools 

Welcome to the 1st day of the Year 2023 and the 8th Day of Christmas.

In modern times, on the 8th day of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary. This feast was celebrated in Rome on January 1 beginning in the 5th century, but in the 13th century it was replaced by The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ. In 1974, Pope Paul VI removed the Feast of the Circumcision from the liturgical calendar and reestablished the Feast of Mary on 1 January. Also celebrated on this day, for over a millennium, was the Feast of Fools.

Solemnities are the highest order of celebration in the Liturgical Year.  Most are considered Holy Days of Obligation, when the faithful are expected to attend a Church service dedicated to the celebration, such as is the case with the Solemnity of Mary this day.

The Solemnity of Mary

So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

(Luke 2:16-21)

The Solemnity of Mary commemorates the divine motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

The Solemnity of Mary Mother of God falls exactly one week after Christmas, the end of the octave of Christmas. It is fitting to honor Mary as Mother of Jesus, following the birth of Christ. When Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God we are not only honoring Mary, who was chosen among all women throughout history to bear God incarnate, but we are also honoring our Lord, who is fully God and fully human. Calling Mary “mother of God” is the highest honor we can give Mary. Just as Christmas honors Jesus as the “Prince of Peace,” the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God honors Mary as the “Queen of Peace”

Pope Benedict XVI gave a good homily, commenting on this day in 2011:

Still immersed in the spiritual atmosphere of Christmas, in which we have contemplated the mystery of Christ’s birth, today we are celebrating the Virgin Mary, whom the Church venerates as Mother of God with the same sentiments since she gave flesh to the Son of the Eternal Father. The biblical Readings of this Solemnity put the emphasis mainly on the Son of God made man and on the “Name” of the Lord. The First Reading presents to us the solemn Blessing that the priests pronounced over the Israelites on the great religious feasts: it is marked, precisely, by the Name of the Lord, repeated three times, as if to express the fullness and power that derive from this invocation. This text of liturgical Blessing, in fact, calls to mind the riches of grace and peace that God gives to man, with a benevolent attitude to him, and which is expressed by the “shining” of the divine face and his “turning” it to us.

Today the Church listens once again to these words, while she asks the Lord to bless the New Year that has just begun, in the awareness that in the face of the tragic events that mark history, in the face of the logistics of war that unfortunately have not yet been fully overcome, God alone can move the human spirit in its depths and assure hope and peace to humanity. By now it is a firm tradition, on the first day of the year that, the Church throughout the world raise a unanimous prayer to invoke peace. It is good to begin a new stretch of the journey by setting out with determination on the path of peace. Today let us respond to the cry of so many men, women, children and elderly people who are the victims of war, which is the most appalling and violent face of history. Let us pray today that peace, which the Angels announced to the shepherds on Christmas night, may reach everywhere: “super terram pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis” (Lk 2:14). For this reason, especially with our prayers, we wish to help every person and every people, in particular all those who have the responsibility of government, to walk with ever grater determination on the path of peace. . . .

Do read the entire homily.

And for a musical tribute to Mary:

January 1st in Church History

The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ (Historical: 13th – 20th c.)

Jesus was circumcised in obedience to Jewish law (Genesis 17:10-12) on the eighth day following his birth (Luke 2:21). “The circumcision of Jesus has traditionally been seen, as explained in the popular 13th century work the Golden Legend, as the first time the blood of Christ was shed, and thus the beginning of the process of the redemption of man, and a demonstration that Christ was fully human, and of his obedience to Biblical law.”

The Middle Ages was fanatic about the value of religious relics, that is, objects or even body parts associated with people and events in the Bible. The most valuable thing, of course, would be something associated with Christ. So it was that, when someone noted that Christ’s foreskin might still be around, the search was on. Eventually, a dozen alleged foreskins were being bruted about as the real thing. Eventually, though, the Abbey of Charroux, in Poitiers, got a Papal Bull in the early 16th century saying it had the real foreskin.

In the 17th century, though, the relic vanished. It was recovered in 1856, long after the abbey had been abandoned and fallen into disrepair, hidden inside a wall. No one knows if it had been stolen or just hidden to protect it during wars, religious or otherwise.

This Feast eventually fell into disfavor. Indeed, Pope Leo XIII, during his papacy at the end of the 19th century, threatened excommunication to anyone who spoke of Jesus’s foreskin, considering it an “irreverent curiosity.” Pope Paul VI finally banished the Feast from the liturgical calendar in 1974. Apparently the only place that the feast is still celebrated openly is in the small Italian town of Calcata where the local Church, harking back to the medieval foreskin wars, claims to have possessed the remnant of Christ’s circumcision for several centuries.

The Feast of Fools (Historical: 5th – 17th c.)

The Feast of Fools, celebrated from the 5th to the 17th century throughout Europe, was a “celebration marked by much license and buffoonery.” It in many ways resembles the pagan Roman celebration of Saturnalia:

In the medieval version the young people, who played the chief parts, chose from among their own number a mock pope, archbishop, bishop, or abbot to reign as Lord of Misrule. Participants would then “consecrate” him with many ridiculous ceremonies in the chief church of the place, giving names such as Archbishop of Dolts, Abbot of Unreason, Boy Bishop, or Pope of Fools. The protagonist could be a boy bishop or subdeacon, while at the Abbey of St Gall in the tenth century, a student each December 13 enacted the part of the abbot. In any case the parody tipped dangerously towards the profane. The ceremonies often mocked the performance of the highest offices of the church, while other persons, dressed in different kinds of masks and disguises, engaged in songs and dances and practised all manner of revelry within the church building.

The Feast of Fools was never a sanctioned feast — and indeed, the Church often condemned it — but it was a popular feast. In 1431, the Council of Basel finally forbade the Feast of Fools under the very severest penalties, but the festivals didn’t die out until 1644, when the last Feast of Fools was celebrated in Paris.

The Feast of Fools figures in at least one major literary work. In “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” Victor Hugo has Quasimodo elected as King of Fools to lead the local celebration.

And in honor of the Feast of Fools, several Christmas song parodies: