WDTPRS – 1 January – Octave of Christmas (1962MR)

What Does the Prayer Really Say?  1 January – The Octave of Christmas (1962 Missale Romanum)

During the Octave of the Nativity Holy Church helps us to rest in the mystery of the Lord’s Birth, His future Sacrifice, and the Divine Motherhood of Mary.  Our Church is the greatest expert in humanity there has ever been.  Octaves reflect her care that we have time to benefit more deeply from our encounter with mystery.  

Historically this day commemorates the moment when the Lord, without obligation, submitted to the Law of the Old Covenant and underwent the rite of circumcision, by which males became members of the People of God. This was the symbolic separation of the newly born member of God’s people from the old man and our sinful impulses. He was formally given His sacred Name.  Until 1960 and Bl. Pope John XXIII’s reform, this was known as the Feast of the Circumcision, and the day retains the powerful echo of the first moment the Lord shed Blood during His earthly life.  But today is also an ancient Marian feast.  Mary is the Mother of the divine Person, Jesus, not just the mother of His human nature. Mary is the Mother of God. The Circumcision also focuses us on the role of Mary in the Lord’s Sacrifice on Calvary.  At His Presentation in the temple and Circumcision, Mary with solemn joy and knowledge of future sorrow, formally offered the Lord to the Father.

I found a useful comment on the blog of my friend Fr. Ray Blake, the distinguished pastor of St. Mary Magdalene in Brighton, England.  Let’s have a bit of it on this beautiful feast day, as a lens for our feast.

Pelagianism: I hate it, but it is very British. It is really a variant of Arianism which says God did not truly become Man, because Jesus was not truly God. Pelagianism denies the action of Grace in the world; man is saved by his own goodness and efforts, rather than by God.  It is what we do, rather than what God does that matters, therefore the value of the sacraments is the psychological effect they have in our lives, rather than the direct intervention of God. It denies the power of Grace, of the role of the Blessed Virgin, of miracles, of the power of prayer: Pelagians above all would deny the role of the Holy Spirit, of His act of sanctification. Wherever there is attempt to place man at the heart of the faith, there we should expect to find Pelagianism.  Pelagianism expects Man to be strong rather God’s grace to be powerful. Catholicism, or as we could call it, mainstream Christianity, acknowledges mankind is weak and wholly dependent on those things God gives him.

Signs of the Pelagian: The Church is a human construct and there is nothing or little of Grace about it. The Liturgy and prayer is about how it makes us feel. Feelings rather than Grace are important. Revelation is not a given, something given for today and all time, but something of that past that depends on our interpretation. Ultimately, Pelagianism says God is irrelevant to society and to the individual. Pelagians tend to have a poor view of mankind, what you see is what you get, because there is no room for Grace. It is also elitist, insofar as it values a human being by his goodness, his talents, his skills, his willpower.

Devotion to the Blessed Virgin is the destroyer of Pelagianism. Her whole being was about saying yes to Grace. Being the Mather of God she became the source of Grace. Her life shows the effects and power of Grace.

I will add to Fr. Blake’s observations two other marks of the Pelagian: their penchant for defending the lame-duck ICEL translations and a resistance to the norms of Liturgiam authenticam.

We turn now to the orations for today’s Holy Mass, beginning with our …

Deus, qui salutis aeternae, beatae Mariae virginitate fecunda,
humano generi praemia praestitisti:
tribue, quaesumus; ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamus,
per quam meruimus auctorem vitae suscipere.

This prayer survived in the Novus Ordo as the Collect for the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God. It is ancient, of course.  It was in the pre-Conciliar Missal and, slightly different, in the Gelasian Sacramentary for the Assumption of Mary on 15 August (xviii Kalendas Septembris).   This Collect is used on other occasions as well.  For example, in the older form of the Divine Office, the Breviarium Romanum, it is prayed after singing the Marian antiphon Alma Redemptoris Mater following Compline from the 1st Vespers of Christmas until the Vespers of the Purification.

Now, please forgive me, I must include the laughably deficient lame-duck version from…

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
God our Father,
may we always profit by the prayers
of the Virgin Mother Mary,
for you bring us life and salvation
through Jesus Christ her Son…

O God, who by the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary
bestowed upon the human race the rewards of eternal salvation,
grant, we beg, that we may perceive her interceding for us,
through whom we merited to receive Your Son, the author of life.

