What is the Solemnity of Mary?

We celebrate the feast of the Solemnity of Mary on New Year‘s day, January 1st. But what exactly is the solemnity of Mary? In plain speak, we celebrate Mary’s motherhood to God made man in Jesus Christ. It is one of the oldest feast days in the Catholic Church dating back to the 5th century. The feast started when early Christians were still debating Jesus’ divinity. When the Church decreed that Christ was both God and man, it followed that Mary was the “Mother of God” and that is what we celebrate on this feast.

Georges de La Tour: Adoration of the shepherds...

The Gospel reading for this feast day continues the nativity story revolving around the shepherds praising the newborn king in the manger. And so it is fitting to remember the Third Joyful Mystery, the Nativity, not only on Christmas, but on this day too. We are like the shepherds — doing our work and going about our business. But when the Lord calls us and reveals Himself to us in our lives, we should make “with haste” like the shepherds did in the Gospel to praise and honour Him.

I know that on January 1st I want to curl up in a warm house and watch college football (go Stanford in the Rose Bowl!). I wouldn’t say I’m particularly excited about getting up early, getting dressed, and heading to Mass for an hour. But then I remember the shepherds from the Gospel. When the angel of the Lord appeared to them, they immediately dropped what they were doing and went to the manger to praise Jesus. Luke’s Gospel said that they went “with haste.” They didn’t ignore the angel or take their time getting to the manger. No one said, “I’m set for the night and pretty comfortable; I’ll just stay where I am.” Similarly, God calls us to come and celebrate the Nativity, the Holy Family, and pray for peace. And can you think of a better way of starting the year than in Mass? Here we not only honour Mary and Jesus, but can also give thanksgiving to God for last year while laying down before Him our intentions for the next.

Oh, did I mention that the Solemnity of Mary is also a holy day of obligation? It is no different from our obligation to attend Mass on Sunday. That means skipping Mass without a valid reason is a sin. And sorry, your hang over from New Year’s Eve is not a valid reason. Sinning on the first day of the year isn’t exactly the best start is it? However, make the most of this holy day of obligation and don’t go to Mass simply because you have to. Think of Mass as your spiritual new year’s celebration. Embrace the Eucharist, pray for peace, and celebrate the gift of faith.

Happy New Year!

Update: As with many other feast days, the Solemnity of Mary isn’t a holy day of obligation in some dioceses and countries.  Please check with your parish.  As an editorial, I find it odd that skipping Mass on January 1st will be a sin for some, but not for others depending on your address.

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