Feast Day: January 1st| Mother of God, Theotokus | Patronage: Pregnant Mothers, Natural and Spiritual Mothers, | Attributes: Pregnant, Holding Child, Pointing to Christ Child, Angels above.
During the octave of Christmas, priests when using the first Eucharistic Prayer, add an additional line when invoking the saints to join in our prayer/offering to the Heavenly Father. After the opening lines when he prays for the Church (especially our Holy Father and local Bishop) and then the prayer called the Memento (when the priest prays for the living members of the Church), he begins the prayer called the Communicantes. It means what it sounds like: this is the first prayer that references the communion we have with all the saints.
You probably recognize the usual opening line: “In communion with those whose memory we venerate …”, but during the Octave (8 days) following the celebration of Christmas, there is an addition to the Communicantes with an extra opening line: “Celebrating the most sacred night [day] on which blessed Mary the immaculate Virgin brought forth the Savior for this world, and in communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse…” It is a splendid addition to our prayer, and if you noticed that the priests used the first Eucharistic Prayer more often during this week, this is probably why! (There are similar additions for Epiphany, during the Octave of Easter, for Ascension, and also Pentecost, so look for your priest to use EP1 [Eucharistic Prayer 1] then too!)
Spend a moment reflecting on that simple line “celebrating the most sacred night on which blessed Mary the immaculate Virgin brought forth the Savior for this world…” and let your heart be overwhelmed again by this truth we believe, and Mary held! During these days of Christmas we recall that our divine communion … our life in the community of the Trinity … our fellowship with the saints, is specifically connected to the moment when Our Lady brought forth her child, Jesus, Our Savior, into this world. We don’t just recognize those saints that are such lights and models and intercessors for us. We don’t just reverence Mary, Queen of All Saints. We approach Mary, with Jesus on her lap, and discover in the manger the source of all the saints. Jesus, as a newborn, has already accomplished what truly transforms anyone into a saint: holding God close.
No one can teach us better how to hold Jesus than the woman He chose to be His mother. This week I give Pope Benedict the last word on how we can learn from her how to do that. This was his homily in 2008, during vespers opening the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God: “Although many clouds are gathering on the horizon of our future, we must not be afraid. Our great hope as believers is eternal life in communion with Christ and the whole family of God. This great hope gives us the strength to face and to overcome the difficulties of life in this world. This evening the motherly presence of Mary assures us that God never abandons us if we entrust ourselves to him and follow his teachings. Therefore, while we take our leave of 2008 and prepare to welcome 2009, let us present to Mary our expectations and hopes, as well as our fears and the difficulties that dwell in our hearts, with filial affection and trust. She, the Virgin Mother, offers us the Child who lies in the manger as our sure hope. Full of trust, we shall then be able to sing at the end of the Te Deum: “In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum—In you, Lord, is our hope: and we shall never hope in vain”. Yes, Lord, in you we hope, today and for ever; you are our hope. Amen!“
– Fr. Dominic Rankin gets to hold Jesus, in the Holy Eucharist, every single day, but sometimes wonders why he hasn’t been utterly transformed yet by this encounter?! It seems, reflecting on these words (and the example) of Pope Benedict, that the saintly-transformation we all seek is not waiting for a greater-gift of God’s self, but a greater-gift of my self in return. And, that is a gift that will take my whole life to give. All the different “expectations … hopes … fears and … difficulties that dwell in our hearts” can only be given as we live through them!