As I said before, the Circumcision resounds deeply throughout this Mass.  The Roman Station for today is the ancient basilica dedicated to Mary, S. Maria in Trastevere.  However, our knowledge of history reminds us that the Station used to be in even more ancient times the basilica S. Maria ad martyres, the other name of the Pantheon in the heart of Rome.  The “rewards of eternal salvation” were won only through the shedding of the Son of Mary’s Blood. 

The wood of the crib, the knife of the Circumcision foretell the Cross, the nails and the lance.

In the paradoxical phrase “fruitful virginity” we approach the heart of our Christian faith.  God draws everything from nothingness.  He brought water from the rock in the desert, children to barren crones, great victories to tiny armies, a shepherd boy to a throne, healing to wounds.  He brings life from physical and spiritual death.  Fecunda virginitas encapsulates other elements of the prayer: “author of life”… “rewards of eternal salvation”.   

We move to the silent Secret. 

The wine about to be changed into the Precious Blood, gleams in the chalice on the altar, the unbroken Host waits upon the white linen.  This Secret was also prayed on Septuagesima Sunday.  You will find this oration also in your own trusty copies of the 9th century Liber Sacramentorum Augustodunensis and the 8th century Engolismensis.  I couldn’t find it in the post-Conciliar editions of the Missale Romanum.  

SECRET (1962MR):
Muneribus nostris, quaesumus, Domine,
precibusque susceptis:
et caelestibus nos munda mysteriis,
et clementer exaudi.

The first part of the prayer is an ablative absolute. In the second part there is a standard et…et construction.  The prayer is terse, elegant.

Mundo means “to make clean”, especially from sin, in ecclesiastical Latin texts.

Our gifts and prayers having been received,
we beseech You, O Lord:
both cleanse us by these heavenly mysteries,
and mercifully hark to us.

In the Collect Mary, the fruitful virgin, focuses us on our dependence on God, origin and goal of all being.  Now we show humble confidence that God is attending to our actions. We focus on the means by which we will be cleansed from the filth of our sins, namely, the Sacrifice of Jesus, Incarnate Word, about to be renewed upon the altar.  The grace is all His.  The filth is all ours.  

The Postcommunion is an ancient prayer, found in various old versions of the Gelasian, including the Engolismensis and Gellonensis for the feast of St. Stephen, Pope and Martyr, during August, with changes of course, as well as during the 4th week after Pentecost.

Haec nos communio, Domine, purget a crimine:
et, intercedente beata Virgine Dei Genetrice Maria,
caelestis remedii faciat esse consortes.

In the Lewis & Short Dictionary we find that crimen is “a judicial decision, verdict, judgment; hence, like the Greek krima, of the subject of such a decision, and with particular reference either to the accuser or to the accused”.  This is related to the Latin verb cerno, “to separate, distinguish by the senses; to perceive”, etc. Think of the word “discrimination”, the ability to discern and decide between things.  In the Latin liturgical dictionary I call Blaise/Dumas we find that crimen is a “crime” or “sin” especially original sin.  When we start deciding things apart from God’s plan and His image written into our beings, we get mired in the filth of our sins.

A TRANSLATION (The Daily Missal and Liturgical Manual – Baronius Press)
May this Communion, O Lord, cleanse us from guilt:
and through the intercession of the blessed Virgin Mary,
Mother of God, make us sharers of the heavenly remedy.

Communion is to be received in the state of grace. Many should be communing only spiritually and not also physically. It is appropriate that, in this moment of joyful awe at transcendence, we should recall our need for cleansing.  On our own, we are nothing.  We get into terrible trouble.  With Christ, “God with us”, Emmanuel we are made clean and whole and given more than we lost by our own devices.  The “yes” of Mary, her joy in the Birth of the Lord, her fidelity in the Presentation, her standing by the Cross all redirect us back to the source of our cleansing, the remedy for our self-inflicted wounds.

Seek His cleansing.

Octaves are mysterious times. During a liturgical octave time is “suspended”.  A lifetime is insufficient, and eternity will not suffice to contemplate the mystery the Nativity.  Happily we have these several days and not merely one to focus our minds and hearts.  When we settle into the mystery, if rest in it for a while patiently we are more likely to allow God to direct our minds.  

