In the world, today is known as New Year’s Day, but in the Church, we are also celebrating the much more profound Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. We could call this the “Mother’s Day” of the Church. Now that the noise and empty celebration of last night is past, let us take a moment of quiet and reflect upon the meaning of this feast in our hearts.
For seven days we have been celebrating the birth of Christ. We have been asking, “Who is this? Why has he come?” The Scriptures have been helping us to probe this mystery more deeply. But today, the eighth day after his birth, we reflect on the identity and mission of Christ particularly in light of the unique role of Mary. Today’s Gospel invites us into the experience of the shepherds on Christmas night. When they made haste to find the Child, they found him with Mary, his Mother. The Magi had the same experience, as we will see on Sunday (cf. Mt 2:11). Today we are reminded that whenever we find Jesus, he is always with Mary, his Mother.
We honor Mary with many titles; for example, Our Lady of Lourdes, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Sorrows, and many others. But today we focus on Mary’s most fundamental title: “Mother of God.” In the early Church, there was a dispute regarding whether Mary could rightly be called “Mother of God.” Some preferred the titles “Mother of Christ” or “Mother of Jesus.” However, the Council of Ephesus in 431 affirmed that Mary can truly be called “Mother of God” (Theotokos) because she is the mother of Jesus Christ, who is true God and true Man in one Person. So by honoring Mary with the title “Mother of God,” we are actually affirming our belief in the full truth of the Incarnation – that Jesus Christ is fully God while also being fully man. When we honor Mary, she leads us inevitably back to pondering her Son!
It is appropriate that we honor Our Lady during the Christmas season. “When the fullness of time had come” and God sent forth his Son into the world, he was “born of a woman.” Without the “yes” of that woman, Mary, we would not be celebrating! Of course, Jesus is the heart of the mystery of Christmas. But we understand Jesus best – who he is, what his mission is – when we relate to him with the heart of Mary. She helps us to understand what she understands, and to love him as she loves him.
The Gospel tells us, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” She did not pray the Rosary as we know it, using a string of beads, but the essential element of the Rosary, the pondering of the mysteries, was her very life, her interior life. Mary, then, teaches us how to pray, how to contemplate the mysteries of the life of her Son. This is the secret of the liturgy, which is the interior life of Mother Church. When we ponder the daily liturgy, together with the whole Church, we do what Mary does: we allow the heart and mind of Christ to penetrate us more deeply, sink into our hearts and change our way of thinking and acting.
The famous words of St. Ambrose, the great fourth century Doctor of the Church, can help us appreciate the meaning of this Feast: “May the soul of Mary be in each one of us to magnify the Lord. May the spirit of Mary be in each one of us to rejoice in God. If, according to the flesh, Christ has only one Mother, according to faith, all souls bring forth Christ. Each one, in fact, receives within himself the Word of God” (Expositio in Luc., Lib. II, no. 26).
On this Feast, let us not only honor Mary, Mother of God. Let us also learn from her how to welcome Jesus Christ, treasuring his words and deeds, so that the Peace of Christ can be born in our hearts, and reign in the world!
Do I ponder on the truth that whenever I find Jesus, Jesus is always with Mary, his Mother? As I ponder on the Word daily, is Mary my model, allowing me to change my way of thinking and acting? Is Mary, the Mother of God, my spiritual guide?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 17, no. 1. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.