Jan. 1 is holy day of obligation


Circumcision of Our Lord

Circumcision of Our Lord

The following comes from a December 19 story in Catholic San Francisco.

January 1 is the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, one of the oldest feasts in the liturgical calendar and is a holy day of obligation for Catholics in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Catholics are required to attend Mass on Jan. 1 and the liturgy will celebrate Mary’s role as the mother of God. The day is also World Day for Peace in the Catholic Church.

A celebration commemorating Mary as the mother of God has been on the Catholic Church calendar for more than 1,500 years and is the oldest feast for Mary – celebrated long before feasts such as the Immaculate Conception or Assumption became part of the liturgical year. The feast began to be celebrated following the debates concerning Christ’s divinity. Once the church decreed that Christ was fully God and fully human, and these natures were united in Jesus Christ, Mary’s role as the “theotokos” (God-bearer) as well as the human mother of God, was confirmed and celebrated.

Day devoted to Mary and peace
Around the 16th century, the feast of Mary on Jan. 1 was replaced in the Roman Church with the feast of the circumcision of Christ. Like all Jews, eight days after his birth Jesus underwent circumcision, marking him as a member of the people of God and part of the covenant between God and Abraham. On that day he also would have been named. However, in 1974 after the Second Vatican Council and the reformation of the liturgical calendar, Jan. 1 once again became the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and was declared World Day of Peace by Pope Paul VI.

“The purpose of the celebration is to honor the role of Mary in the mystery of salvation and at the same time to sing the praises of the unique dignity thus coming to “the Holy Mother…through whom we have been given the gift of the Author of life,” said Pope Paul VI (“Marialis Cultus,” Feb. 2, 1974, No. 5). “This same solemnity also offers an excellent opportunity to renew the adoration rightfully to be shown to the newborn Prince of Peace, as we once again hear the good tidings of great joy and pray to God, through the intercession of the Queen of Peace, for the priceless gift of peace.”

The solemnity falls on New Year’s Day because it is the octave of Christmas and the church celebrates the maternity of Mary eight days after celebrating the birth of Jesus.

In this country, as decided by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Jan. 1 is a holy day of obligation. When Jan. 1 falls on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday, the solemnity is celebrated on the Sunday. Often, in the past, if Jan. 1 was on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, the San Francisco archbishop dispensed the obligation to attend Mass although the solemnity was still celebrated at Mass.

Obligation a duty and responsibility
This year, we are keeping the day as obligatory for all the faithful to attend Mass, and in particular to pray for peace. Many people object to the word “obligation” and say they do not like to be “required” or “forced” to attend an “extra” Mass. However, if instead it is thought of as a “duty” as Catholics to mark a special day and a “responsibility” as people of faith to celebrate the nature of Christ, the Queenship of Mary and the importance of peace, it is not so burdensome.

In addition to attending Mass, canon law asks that on Sundays and holy days of obligation the faithful “… abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body” (Canon 1247). So we are asked to pray, celebrate Eucharist together, and truly take a holiday (holy day) to relax and worship.

On Jan. 1, 2013, the archdiocese will be able to gather, celebrate the maternity of Mary, a week of celebrating Christmas, and pray for the peace our world so desperately needs.

To read original story, click here.




  1. Father Karl says:

    Up until the reforms of Pope Paul Vii, and Bishop A. Bugnini, this feast was celebrated as the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary on October11th. Many believe it was foolish to change the dates, as widespread confusion has resulted in what was a solid Catholic calendar. No longer do we celebrate the real octive when the infant Jesus was cir-cumcised, and the 12th Day of Christmas is now, hardly ever the feast of the Epiphany. These reforms also dropped using Pentecost as a major time of marking the litutgical year, and the octive of Pentecost was also abolished. A few feast days were properly changed to be more practical (the Visitation), but for the most part, the new calendar has been a disappointment. The fact that we have Holy Day of Obligation pick and choose because of the day of the week they are celebrated, has confused the faithful, and has downplayed the importance of the Mass in our daily lives. The Tridentine calendar was more perfect, and it was responsible for numerous saints throughtout the ages. Fortunately its popularity is increasing, and hopefully it will replace the ‘ordinary calendar’ within a few decades.

