The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

Start the New Year With Jesus' Mother—and Our Own

Turkey, Istanbul, Mosaic of Virgin Mary and Jesus in Haghia Sophia Mosque
Tetra Images / Getty Images

The Greatest Feast During the Twelve Days of Christmas

During the Twelve Days of Christmas, the Catholic Church celebrates many important feasts, including the feasts of Saint Stephen, the first martyr (December 26), whose martyrdom is recorded in Acts 6-7; Saint John the Apostle (December 27), who wrote the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation, as well as three epistles; the Holy Innocents (December 29), the children who were slaughtered at the order of King Herod, when he was trying to kill the Christ Child; and the Holy Family (normally celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas, and on December 30, when Christmas falls on a Sunday).

None, however, is as important as the feast celebrated on the octave (eighth day) of Christmas, January 1: the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. 

Quick Facts About the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

The History of the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

In the early centuries of the Church, once Christmas began to be celebrated as its own feast on December 25 (having originally been celebrated with the Feast of the Epiphany, on January 6), the Octave (eighth day) of Christmas, January 1, took on a special meaning.

In the East, and throughout much of the West, it became common to celebrate a feast of Mary, the Mother of God, on this day. This feast was never established in the universal calendar of the Church, however, and a separate feast, celebrating the Circumcision of Our Lord Jesus Christ (which would have taken place a week after His birth), eventually took hold of January 1.

With the revision of the liturgical calendar at the time of the introduction of the Novus Ordo, the Feast of the Circumcision was set aside, and the ancient practice of dedicating January 1 to the Mother of God was revived—this time, as a universal feast.

A Holy Day of Obligation

In fact, the Church regards the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, as so important that it is a Holy Day of Obligation. (See Is January 1 a Holy Day of Obligation? for more details.) On this day, we are reminded of the role that the Blessed Virgin played in the plan of our salvation. Christ's Birth was made possible by Mary's fiat: "Be it done unto me according to Thy word."

God-Bearer

One of the earliest titles given by Christians to the Blessed Virgin was Theotokos—"God-bearer." We celebrate her as the Mother of God, because, in bearing Christ, she bore the fullness of the Godhead within her.

As we begin another year, we draw inspiration from the selfless love of the Theotokos, who never hesitated to do the will of God. And we trust in her prayers to God for us, that we might, as the years pass, become more like her. O Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!