Before Vatican II, the Catholic Liturgy on January 1st was called the Feast of the Circumcision. It offered midnight revelers the shortest gospel reading of the liturgical year, one verse from Luke: “On the eighth day, Jesus was circumcised.” Period. The priest was supposed to favor the devout revelers, commendable for fulfilling their Holy Day obligation, with an equally short, or nonexistent, sermon.
At this point I ought to quote Bugs Bunny, and say, “That’s all, folks!” But today’s gospel and today’s liturgy suggest we should say a word or two, not about the circumcision, but about Mary, the Mother of God, who originally was, and after Vatican II again is, the real subject of today’s feast.
The simplest topic I could think of is a comparison between God the Trinity and Mary. The Eternal One births the Word and breathes the Spirit; so birthing and breathing are the metaphors of God as love. This love is infinite and absolute, and so God cannot just be a loving individual, someone who loves but is not love itself. The Eternal One transcends us, who are all individuals, loving or not. Mary was an individual, but caught up in love, she transcended her individuality, and so she birthed God from her womb, after breathing in the Spirit.
Speaking of the Spirit, this Holy Breath constantly exhales, which is a funny way of saying that she always breathes life upon us creatures and never takes it away. We live every instant, because she, the Spirit, breathes life. But we creatures are caught in the dualism of inhaling and exhaling. Some people almost never inhale the Holy Breath, and so they miss her subtle fragrance. Because Mary took a deep breath at the Annunciation, she filled her body with the Spirit and she gave an individual human body to the eternal Word.
So what is the conclusion? Let’s all take a deep breath, and be ready like Mary to receive the Spirit, with the Body of her Son, and to give our bodies for the life of the world. If I might suggest a New Year’s resolution, very easy to keep, it would be this: Remember to inhale! Amen!