On New Year's Day, the octave day of Christmas, we celebrate the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God. This is the oldest feast of Mary celebrated by the Catholic Church. The title, Theotokos, Mother of God, was popular in Christian piety as early as the 3rd century A.D. and was officially given to Mary at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. By 1914 the feast was being celebrated in some countries on October 11th, and it became a universal feast in 1931.
After the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI changed what had been the feast on January 1st, Jesus' Circumcision, to the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. He wrote: "In the revised arrangement of the Christmas season, we should all turn with one mind to the restored solemnity of the Mother of God. This feast was entered into the calendar in the liturgy of the city of Rome for the first day of January. The purpose of the celebration is to honor the role of Mary in the mystery of salvation and at the same time to sing the praises of the unique dignity thus coming to 'the Holy Mother...through whom we have been given the gift of the Author of life.'
This same solemnity also offers an excellent opportunity to renew the adoration rightfully to be shown to the newborn Prince of Peace, as we once again hear the good tidings of great joy and pray to God through the intercession of the Queen of Peace, for the priceless gift of peace. Because of these considerations and the fact that the octave of Christmas coincides with a day of hope, New Year's Day, we have assigned to it the observance of the World Day of Peace."
Sharing the above has brought to mind a personal recollection, the challenge to world leaders by Pope Paul VI when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York in October, 1965: "No more war, war never again." 47 years later, that challenge remains, to leaders and their people and to each individual who earnestly prays for peace.
Sr. Joanne Gonter, V.H.M.