Happy New Year! Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions? Last week, I read about the tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions. The sources I consulted claim that the custom goes back 4,000 years to the Babylonians, the first people to have the first recorded New Year’s celebrations. They started their new year in the early spring with a 12-day religious festival called Akitu. At that time, they made promises to their gods to pay their debts and return what they had borrowed. Good resolutions to make even this year.
The next occurrence of the resolution tradition was with the Romans and Julius Caesar’s calendar reform. Caesar made January 1 the beginning of the year, and since the month is named for the two-faced Roman god Janus, it was considered an excellent time to look backward and forward when reflecting on life.
New Year’s Day began to be a day of reflection and new resolve when John Wesley, founder of Methodism, created the Covenant Renewal Service for New Year’s Eve or Day. This service evolved into a watch night of prayer and resolution-making service celebrated in many African-American congregations.
Catholics have long celebrated New Year’s Day as a holy day, but not because it is the beginning of the calendar year. We celebrate because it is an octave or the eighth day of celebration after the Feast of the Nativity or Christmas Day. Many might remember that January 1 used to be called the Feast of the Circumcision. According to the Gospel of Luke 2:21, Mary and Joseph followed the Mosaic Law and celebrated Jesus’ circumcision on the eighth day. The circumcision was the traditional day a Jewish boy received his name. For Christians, the circumcision is also significant because it was the first occurrence of Jesus shedding blood, prefiguring his death on the cross.
Since Vatican II, the holy day has been called the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. That isn’t an innovation, though. It is a return to the day’s original designation and an example of how the Church adjusts its celebrations to meet the theological needs of a particular time. In the 4th Century, controversy raged around the dispute as to if Jesus was both human and divine or only divine. To emphasize Jesus’ human nature, those who supported the dual nature side of the debate used the slogan calling Mary the Mother of God.
In the 8th Century, that controversy died down, and the emphasis shifted to celebrating the Octave of the Nativity of Our Lord or naming day for Jesus. In 1721, the Church established a separate feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, and January 1 became the Feast of the Circumcision. So we see how the focus of Church feasts and holy days shifts through time until we come full circle.
Whether you make New Year’s resolutions or not, I pray that your reflection on the old year will help you see how your faith has grown over the last twelve months. I pray that every parishioner will work towards a deeper faith in 2022.
In my research, I also came upon the Midwestern and Southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas to bring good luck. I’m not much of a cook, and I’ve never eaten black-eyed peas. So I can’t vouch for them, but here is a recipe, and I like the name too. I can only imagine what makes John hop.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large ham hock
1 cup onion, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
½ cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
3 cups cooked rice
Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, remove the ham hock and bay leaf, then garnish with green onions. Serve over rice, alongside cornbread and collard greens or fried cabbage.
Join the Baby Bottle Boomerang
Holy Redeemer will participate in a Baby Bottle Boomerang to support A Woman’s Concern - Your Options Medical. This organization provides no-cost life-affirming pregnancy confirmation services to women and couples facing unplanned pregnancies, especially those considering abortion due to a lack of information and support. Services include pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, options counseling, parenting classes, post-abortion counseling, and ongoing emotional material support, all at no cost. Next week individuals and families will have the opportunity to respond to the issue of LIFE. We will be handing out baby bottles to take home to fill with your loose change, cash, or a check. You can return them to church the weekend of February 8/9. Our financial support will help make the services available free of cost to those in need of support and guidance in the fight for life! Please make checks payable to “Your Options Medical” if you decide to donate by check.
Later this spring, the US Supreme Court is likely to rule on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case, where many expect the court to place more limits on abortion rights. If that comes to pass, abortion proponents are likely to accuse pro-life advocates of not supporting families and children once they are born. That is a falsehood, but pro-life Catholics must use both church and their own financial resources to aid women and children. They must also support public policy such as the Child Tax Credit that supports children and families. The Baby Bottle Boomerang is one way we can do that.
Desktop Publishing Skills Needed
Do you have experience with Microsoft Publisher or another desktop publishing software application? The parish needs someone to prepare our weekly Worship Aid. If you have desktop publishing skills or are willing to learn them, please call Cheryl Durrer, Music Director, (508) 945-0677.