Tuesday, 1 January 2013

1st January 2013

The octave day of Christmas is the first day of the secular New Year. On this day the modern Roman calendar honours Mary under the title 'Mother of God' formally given to her at the Council of Ephesus in 451, in recognising the union of divine and human natures in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Anglican calendar celebrates this day of Christmas by recalling the circumcision and naming of Jesus by his parents, giving him 'the name which is above all names' - by its very meaning 'God saves'. The name in Hebrew is Yeshua (Joshua in English, isa in Arabic). It is translated into New testament Greek as 'ie-sous', from whence Jesus comes into European languages. January 3rd in the Franciscan Divine Office is the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.

The rite of circumcision, whilst not uncommon in many cultures around the world, was one which had a special meaning for the people of Israel as a mark of male identity, performed as soon after birth as possible - a physical testimony of the covenant between Hebrew people and God. Jewish women are not circumcised. Scripture at the outset calls them to 'be fruitful and multiply' in this they are blessed and keep covenant with God. Virginity and sterility in Jewish culture are considered a curse. Identity in the family is inherited through the mother who, in the home, is guardian of Jewish teachings and traditions. Honouring Mary as Mother of God not only celebrates her vital spiritual role in the mystery of salvation, and it recognises the specific rootedness of the Saviour in world culture and history.

Jesus is not named by his father as was customary, but receives the name given to his mother by the angel Gabriel before she consents to his conception. By his birth into a Jewish family he receives his unique social and cultural identity. His name provided God's angelic messenger reflects his divine origin as the eternal Word - 'of the Father's love begotten'. These are revealed as one when he is circumcised, eight days after his birth.

By this we are reminded to pay attention to the times and circumstances we find ourselves in, and to seek God's meaning and purpose within them, this day and every day, seeking to discern God's presence through Jesus - God with us always.

No comments:

Post a Comment