    • Abeca Christian says:

      Thank you Father…I never knew that this feast was celebrated in Oct. It is confusing but it is what it is. I went to Mass today and it was beautiful. I really needed the message given today by Bishop Brom. Although it was at a children’s level but I appreciated it for our kids sake. At their level of spirituality. It was the NO mass, I didn’t get a chance to get to the Latin Mass. I am thankful that even though it was a NO Mass, the message was to the level that my kids can get it, even my youngest son was moved and after Mass he apologized to his older brother for fighting with him. I enjoyed singing what I call the children’s music because it was a lot of the modern music that I use to play to my kids when they were little and it was the music that I grew up with…like “go tell it to the mountains that Jesus Christ is born”…etc.

      Before Mass, they even prayed the Rosary and after Mass they had a special thing for Virgin Mary….it was beautiful. I wanted something that would reach my kids and it did. Praise God.

      But I can appreciate what Father Karl just commented, there is a lot of us who do not understand all these changes because we just didn’t know that they existed, we only go with what is and what we know.

    • “The Tridentine calendar was more perfect…”

      really? can something be better than perfect?

      it’s rather like saying “this is more best.”

    • Anonymous says:

      The October 11 feast of Mary’s motherhood was instituted in the Universal Church in 1931. The liturgy in Rome in ancient days honored the Mother of God on January 1 and thus it was restored by Pope Pius VI.

  2. WOODY GUIDRY says:

    FATHER KARL VIEWS calendar change as confusing to many. I agree-and it adds to those who don’t pay any attention to the Church, anyway, I can’t see how changing only idiots to imbeciles as any help.

  3. Circumcision was a sacrament of the Old Law, and the first legal observance required of the descendants of Abraham by Almighty God. It was a sacrament of initiation in the service of God, and a promise, an engagement, to believe and act as He had revealed and directed. The law of circumcision continued in force until the death of Christ. Our Saviour having thus been born under the law, it became Him who came to teach mankind obedience to the law of God,to fulfill all justice, and to submit to it. He was circumcised that He might redeem those who were under the law, by freeing them from the servitude of it, and that those who were formerly in the condition of servants might be set at liberty and receive the adoption of sons in Baptism, which, by Christ’s institution, succeeded to circumcision. (Cf. Gal. 4:5)

    On the day when the divine Infant was circumcised, He received the name of JESUS, which was assigned to Him by the Angel before He was conceived, and which signifies SAVIOUR. That name, so beautiful, so glorious, the divine Child does not wish to bear for one moment without fulfilling its meaning. Even at the moment of His circumcision He showed Himself a SAVIOUR by shedding for us that blood of which a single drop is more than sufficient for the ransom and salvation of the whole world.

  4. First to the CCD , it’s staff and my fellow posters a very happy new year to you and yours . According to the Los Angeles archdiocese website this is not a holy day of obligation . For myself I do consider it one by tradition and by the fact that devotion to the blessed mother on any day is worthwhile. Start the new year off right , when you are before God having his mother as your advocate and friend will be of great comfort . God bless us all in this new year.

    • Abeca Christian says:

      Well for San Diego it was a holy day of obligation and I’m glad for it. Its too bad though that they didn’t have an evening Mass for those that work, so my husband had to be creative to try to make it to Mass, because he had to work today.

    • RWhite, from my research, it appears to me that the Los Angeles archdiocese is the only one in the nation to have eliminated this Holy Day. It was eliminated under Cardinal Mahoney, an apparently without going through the proper Vatican channels to have it approved. I further discovered that in the US there are 10 official holy days and that Los Angeles archdiocese observes only 4 of these. Well actually, two more are technically observed, however, these were moved to a Sunday Mass.

      • Tracy , thanks for the info , I wonder how one gets around the proper Vatican channels , considering that they have the final say . Let’s hope and pray the archbishop corrects these errors , and encourages the parishes to remind the faithful of these days . It may be a inconvenience in this life but if it helps get you into heaven , it will be time well spent.

  5. here in san francisco it’s a holy day of obligation, and we have evening masses so the faithful can attend.

    and yet…we still have poeple in here complaining about the fact that it IS a holy day…go figure…

  6. We live in the LA Archdiocese and there was NO mention from the pulpit the last few weeks or anywhere in our parish bulletins about January 1st NOT being a Holy Day of Obligation here. There was a “oh by the way” comment at the end of this Sunday’s Mass that Tuesday was NOT a Holy Day of Obligation. No explanation as to this decision!!!!

    What’s with LA ????

