Dear OSJ Family,

Happy New Year!

Today, in addition to ushering in 2017, our Church throughout the world celebrates the Solemn Feast of Mary, the Holy Mother of God which is in the Octave of Christmas. Interestingly, only Christmas and Easter enjoy the privilege of an “Octave” or an eight-day extension of the feast.  The Church, in her wisdom, gives us this solemn feast on January 1st so that with Holy Mary as our model, we can better prepare for the beginning of a new year. The scripture readings and the prayers of our liturgy today bless us with images of peace, life, and joy. These are the same gifts of God that the shepherds in today’s gospel discover upon coming to Bethlehem where they find Mary and Joseph, and the Baby Jesus. Imagine the peace and joy that the shepherds experienced upon encountering the Holy Family!

In a special way, too, the Church asks us to draw inspiration from Mary as the “Mother of God.” This beautiful title “Mother of God” has its roots in the Greek Theotokos, which means “God-bearer”.  On this day, we are reminded of the unique role that the Blessed Virgin played as the “God-bearer” in the plan of our salvation through Jesus Christ. It is through the faithfulness and sacrifice of Mary (“blessed among women”) that the Divine Savior is unlocked to the world. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God the Father prepared Mary to be the sacred dwelling place where His Son and His Spirit could reside among all people.  Mary alters history as we know it by her “fiat” or her “acceptance and affirmation” of her role as the Mother of God. To the Archangel Gabriel she declares, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to you word.”

Therefore, in our Catholic tradition, calling Mary the “Holy Mother of God” is the highest honor that we can rightly give to her.  Just as Christmas honors Jesus as the “Prince of Peace,” the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, honors Mary as the “Queen of Peace.” Additionally, New Year’s Day is also designated as the “World Day of Peace,” further acknowledging the role of Mary in our hearts and in our world.

Today as we begin a “new year” let us each strive to look forward to the opportunities, challenges and experiences that await us in the year to come.

With Holy Mary and all of the saints at our side and with Jesus Christ as our faithful companion and guide we can face the New Year with greater faith, confidence and zeal. Today we pray that the peace, life, and authentic joy of the Holy Family—Jesus, Mary, and our great patron Joseph—might come into our lives and into our world during the coming New Year.

Blessed 2017!

Fr Phil Florio, SJ