During the Twelve Days of Christmas, the Catholic Church celebrates many important feasts, including the feasts of Saint Stephen, the first martyr (December 26), whose martyrdom is recorded in Acts 6-7; Saint John the Apostle (December 27), who wrote the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation, as well as three epistles; the Holy Innocents (December 29), the children who were slaughtered at the order of King Herod, when he was trying to kill the Christ Child; and the Holy Family (normally celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas, and on December 30, when Christmas falls on a Sunday).
None, however, is as important as the feast celebrated on the octave (eighth day) of Christmas, January 1: the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. In fact, the Church regards this feast as so important that it is a Holy Day of Obligation. (See Is January 1 a Holy Day of Obligation? for more details.) On this day, we are reminded of the role that the Blessed Virgin played in the plan of our salvation. Christ's Birth was made possible by Mary's fiat: "Be it done unto me according to Thy word."
One of the earliest titles given by Christians to the Blessed Virgin was Theotokos--"God-bearer." We celebrate her as the Mother of God, because, in bearing Christ, she bore the fullness of the Godhead within her.
As we begin another year, we draw inspiration from the selfless love of the Theotokos, who never hesitated to do the will of God. And we trust in her prayers to God for us, that we might, as the years pass, become more like her.
O Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!
(An icon of the Theotokos, the Mother of God. Egg tempera on wood, Central Russia, mid-1800's. Photo © Slava Gallery, LLC; used with permission.)