Hail Mary, Theotokos
What's special about the eighth day? In the Jewish/Christian tradition, everyone is familiar with the words of Genesis, that God worked for six days and on the seventh He rested. Even today we (hey, wow!) still mark our calendars into weeks of seven days - typically using Sunday, the day of rest, as the last day of the week. Where does the eighth day come in? There are, as always, a few layers of meaning here. First, the idea of an octave celebration (which we do for Easter too, so stay tuned!) comes from the understanding that Christ's resurrection, our redemption, is the "eighth day" of Creation, the fulfillment of all promises. Secondly, historically Jesus would have been circumcised and given His name on the eighth day after His birth, as part of the Jews' religious and societial traditions - the "completion" if you will of His birth. Even so - for Christmas we don't just stop at eight days of celebration, we've still got four more to go before we complete the twelfth and final day of Christmas (so don't you dare go taking down that tree yet!).
As it happens, today's solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is also the first calendar day of the civil year - fitting, for as the birth of the Savior is how all peoples now mark the passing of years (whether you admit to it or not, I don't care if you use AD or CE, you're still using Christ's birth as your starting point!) so to does the world now continue to see each year renewed as the birth of Christ is completed on the eighth day of Christmas.
In honor of the occasion, I give you one of my favorite poems, which highlights our Blessed Mother as the Mother of God, and uses many of the traditional titles of our Lady found in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The perspective of the poem is of an onlooker, seeing Mother and Child together: first with Him in her womb, then upon her lap gazing at His reflection in her eyes, then being raised up in her arms, then playing at her feet, then climbing up to give His mother a kiss.
A Little Litany
"When God turned back eternity and was young,
Ancient of Days, grown little for your mirth
(As under the low arch the land is bright)
Peered through you, gate of heaven--and saw the earth.
Or shutting out his shining skies awhile
Built you about him for a house of gold
To see in pictured walls his storied world
Return upon him as a tale is told.
Or found his mirror there; the only glass
That would not break with that unbearable light
Till in a corner of the high dark house
God looked on God, as ghosts meet in the night.
Star of his morning; that unfallen star
In that strange starry overturn of space
When earth and sky changed places for an hour
And heaven looked upwards in a human face.
Or young on your strong knees and lifted up
Wisdom cried out, whose voice is in the street,
And more than twilight of twiformed cherubim
Made of his throne indeed a mercy-seat.
Or risen from play at your pale raiment's hem
God, grown adventurous from all time's repose,
Or your tall body climed the ivory tower
And kissed upon your mouth the mystic rose."
~ G.K. Chesterton
(H/T to The Poor Blogger for posting the poem)