During this Octave, we must – in this time of uncertainty, on this threshold of what likely will be a harder year – give our thoughts to the magnificence of the Lord’s condescension in taking our human nature into that indestructible bond with His divinity in order to save us from our sins and teach us more fully who we are.  We can learn from Our Blessed Mother how to contemplate the Lord.  We learn about our dependence on Him and our own inadequacy, beautiful as we are as God’s images, a little less than angels, crowned in glory and honor (cf. Ps. 8:6).  Our Mother constantly directs our gaze to the only source of saving grace.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Maureen says:

    Also, Pelagians are full of oatmeal parritch. Or at least Pelagius was, according to St. Jerome.

  2. John says:

    Since the “spiritual” orientation cultivated by the Novus Ordo exhibits so many features of Pelagianism, perhaps we should just call it the Pelagian Mass.

  3. Clinton says:

    “…Mary with solemn joy and knowledge of future sorrow…formally offered the Lord to the Father”, “Signs of the Pelagian…”
    “…virginitate fecunda…”, “The wood of the crib, the knife of the Circumcision…”, “The grace is all His. The filth is all ours.”,
    crimine /”Think of the word ‘discrimination’…”: These are only a few of the points in the post where I had to stop, ponder,
    revisit. Father, you may no longer be a cook, but you still serve up rich, nourishing fare. Thank you. So much to unpack
    here. Thank you again, Fr. Z., and have a blessed 2009.

  4. Joe says:

    It is also the Feast of the Giving of the Holy Name of Jesus on the calendar of the Society of Jesus, and the titular feast of that least Society. Please spare a prayer today (or Jan 3 if you prefer, according to the universal calendar) for Jesuits.

  5. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Optime Z.,
    I really like your comment that “Octaves reflect (the Church’s) care that we have time to benefit more deeply from our encounter with mystery,” and your early comparison of an octave to having more time contemplate the mystery of a particular feast, the way you would want to have more time to contemplate a beautiful work of art in a museum. This got me to thinking: wouldn’t it be great if we had octaves for LOTS of important feasts, like the Epiphany, Corpus Christi, the Assumption, All Saints …oh…wait…

  6. Clinton: Thank you for that! It takes a while to write this stuff, actually. I appreciate the feedback!

  7. Gregory: Oh wait… we did!

    Thanks for the comments! My best to the Trinita gang.

  8. Lori says:

    In 1990 or so I was a college-aged, newly confirmed Catholic. I had just finished a course in Shakespeare where a class discussion included commentary on the Feast of the Circumcision (must have been Twelfth Night we were studying?). My fiance and I went to the vigil Mass on Dec 31st, and the priest gave a typically interactive homily, beginning with “Who knows what we are celebrating on this holy day of obligation?” I honestly had never been taught any Marian connection, but armed with my new knowledge from school, I raised my hand (my orthoDOXY has always been strong, my orthoPRAXY in the early years…not so much) and said very excitedly, “It’s the Feast of the Circumcision!”

    The priest looked at me like I had three heads and had no idea what I was talking about, and went on to ask someone else who gave him the answer he was looking for. I was so dejected until I told the story, several years later, to my brother-in-law who is a priest in the SSPX group. He told me that my answer was correct and that that had been the feast on the calendar up until VaticanII.

    I seriously never heard anyone talk about it again until this year. Not a single priest mentioned it in a homily that I heard. Now all of a sudden I’m hearing/reading about it everywhere, even the somewhat liberal parish we attended for Mass this morning. Don’t know the significance of that on any grand scale, but just thought this a time to share the story, since I have remembered it for nearly 20 years and had such a different experience this year.

    Thank you, Father Z, for your wonderful insights and commentary…Have a blessed 2009!

  9. notworthy says:

    Wonderful reflection and teaching, Father!
    When I finished reading I could only exclaim, Now that is a homily!

    Thank you for all you do.

  10. mike says:

    Father Z

    Kudos – You have made a huge difference in my spiritual development over the last few years. I can’t thank you enough.


  11. isabella says:

    I apologize in advance if this is stupid; I’ve been away from the Church for a long time before my return in 2003.

    How do you *know* if you are in a state of grace (re the 4th para from the bottom about people who should be communing spiritually vs sacramentally)?

    I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I got into a shouting match over a parking spot yesterday (New Year’s Eve) and it escalated to the “f word” on the other guy’s part and similar sentiments on my own although I didn’t say them out loud. So I didn’t go to Communion today.

