By Dr. Melinda Blade, Director of Mission Integration and OLP Historian
The Romans counted on Janus to usher in their new year in what we know as March. The two headed god looked to the past while simultaneously looking to the future. The Babylonians also began their new year in late March. Additionally, early Christians commemorated the new year in Spring. The ancient Egyptians began their new year coinciding with the annual flooding of the Nile in August. The Jews begin their new year in late Fall, either in September or October.
Contemporary Christians celebrate the new year on January 1, but this was not always the date. Julius Caesar reformed the ancient Roman calendar and that calendar was the basis from which Pope Gregory (1502-1585) modified the calendar in 1582 to what we know today: the Gregorian calendar. It was during his pontificate that Gregory XIII declared that January 1 would mark the new year.
IN 1969, January 1 was officially named as the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. Pope Paul VI declared that January 1 would celebrate the Blessed Mother’s role in the mystery of salvation. The Church indicates that the feast, by being declared a solemnity, is the highest feast day celebrated. We, at OLP, celebrate the Blessed Mother through her name, Our Lady of Peace. In an earlier article, I laid out the background of this title. As we begin 2019, OLP’s new year will be filled with new beginnings – new academic classes for our students and teachers, new friends, new classrooms, new buildings, new innovations.
Let us pray that the Blessed Mother, whose solemnity we celebrate on January 1, will continue to care for us, extend her tenderness to us, and envelope us in her love. “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”