At the celebration of the Vigil Mass of 31st December and the Holy Mass celebrated through the day, Catholics gather in churches throughout the land, to celebrate the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. This is also New Years Eve and New Years Day. Is there a connection?

 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them (as their God). He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away."

The one who sat on the throne said, "
Behold, I make all things new." Then he said, "Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.” He said to me, "They are accomplished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water.” Revelation 21:1-5 

The assignment of this ancient Christian Feast to the first day of January, the New Year, on the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church is relatively new in the Western Church. However, the Feast and what it is intended to communicate are deeply rooted in the tradition.

Preachers give sermons that speak of the meaning of this day, both in the calendar of the Church and in the calendar of our secular society, this is because heaven has joined with earth and we are now offered a way to become truly new. 
The celebration of Mary as the “Mother of God” is a ringing affirmation by the Church of who Jesus Christ is. The title is profoundly “Christo-centric”, meaning it is centered on the One whom Mary bore in her womb, Jesus, the Christ, fully human and fully Divine.

The Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity was made Incarnate. He became Man so that we can be made new, re-created through His saving life, death, resurrection, ascension and, upon His return, live the fullness of this new life in resurrected bodies in a new heaven and a new earth.

The united Church council of Ephesus (431 A.D.) defended the then prevalent use of this title within the whole church of the day against some who attempted to change it. In doing so, the leaders of the united Christian Church reaffirmed the heart of the Christian claim and the source of our hope.  

To claim that Mary was the “Mother of God” or “God bearer” ("Theotokos," in Greek) the Church did not intend, then or now, to suggest that the nature of the Word and his divinity had their origin in the Virgin Mary.  Rather, it was, and is, a proclamation that the Word, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, was born of her according to the flesh. He has really become man and in so doing has united all that is human to Him. What was born of her was the humanity to which the eternal Word is now united, but in a unity which cannot now be divided. 

In an attempt by the early Church to articulate this deep and profound mystery, they borrowed a term from then prevalent philosophical circles. We translate the Greek word “hypostatically”. God has joined himself to our humanity and through Jesus Christ we can now be recreated, made new, and begin again by being joined to God in and through Jesus Christ.

Heaven has come to earth so that earth can come to heaven. 
This profound truth and the promise it holds out to every human person, and to the whole of creation, is the heart of the message behind what is also celebrated, perhaps without even knowing it, in the Secular feast of New Years Eve and New Years day. 

There is a universal longing in every human heart to be made new, to begin again. In and through Jesus Christ, there is also a way. The words with which I began this New Years greeting were  revealed to the beloved disciple John, on the Island of Patmos, in a vision recorded for all at the very end of the Christian Bible. They are  found in the last book, the Book of Revelation, or the “Apocalypse”. They express this cry of the entire human race and can answer our deepest longing if we respond. At this time of the year, when we end one year and begin a new one, we look at that same Son, who as a child, is seen playing in the dusty streets of Nazareth and is about to fall. With the tender love of a mother, Mary reached out to her Son.  Then the viewer sees her hand touch the wounded face of the Savior who looks at her, and through words addressed to her speaks to every human person, from the beginning of time until the end: “Behold, I make all things new.” I am now reminded of this scene every New Years as I pray, take stock of the past year and offer myself afresh to the Lord. 

The Passion of Christ is an extraordinary work of art and a profound encounter, with the only One who can “make all things new” Encounter Him we all did! By the end of this movie, there was not a dry eye in the place. However, of all the scenes, that encounter between mother and Son was the one that grabbed me at the core of my heart, and shook me to tears. They were tears of sorrow and joy co-mingled. It was so human and yet so divine, so full of promise and hope. 

The wounds on the Savior’s sacred head, that had in the earlier scenes seemed so brutal, painful and hard to view, seemed to, almost in an instant, become beautiful. It all became clear that they were wounds of love, freely and redemptively embraced by the Savior, to “make all things new” for the entire human race. 

***The author narrates

With many others, I stayed in the theatre afterwards, to comment on the film of Mel Gibson and his team. This was an early release, unfinished, and they were eager to make this the best film that it could be. That kind of humility spoke as loudly as this treasure of filmmaking did.I was invited to discuss the film in a smaller grouping, after the event was formally over. The group included Mel Gibson and several Washington “notables” who had lingered, like me, unable to leave the encounter that is “The Passion of the Christ” 
It was in that small informal gathering that a very influential political figure in Republican politics, a dedicated evangelical Christian, made an intriguing comment: “Mel, that film was so faithful to the biblical text, except for one scene.” “Which one” asked Gibson? “When Jesus meets his mother and says “Behold, I make all things new”, he continued “that is not in the Gospel account”. I was compelled to immediately disagree. “To the contrary”, I said “that scene summarizes the very meaning of the Gospel, and in fact is profoundly theological. It takes the words of Jesus from the Book of Revelation and positions them right within His redemptive offering of Himself in his suffering, Passion and death. It was one of the most powerful moments of the film!” I insisted. 

“Good” said Gibson “I wasn’t going to change it anyway.” 
The comment was humorous. It also revealed the depth of meaning in this film. Gibson’s’ comment showed the instincts of a man of real, simple, yet profound Christian faith. He kept intact the message that all men and women so desperately need to hear “I make all things new.”  

*****narration ends

That is the cry of the human race, to be made new! It is also what can happen within us all when one year ends and another begins. As we repent for the failures of the past year, reflect with gratitude on the great gifts it brought and resolve to “be better” and “do more” that is good in the coming year, we are always confronted with the reality of the frailty and weaknesses of our human condition. We also know that many of our resolutions to change often end in failure if we rely only upon our own human efforts. We are prone; it seems, to making wrong choices in the stuff that is daily human life. We exercise our freedom improperly. When we act upon those wrong choices we commit what Christian theology calls sin.

Classical Christian theology speaks of this tendency or inclination to sin as “concupiscence”. The Apostle Paul hit the nail right on the proverbial head when he wrote about this universal experience to the early Christians in Rome in the seventh chapter of his letter: 

 “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if (I) do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand. For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

Let’s face it; our New Year’s resolutions can only go so far. There is a force at work in us that we simply cannot overcome on our own; an inclination to make wrong choices. Only Jesus Christ can free us from sin and empower us through “grace”, His divine life, to live differently. That is why He alone can truly “make all things new!” - in our own lives, in the world and the universe. So, as we all cross from one year to the next, let us make our first resolution to behold His face, wounded by love, as his mother did. This encounter that is so beautifully portrayed in the “Passion of the Christ”. 

Let us hear those words of extraordinary hope and promise and invite Him to live within us as Mary did when the Angel greeted her. Let us allow the Savior to take up residence in our hearts, our homes, our daily lives. That is how we truly can begin again.  Let us remember that the one who bore the Savior in her womb, raised Him as mother and followed Him as a disciple, also points to Him in this title assigned to her and shows us the way to becoming new. That way is through Jesus Christ in whom all of creation is being  made new. 

She said “Yes” to God’s invitation. And, in that “Fiat”, that act of surrendered love, she shows us all the Christian way.
When we say "yes" to Him He comes to make His home within us, and joined by Baptism to His Body, the Church, he is able to use us to continue His work of making all things new. 
Let us begin this New year by saying “Yes” to the Lord. 

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen


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