    Am I being overly scrupulous? I am going to find somewhere to go to Confession tomorrow because the EF Dominican Mass is Saturday and I don’t even want to have to wonder. But I would appreciate any suggestions on reading material to help understand this.

    There was so much in this post that is worth understanding I bookmarked it to read in more detail later. But I have never really known how to tell if you are actually in a state of grace or not and feel odd NOT going to the altar at the new Mass because almost everybody else did. If nothing else, I was incredibly ill mannered last night, but was it sinful?


  12. tradone says:

    Your teaching is primo. Your bag of graces must be getting heavy!
    God bless you, thanks.

  13. Karen Linsmayer says:

    Father Z,

    Happy New Year!

    I know the prayers are important, but I am trying to find your pasta receipe with the Colatura di alici (I think that is how you spell it) and I have scoured the archives and can’t find it. Can you tell me where it is, or give it to us again. Also, it seems there are two variations of the sauce. I am assuming the bottle you are talking about costs $29.95, or close to it.

    Thanks and God Bless.

  14. Marc says:

    So when the priest at Mass this morning celebrated the Feast of the Circumcision, he was using some pre-1962 version of the MR–do I have this right? in other words, the Feast of the Circumcision exists in neither use of the Roman Rite?

  15. Erin says:

    Marc, afaik (and according to what my parish priest said today in his homily) it exists, but it’s not the primary celebration today. It’s not unusual for multiple feast days to fall on the same date. Currently, the reason we are obligated to attend Mass today is to celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, but it is also the Feast of the Circumcision and also the World Day of Peace.

  16. Marc says:

    Erin, Happy New Year and thanks. If the feast is suppressed from the Roman Calendar in the 1960/1962 missal, and isn’t in the most recent edition of the MR, either, how is it a feast? I suppose it is celebrated in the Oriental Churches still and the Orthodox, perhaps (according to Wikipedia at least)– I mean, it has to be celebrated by some local church somewhere to be a feast, right? I hasten to add that I am content to refer to ‘the former feast of the C.’ etc: I suppose I was just surprised to discover that the Circumcision is not in fact in either of the Roman Calendars.

  17. Karen: There isn’t much too it. The way I do it is

    Boil some water for pasta. Use some salt or broth as you please.

    Chop some garlic – fine. Make sure it is raw.
    Chop or snip up some hot pepper. Dried will do.
    Chop some parsley.
    Put it all in a bowl with a couple spoons full of Colatura in a bowl.

    I use the very fine spaghetti for this, spaghettini. The classic portion per person is 100g, but I usually use about 75-80g.

    After draining put the pasta into the bowl with the goodies and mix it together.

    Avoid any cheese with this, but you can indulge in black pepper.


  18. Malta says:

    Pelagians and birth-blood have me flustered :)

    Jesus was born of a Woman, but Sacrificed perfectfully for us.

    The fact that He was circumcised is profound but secundary. For instance, my son was surprised at the Nursing Jesus at the National Gallery; I told him it was a beautiful representation of Christ’s infancy.

    But, still, the circumcision is another of Our Lords realities which are glossedvover today because ofbpolitical correctness and faint hearts

  19. tedeumlaudamus says:

    In response to the comments on the mysterious meaning of the Octave as a mysterious kind of time or a kind of suspended time- it is very fitting to relate this to a non- Palagian kind of contemplation in grace and to the circumcision. Augustine and Pope Benedict would appreciate these words. Blessed feast and ever suspended octave everyone.

  20. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Dear Marc,
    In point of fact, only the NAME of the feast was changed. Pre-1960 liturgical books call it “the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord, and Octave of Christmas.” (By pre-1960, by the way, I mean pretty much every single one of them for the preceding thousand years or more). In 1960 it was changed to simply “the Octave of Christmas.” The Mass itself, and the Office of the day, were not in anyway altered.

    Like most of the liturgical changes of that era, it is impossible to explain why it took place.

  21. Rubricarius says:

    “The Mass itself, and the Office of the day, were not in anyway altered”

    There is one textual difference: the Doxology of the hymns at the Horae Minorae was no longer changed to Jesu, tibi sit gloria etc.

  22. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Optime Rubricari,
    You are correct, but this particular innovation (which is every bit as nonsensical as the others) applies to the ALL of the Office in 1960; it not a change to the office of the Circumcision per se.

