New Year’s Day is the Ultimate Mother’s Day

January 1 is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God — the ultimate Mother’s Day.

(photo: “Madonna and Child”, attributed to R. Ansigni, via Wikimedia Commons)

You need to visit your Mother on New Year’s Day. I know. Usually you get this advice for Mother’s Day.

It’s valid now as well, but in a different sort of way. On January 1, the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Not only is it a holy day of obligation, but also, it’s a celebration of Mary’s motherhood and what that means for us.

The solemnity falls on the octave of Christmas – the eighth day of celebrating the birth of Christ. In the Catholic tradition, octaves mark high holy days. In the United States two octaves are observed annually: Easter and Christmas. It’s fitting that we celebrate Mary’s motherhood on the Christmas Octave since without her, there would not have been a Christ Child.

The solemnity’s title – Mary, Mother of God or Theotokos in Greek – is the highest title that ever could be given to her. It’s also the oldest feast of Mary to be celebrated in the Catholic Church. It was decided upon at the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431, and she’s been honored as such since. It was also discerned at the Council that our Lord’s humanity and divinity could not be separated, which lends even greater significance to Mary’s title as Mother of God. She literally gave birth to the Divine.

Spiritually speaking, she also gave birth to you and me. When Mary spoke her fiat – or yes – at the Annunciation to becoming Jesus’s mother, she gave her consent to becoming mother of all of Christ’s Body. You could say that we were not physically, but spiritually conceived in her womb at that moment.

"That one woman is both mother and virgin, not in spirit only but even in body. In spirit, she is mother, not of our head, who is our Savior himself—of whom all, even she herself, are rightly called children of the bridegroom—but plainly she is the mother of us who are his members, because by love she has cooperated so that the faithful, who are the members of that head, might be born in the Church. In body, indeed, she is the Mother of that very head,” wrote St Augustine.

The gift that Mary gave to all of humankind when she gave birth to her Son is so inconceivably great that we can only imagine a mere particle of it! You see, it’s a two-fold gift. The first part is the gift of the Savior born from the womb of a pure maiden from Nazareth. The second part of the gift is that of a sublime and holy Mother who cares for us deeply and endlessly and whose intercession is most powerful before our Lord Jesus Christ.

This gives me such joy that I’m almost as excited to attend Mass on New Year’s Day as I am to attend on Christmas Eve or Day. The Mass. itself is beautiful, of course. But, to be at Mass celebrating this incredible gift is, at least for me, absolutely over the top. Even though it can be hard to lug myself out of bed after having stayed up late to celebrate New Year’s Eve the night before, it’s a “sacrifice” I’m willing to make. I can’t wait to go to the church, sit in the pew, gaze at the Nativity scene, and visit with my Mother. What springs from my heart are prayers of joyful gratitude and petitions that I may honor her and serve her Son in the best possible way in the coming year. Most of all, I can’t wait to simply give her my heart because I know she’ll give me hers in return.

For me, New Year’s Day is the Ultimate Mother’s Day.