The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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The Motherhood of Mary

Canisius | 01 January, 2007 15:05

Someone wrote to me this morning to ask: where did the Solemnity of the Motherhood of Mary come from, and what is the most appropriate devotion for today? What we do today is not quite the same as what they did in Gueranger's day: somewhere in the middle ages the Circumcision was added to today's feast and then it was removed again after the Vatican II, so much of what Gueranger has to say is devoted to the circumcision of Christ. But here's my attempt at a reply.

Way, way back, the Eastern Church developed the habit of celebrating secondary persons the day after celebrating a primary person--in this case, they celebrated the motherhood of Mary the day after celebrating the birth of Jesus (which, of course, is what made Mary a mother). The Western Church picked up on the feast and eventually placed on the eighth day after Christmas, for several reasons: generally speaking, the Church used to make a big deal out of the eighth day after a major feast, so SOMETHING big needed to happen on January 1; the pagan celebration of the New Year was a big deal, so something major was required to displace it; the eighth day after Jesus' birth was also the day of his circumcision and the naming of the child, so it is a noteworthy day among those following Jesus' birth.

Essentially, this feast is just another approach to the Christmas mystery: we celebrated the birth of Jesus, now let's celebrate the same thing with a
special focus on the miraculous and divine maternity of his mother! We
meditated on the mystery of God made man, now let's ponder the mystery of woman made mother of God! It's another Christmas, so to speak. Although I am hardly an expert on these things, I would say that the best devotion today is a renewal of the joy of Christmas together with a prayerful consideration of what it means that Mary was pregnant with and gave birth to our creator. It is an honor to the whole human race and a special dignity for every mother or pregnant woman.

There is a particular fittingness to renewing Christmas on this day. Really,
the birth of Jesus was the new beginning of everything, and the fact that the Church celebrates the new beginning of everything on a different day from the world emphasizes that we have here no lasting city--we are on pilgrimage, out of sync with the world. But when we do come to celebrate the secular New Year, the great beginning of hope, it seems fitting to reassert the primacy of the Christian newness and to consecrate our secular lives to this holy mystery.


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