A prayer for the New Year

Friends in Christ, today we begin the New Year.
Through the centuries, in the church, January 1st has been commemorated in different ways. In the early years in Rome, this day honored Mary as the Mother of God; by the 7th century, influence from the Eastern Church led us to emphasize more, the other Marian feasts; later, following the practice in Spain and France, today commemorated Christ’s infancy and Circumcision. Nevertheless, all along, the prayers of the Mass have retained the ancient tradition of honoring the Motherhood of Mary.
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There is a painting by Beate Heinen called ‘The Manger and the Cross.’ In the foreground one sees the stable with the newborn Child Jesus in the manger; from this little scene, a path leads out and through a beautiful meadow; but the path winds further and further in the distance, up a steep and gloomy hill, with three crosses on top of it. As someone has said, ‘the wood of the cradle and the wood of the cross are the same. The cradle was the first step to the cross.
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This little Child has a long and difficult path to follow, but the Mother is there with him at the beginning, as well as the finish. So we can see that God’s plan to save us from our sins – from the beginning, it involved the Son and the Mother.
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The Son of God is Eternal, he has always been; the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, through whom all things were made; the Son of God is Divine. Yet in time, this Son came down from heaven, and took flesh from the Virgin Mary, and became Man. This Jesus, who is True God and True Man, is the Child of Mary, and so we rightly call her the Mother of God. Now as Mary is the Mother of her Son, and was with him along his difficult journey of life, so too is Mary our Mother, who is with us in all the things of life.
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St. Ambose, speaking of Jesus in the womb of Mary, says that virtually, we were all there with him. And God revealed to St. Bridget that although Jesus was Mary’s first-born Son in the flesh, all of mankind are her other children according to the Spirit. As the lives of Jesus and Mary are intertwined and inseparable, so the Mystery of our own Redemption, looks to Jesus the Savior, and Mary our Mother.
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A beautiful Catholic prayer calls to mind these Mysteries of our salvation, the Angelus. Unlike other prayers that we say, the Angelus is said, not just whenever we wish, but at specific times of day. At 6:00am, 12noon, and 6:00pm. The idea is to stop what you are doing, and pray. It is a kind of test of our love of God: ‘Will you stop what you are doing and pray now?’ ‘Are you willing to tear yourself away from the newspaper or the internet – to pray.
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A friend from the Philippines told me that even today, if you are in some of the malls there shopping, at noon a bell is rung, and many stop to pray the Angelus. Here, on Catholic, Relevant Radio, the Angelus is broadcast each day so that you can pray along.
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Fr. Roger Scheckel writes about rural life in the Midwest, years ago; then, the Angelus was a normal part of daily life; he says, ‘one could look out at the fields at the noon bell, and see the farmers and their horses stop in their tracks for the Angelus. Even the horses automatically knew to stop when they heard the Church bell.
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Sister Nirmala, a nun in India, was asked “How did you come to know Jesus Christ?”
“I did not wish to, she said. I was very happy being a Hindu. But when I was visiting a Catholic school, when the bell rang at noon, a young girl knelt down to pray her Angelus. I stood there looking at her, and something happened, a movement in my soul and I felt that the living Jesus came to me.’ That new convert would one day succeed Mother Teresa as the Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity.
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The Angelus in one prayer, summarizes the great events of these Christmas days. It begins: ‘The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.’ This is the Mystery of the Annunciation. God makes the initiative, Mary is invited to become the Mother of God. ‘Mary, what will you say? Please say yes, for our sake, for our salvation.
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‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to Thy word. Mary gives her ‘yes’ to be the Mother of God, to walk this path of salvation with her Son, no matter the cost. As is said, ‘the humility of the Blessed Virgin drew the Eternal Word down from heaven.’
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The last aspiration of the Angelus: ‘And the Word was made Flesh, and dwelt among us.’ The Son of God became flesh yes, many years ago. But when we pray the Angelus, we are reminded that he is here, in us, in the flesh, in his Mystical Body. We are not alone. And this is good to know, in the middle of our work day.
Finally we pray: ‘Pour your grace O Lord, into our hearts….., .
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By praying this prayer at mid-day we are reminded of Mary’s love, and God’s closeness to us. And we ask that God would pour his grace into our hearts, to help us.
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As the New year begins, perhaps we could make a resolution to pray the Angelus at least at noon each day. Stopping our work – giving our Will to God; and asking for his grace.
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May the Mother of God intercede for us in the New Year ahead, that we ourselves, may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. John Vianney]

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