    • Clinton R. says:

      I think we know what is wrong with LA. Years of liberal “Catholicism” has eroded the Faith. Just take a look at what is offered at the Religious Education Congress this year. More of the cult of Man. A paucity of traditional Catholic teaching, and of course, no TLM.

  7. A Happy New Year to all. I think it is a great way to start the new year by going to Mass New Year’s Day after confession some day before the new year. It helps keep one from over indulging New Years Eve also, and keeps people safer.. A car with a drunken driver almost careened into the car we were in one New Year’s Eve. That was a warning to us. My husband and I had a small filet mignon with mushroom and green onion beef broth over it, a baked potato with butter and Parmesan cheese, artichokes, toasted garlic bread, some Chocolate Overload Cake and Champagne, all at home, after we had gone to Mass during the day. It was a fun and SAFE way to start the new year.

    • By the way, we find artichokes delicious, even without mayonnaise or a sauce, if one puts a clove of diced garlic a few squeezes of lemon juice and some olive oil in the water while cooking them.

      • My husband and I, or some friends or relatives, do sometimes go out to eat on New Year’s Eve, but we go earlier in the evening. You know! before everyone has had so much “wine” that they cannot tell the good from the bad.

  8. St. Christopher says:

    “Father Karl”: thank you for your comments, which are often painful to read, given the mis-direction of the “let’s change everything Church” that existed after Vatican II. In fact, in the political world, totalitarian regimes often feel compelled to “repeal” all history of prior rulers; to maintain anything like a calendar is to give it validation. Sadly, virtually all implementation efforts of Vatican II focus on “wreckovation” of the Church as its existed, and conducted its business of salvation, for millennia. Not even the Rosary is sacrosanct (?Luminous Mysteries?). Pope Benedict may mean well, but virtually all clergy and Church authorities act, and promise to continue to act, as if the Catholic Church began in Rome when the Vatican II Council ended. As for Holy Days of Obligation, the American Church does not adhere to much rigor for practicing Catholics; most holy days are “blended” into weekend (Sunday) masses. And, you will never hear a priest say that you are obligated to attend a hold day mass upon pain of mortal sin (a concept that is not much followed either). A Holy Day is an embarrassment to most bishops, or at least that is how they act. Similar to the direction of many pastors in Catholic Churches to not kneel, or even genuflect, when receiving communion. The similarities to the disfunctional Federal legislative branch, and American bishops, are stark. All is power; not much about being servants, or in leading people to salvation. Also, have you ever heard any priest recently preach about Purgatory (much less Hell)? Nope, let’s just get rid of these Holy Days, or at least of the concept of “Obligation”. Not many people attend, anyway, and no priest calls them on it, so why not change the practice to avoid disrespect of the law?

  9. At an earlier time in my life I would have welcomed the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass. Now that I have matured a little in my Faith, I consider it a great gift for every Mass everywhere throughout the world and a great gift that we should be thankful for.
    Imagine the absolute Blessing, that Jesus has given us His Most Precious Body and Blood to be physically and spiritually with us here on earth, for all time until His coming again in Glory. WOW!

  10. I live in central california, and our parish bulletin also said it wasn’t a holy day, and as far as I recall, no one mentioned or explained it to us. I still missed the mass, but then went to confession only to find out that they put in the bulletin it wasn’t a holy day. I’m disappointed. I don’t understand the change. What happened? Why wasn’t it a holy day of obligation?

  11. Scot Ashton says:

    I don’t know if people will read this as it is June–six months after The Holy Day. I’m asking many questions of the Faith, and -GOD willing am growing in HIS Grace. While thinking of our Lord’s Passion and Shed Blood, I wondered about the first time HE shed blood–in the practice of Jewish Law for male infants. While Thinking about what I believe is REALLY important, it makes me sad to think that Bishops from the 1600’s or now can move this or move that–and it DOES confuse the Faithful. The First Day of the year should be to Remember the Dedication of Our Lord, the Baby Jesus, the practice of circumcision . In doing so, we would ALL well remember that Mary and Joseph were obeying the Law in Sincerity-and that yet again our Lady was saying YES to God -as she did during the Annunciation. We can do no less. I think we can all–East and West look at the example of our Lady–who leads to Jesus–the INCARNATE GOD–CHRIST OUR GOD. A New Year can certainly begin on the right foot with the right balance of this for all the Faithful–Catholic AND Orthodox!

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