Christmas is over. (Phew!). But alas! The pastoral musician knows that there are 12 days of Christmas. We have heard the song. Day eight of Christmas nets us eight maids-a-milking. But it is the Octave of Christmas and a very important Holy Day in the Church: The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
So what do we sing!?
On the surface, it’s simply another Marian day. Do we bring out the usual hymns that we sing at the Immaculate Conception and for May Processions? Here’s a look at why that might not necessarily be the case.
Let’s start by taking a look at what the Feast Day celebrates exactly.
Mary is the Theotokos. That is, the “bearer of God,” according to most traditions. This recognizes Mary’s pivotal role in the Christmas story. That is why that this special day is within the Octave of Christmas. It’s not just a Marian Feast Day: it’s a Mary AND Baby Jesus day! Christmas continues!
What Christmas hymns might help us focus on the image of Mary and the Child Jesus?
One that comes to mind right away is “What Child is This?”
“What child is this, who came to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?”
A well-known, beautiful hymn that the congregation will sing readily that answers that question: Mary IS the Theotokos.
Carey Landry, the iconic hymnwriter, wrote a very special medley of “Hail Mary, Gentle Woman” and “Silent Night” that includes a new second verse published through OCP Publications that very much explains the Theotokos.
“In a dark and lowly stable, you gave birth that silent night. By your courage, love, and labor, you brought forth the Lord of life.”
As music ministers might seek to incorporate a common theme in the Christmas season, Zach Stachowski’s “What is the Star?” is a beautiful piece incorporating “We Three Kings” that could be used on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and then again on the soon-to-follow feast of the Epiphany.
“God comes to us, a baby, crying on the stable floor.”
The child is GOD. We must not forget that half of the name of the feast. That is the emphasis here on the Octave of Christmas.
So while planning music for this day, forget not that it is not just about the Virgin Mary, but a feast that celebrates mother AND child, who is God. That could lead you to some beloved Christmas hymns. That could lead you to including some beloved Marian hymns. Feel free to use some of each to emphasize the Theotokos.
“Round yon virgin, mother and child!”