  23. Rubricarius says:


    Agreed: both to the fact and the nonsensical ethos of the changes.

  24. Themakodama says:

    Mary was and is the first priest of Christ!

    The priesthood of maternity… she mediated Christ for the world.

    At his birth, at the wedding feast of Cana, at his death…all throughout, she could say with him, ‘This is my body, this is my blood.’ [You are using this phrase equivocally. She could look at Christ and know that His humanity came from her, but their flesh and blood are not the same. You are using this, incorrectly, as some sort of justification for a woman to be able to say the words of consecration. They can say those words all day long: there will never be transsubstantiation but a woman said them. Ever.]

    Praying and labouring for an end to the sins of exclusion of women that continue to be perpretrated by Rome, may the blinders be lifted so as to see and understand that women belong in Holy Orders just as much as men. [This is, of course, both heresy and impossible.]

    Blessings for the new year! Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are you among women [and men], and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of death. Amen.

    with my eyes fixed on Christ,

  25. jarhead462 says:

    Themakodama said- “Praying and labouring for an end to the sins of exclusion of women that continue to be perpretrated by Rome, may the blinders be lifted so as to see and understand that women belong in Holy Orders just as much as men.”

    So Jesus sinned by not making Mary one of the Twelve….Do you want to let Him know? I dont have the onions to tell Him.

    Semper Fi, Tired old chestnuts!

  26. Themakodama says:


    And so what if Jesus did not make Mary one of the Twelve?

    And who said this was a sin?

    in the peace of Christ,


  27. FOLKS: Don’t waste your time on this latest rabbit hole. Women’s ordination is an out-of-bounds topic in this entry and I will toss those who persist.

  28. Themakodama says:

    Father Z,

    Is that your response appearing in the words coloured in red?

    The fact that she can say, ‘This is my body this is my blood,’ with more literal meaning than can you does not take away from the fact that she is the first priest of Christ. [Well… no, she isn’t. And when I say those words, I say them with sacramental effect. I effect transsubstantiation. Our Blessed Mother, the Queen of Heaven and Mother of God, could say them over bread and wine all day, but there would be no transsubstantiation.]

    She mediated Christ for the world…a priest chosen by God. If there was an intermediary in announcing God\’s choice, it was but an archangel! [Again, you are using the word “mediate” in an equivocal way. You remind me a bit of a Mormon: same vocabulary but entirely different (non-Christian) meaning.]

    Mary — she came from a priestly family! [So?]

    Mary — a sacrificial priest. She participated at Calvary! God had given her the mission to remain there as priest, victim and mediatrix. She had to stay on Calvary, next to the cross and in the heart of her Son. She stood up straight on Calvary and undertook her function as priest. She stood next to the cross and fulfilled the role of a victim. She stayed in the heart of Jesus and fulfilled the task of mediatrix. She was a priest! [Not in the sense that I am.]

    Mary — she exercised priestly functions! especially in offering Jesus in the Temple (as you have pointed out) and at Calvary. [That isn’t sacramental priesthood in the sense understood in the Christian religion as defined by the Catholic Church.]

    Mary is the person who, with Christ, gave us the Eucharist. [No, Christ gave us the Eucharist.] The Church Fathers [the “Fathers”? I think a citation is needed for that.] therefore called her “the golden table with the loaves of proposition.” She is a priest!

    Mary procures forgiveness of sins! She is a priest! [Priests don’t mere procure forgiveness of sins, they do forgive sins.]

    The fact that mere men would deny her this honour does not take away from the fact: Mary is the first priest of Christ! [Repeat it all day long, deluded friend. That doesn’t make it so.]

    Mary, the Virgin priest! She is a priest of high order! [This is getting boring.]

    As our Holy Father Pope John Paul II oft’ observed,” The life of the Church in the Third Millennium will certainly not be lacking in new and surprising manifestations of’the feminine genius'”. [Oh? Well one of them won’t be ordination.]

    wishing you all of the very best for this New Year,
    with my eyes fixed on Christ, [You would do much better to stick with this rather then persist in this sloppy reasoning and heresy.]


    [BTW… When you completely blow off my note that this topic is a rabbit hole, and that I will toss people who persist, then you can expect to be tossed when you persist. Bye!]

  29. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Optime Z.
    Aliud in foramen conducitur lepus…quorsumnam oritur tuo judicio vox illa “Themakodama”?

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