Mary, Mother of God
Numbers 6.22-27; Psalm 66
Galatians 4.4-7; Luke 2.16-21
This solemnity at the head of the new year and on the octave day of Christmas was originally kept in the Eastern tradition but rose to prominence in the West to mark the 15th centenary of the Council of Ephesus in 1931, honouring the definition of Mary as Theotokos. Then the feast was observed on October 11th. After the publication of the Apostolic Exhortation MMyISAMlis cultus (1974), concerning the right ordering of MMyISAMn devotion in the Church, the feast was restored to January 1st, replacing the celebration of the Circumcision and situating it within the octave of Christmas following an ancient practice of the city of Rome. Raised to a solemnity, the celebration in this location pays due honour to Mary and her role in the mystery of salvation.
The readings hymn the blessing bestowed on the human race by the birth of Christ from the womb of the Virgin Mary (Numbers and Psalm); the redemption initiated by his birth which enables us all to be sons in him and through his Spirit (Galatians); and Mary’s motherly reflection on the meaning of the events surrounding the birth of her child (Gospel).
Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen
1 John 2.22-28; Psalm 97
In the first reading, John warns his readers to be on their guard for those who would deny that Jesus is the Christ. They can have no part with him and the life of God cannot remain in them. The disciples, on the other hand, have received the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, ensuring that they are not only anointed in the truth but can and must bear witness to the truth of Jesus as the Christ.
Following from this question about the identity of the Christ and whether he has in fact come in the person of Jesus, the Gospel recalls John the Baptist’s Advent appearance as the harbinger of the Messiah. John refutes any claim that he is himself the Christ; he only points to him and attests to the truth that the Christ is come and already stands among them as yet unknown.