Saint Of The Day For January 1: Most Holy Mary, Mother Of God
The calendar year opens with a solemnity very dear to all Christians: the one that celebrates Mary as the Holy Mother of God and that falls on the octave of the Lord’s Christmas as well as on the day of his circumcision.
It is also the first Marian feast to appear in the Western Church.
Mother Of God, The dogma of divine maternity
The declaration of the truth of the faith establishing Mary as the Mother of God dates back to the Council of Ephesus in 431, which, by affirming the dual human and divine nature of Christ, consequently also sanctioned that Mary is the Mother of Christ and therefore of God.
At the time of the Council, however, given the historical context of the numerous heresies that had spread precisely concerning the nature of Christ, people were probably more interested in establishing a Christological rather than a Marian dogma.
Hence the observation that all truths in honour of Mary are neither autonomous nor independent, but all depend entirely on Christ, her Son.
Mary’s maternity, finally, is a gift, a grace that God grants her by making her, precisely, ‘full of grace’.
The origins of the solemnity of the Mother of God
Christmas Sanctae Mariae began to be celebrated in Rome in the 6th century, probably at the same time as the first dedication of a church to the Virgin: Santa Maria Antiqua in the Roman Forum.
It was celebrated on 1 January as the eighth day after Christmas, until 931, when, on the occasion of the fifth centenary of the Council of Ephesus, Pope Pius XI moved its commemoration to 11 October in memory of the day on which the council took place.
The solemnity was again celebrated on 1 January with the 1969 liturgical reform.
In the Ambrosian rite, moreover, the feast day is fixed for the last Sunday of Advent; in the Syriac and Byzantine rite it is celebrated on 26 December; in the Coptic rite, on 16 January.
Finally, since 1967, at the behest of Paul VI, the World Day of Peace has also been celebrated on this solemnity and in the name of Mary, understood as God’s greatest gift to mankind, namely salvation.