I have two very smart and beautiful daughters. As adults, they daily teach and inspire me. Being their Mom, it is my hope that I have raised them well. Somehow I just knew they would turn out to be strong, independent women. But back in Mary’s time, such reassurances were not readily known. So imagine an angel, appearing out of the blue, telling Mary just how precious her child is, and his role in saving us all. If it happened today, would anyone believe it? Probably not….yet Mary accepted the words of the angel, and treasured them in her heart.
Luke 2:16-21 (NIV)
“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.”
On January 1st, we celebrated the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. It is a holy day of obligation for Catholics, meaning that Mass attendance is required (though the Mass obligation is sometimes waived by the Bishop for various reasons. The use of the word “Solemnity” here is a designation used for certain days within the liturgical calendar of the Church. Solemnities are the highest rank of liturgical celebration, higher than feast days or memorials. By celebrating a solemnity dedicated to Mary’s motherhood, the Church highlights the significance of her part in the life of Jesus, and emphasizes that He is both human and divine.
Jesus’ nature as both and equally human and divine is something we may take for granted today. But back in the early days of the church, this dogma of our faith was hotly debated. In 431 A.D. during the Council of Ephesus, the title of “Mary Mother of God,” in Greek “Theotokus,” was defended and defined against the heresy of Nestorius. Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, refuted the title of “Theotokus” claiming that Christ had two loosely united natures, and therefore, Mary was only the mother of the human part of Him. Catholic theologians rejected this claim, and defined that Christ indeed has two natures, a divine nature and a human nature definitely united in one divine person, and since Christ’s two natures form one single person, Mary is the mother of the whole Person of Christ.
Therefore, Mary can be properly called “Mother of God,” not in the sense that she came before God or is the source of God, but in the sense that the Person that she bore in her womb is indeed true God and true man.
The Solemnity of Mary Mother of God falls exactly one week after Christmas, the end of the octave of Christmas. It is fitting to honor Mary as Mother of Jesus, following the birth of Christ. When Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God we are not only honoring Mary, who was chosen among all women throughout history to bear God incarnate, but we are also honoring our Lord, who is fully God and fully human.
Calling Mary “mother of God” is the highest honor we can give Mary. Just as Christmas honors Jesus as the “Prince of Peace,” the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God honors Mary as the “Queen of Peace.” Pope Paul VI, in his apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultus (1974), called the Solemnity of Mary “a fitting occasion for renewing adoration of the newborn Prince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the angels (Lk 2:14), and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace.”
In Galatians 4:4-7 (NIV) we are once again reminded that the gift of a little baby to Mary, is also the most precious gift to us all. Peace ~ Salvation ~ Love
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”