The Armchair Liturgist: Christmas, Mary and/or Peace

armchair1.jpgIn my early Catholic days, I noticed the parish missalette contained a set of readings and prayers for a January 1 Mass for the World Day of Peace. I see the pope posts an annual message for the observance.

I don’t recall we ever used this Mass. I did know a priest from a religious order several years ago who preferred to celebrate a votive Mass for Peace on that day, rather than use the Marian readings. I see the day mentioned in liturgy planning guides–but no readings. As long as the feast is obligatory (and probably even if it isn’t) you use the readings given.

Take the purple chair and tell us how you would handle the balancing act of the 8th day of Christmas, the Marian feast, and world peace. Keep in mind that the Roman Missal seems to lean more heavily toward the Christmas observance, as the day’s prayers are taken from the Proper of Seasons, not the Proper of Saints.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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8 Responses to The Armchair Liturgist: Christmas, Mary and/or Peace

  1. I say let’s go back to acknowledging and celebrating at Jesus’ bris!

  2. Deacon Eric says:

    I seem to recall during my life several reasons why we had to attend Mass on January 1 under grave obligation. First it was the Octave of Christmas. Then it was the Feast of the Circumcision. Then it was the Day of Prayer for World Peace. Then it was the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God.

    To me it seems that January 1 was always a day in search of a feast and a reason to attend Mass. At one parish, the priest tried a guilt trip by saying that missing Mass on that day was like deciding not to attend your mother’s birthday party.

    January 1 has no ancient precedent in our Catholic tradition as a holy day, and it would be good if the bishops would stop trying to come up with reasons to obligate people to attend Mass on that day. It’s a typical example of a top-down celebration that most parishes observe with an air of obligation rather than celebration. People grudgingly adjust their schedules on December 8 and January 1 to “fulfill and obligation,” yet joyfully turn out on December 12 for a bottom-up celebration they would never think of missing, yet is not an “official” holy day.

    What’s wrong with this picture?

    Rather than manufacturing solemnities, it would be better to focus on real celebrations like the Assumption and even to upgrade the Presentation of Mary to be more in line with our Eastern brothers and sisters. Even Protestants have begun celebrating August 15 in honor of Mary; why do we need this January 1 nonsense just because some bishops want people to go to Mass on January 1 and keep coming up with new reasons for it?

  3. Deacon Eric says:

    Another thought on this top-down imposition of celebrations that many perceive as meaningless: If I were the king of the world I would scrap December 8, which has no popular appeal, and instead allow each diocese to specify its own local feast as a holy day. In Los Angeles, we would gather on Sept. 4 to celebrate Our Lady of the Angels (yes, that’s the old day we have on our diocesan calendar); in St. Louis they would gather to celebrate St. Louis; in St. Paul they would celebrate the feast of St. Paul, the dioceses of Maryland could choose August 15 or another marian feast; San Franciscans would celebrate the feast of St. Francis, and so forth. That would be a bigger boost to Catholic identity than a nondescript generic, obligatory, pro-forma celebration of the Immaculate Conception, an intellectual construct most people do not even understand.

  4. Gavin says:

    I can say amen to Deacon Eric also. Protestants go to church at the New Year, the bishops got jealous, so they manufactured an HDO.

    As for my part, I would do Christmas carols which make heavy reference to Mary (thus celebrating the solemnity and the octave), perhaps a hymn of peace, and close with the Te Deum (Jan 1 indulgence). It is a terrible mess, however…

  5. Lisa says:

    Deacon Eric, I’m curious as to why you think people would gravitate more to observing a diocesan patronal feast day rather than a national patronal feast day?

    At the root of the issue is how people understand or relate to obligation, I think.

    I for one, do not think that there is a major conflict in celebrating the Theotokos and World Peace Day insofar as the BVM gave birth to the Prince of Peace.

  6. Deacon Eric says:

    Lisa, it seems to me we’ve had about 100 years of trying to get people to identify with the Immaculate Conception as a national observance, and it has failed to win the hearts of the people. Local feasts are closer to the hearts of the people, and provide more opportunities for liturgical and non-liturgical celebrations. They also help to underscore Catholic roots of communities.

    I don’t think the root of the issue is the concept of obligation; the root is the concept of celebration. Christmas is a holy day of obligation, yet few feel obligated to celebrate it; they like to celebrate it.

  7. Liam says:

    American Catholics do not treat 12/8 has a national patronal feast. One wonders how much we ever did – anyone care to opine on that?

    I’ve long felt that making 1/1 a HDOO while transferring Epiphany to Sunday was a mistake. Ditch 1/1 (frankly, I would like to see it become the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus) and keep Epiphany on 1/6 (where it becomes a HDOO by default.) I also think transferring Ascension was also a mistake. Corpus Christi was, IIRC, long transferred by indult to Sunday in the US in preconciliar years because it’s never been a secular holiday in the US and the customary outdoor processions would be much easier to implement on Sunday rather than a workday Thursday.

    I think each country should probably focus on one of the Marian solemnities for a HDOO. Assumption would be the default, but another national patronal day might work instead. But I think 3 Marian HDOOs has diluted the patronal sense of 12/8 for American Catholics.

    And, while we encourage diocesan patronal and titular feasts (Boston has St Patrick as its patronal feast and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross as its titular feast), let’s not forget parochial feasts of that ilk, too. Parishes that have patrons and titles that fall during Ordinary Time are lucky enough to have the rubrical flexibility to transfer those to a nearby Sunday of Ordinary Time. *That’s* a Sunday transfer I do approve of.

  8. Jim McK says:

    The reason Jan 1 is a HDOO is that it is the octave of Christmas. An appropriate celebration for that day has been discussed for years, as the deacon has noted (but he left out the Holy Name of Jesus). The role of Mary in Christmas seems to me like the most reasonable octave, in line with Holy Trinity/Pentecost or Divine Mercy/Easter.

    There are difficulties, since there already exists a 12 days of Christmas tradition competing with the octave. Epiphany arguably harmonizes better with Christmas than Mary’s motherhood. blah blah blah.

    The IC is our national patronal feast of Mary, and is just about right as a reminder of our national catholic identity, in that we care about as much for the IC as for our national catholic identity. (the bishop in my diocese has even said we do not have to pay any attention to what the other bishops in this country say; only his opinion is important) Until we have a strong national catholic identity that suggests something other than the IC, we should stick with what we have.

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