January 1, 2012 – the Octave Day of the Nativity of Our Lord Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God
It is interesting to note that while the feast we celebrate today is that of Mary, the Mother of God, we do not hear much about Mary in today’s readings. In fact, the only mention of her is the simple phrase in the Epistle: “born of a woman” and in the Gospel, the sentence, “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” She is hardly the focus of today’s readings. Rather, the readings draw our attention to the birth of Christ.
In the first reading, it is the theme of blessing in the name of God that is emphasized. In this three-fold blessing, we see anticipation of our Trinitarian faith. What’s more, the Lord tells Moses to have Aaron and his sons bless the Israelites in His name.
Then, in the Gospel reading, we see the Son of God given a name at His circumcision. “He was named Jesus, the name given to Him by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.”
Thus, we see, the name is a powerful thing. In the Bible, the name stands for the whole person, his whole being. So, to bless in the name of God is to invoke, upon the people, all that God is and all that He has done through Salvation History. So it is today, as priests and deacons bless the faithful in the name of the Trinity, God himself pours out His graces on those who receive the blessing.
Today’s Epistle and the Gospel are closely connected. Both speak, very specifically of the story of Christ’s birth and its impact on humanity.
In his letter the Galatians, Paul tells us “God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law to ransom those under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons.” And in Luke’s Gospel, we hear how on the eighth day after His birth, Jesus was circumcised and given His name, just like all Jewish boys. In other words, Christ came into the world a human being, subject to all the limitations of humanity. The fact that He was circumcised shows us just how intimately connected He is with humanity. He literally became one of us, subject to the law, just as the Jews were. It was only then, as a human being, that He could liberate humanity, taking our sins upon Himself and freeing us from the bondage of them.
It may seem strange that, on this feast of Mary, Mother of God, we hear more about the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ first week on Earth than we do about Mary herself, but it is actually quite appropriate. We honor Mary today, because she plays a vital role in Salvation History. She is the Mother of God. But her role, her life, her mission is to glorify God. When the angel announced to her that she would conceive the God-man and Mary gave her yes, she surrendered her will to the Father’s, her whole life became one of selfless service to the Lord.
So it is that most of the Church’s doctrines pertaining to Mary, while they speak of Marian truth, actually serve to emphasize a truth about Christ. In her selfless service, Mary always leads us to her Son.
Such is the case with today’s feast. Mary is the Mother of God. The Latin term for that title is Theotokos, literally translated, God-bearer. At the moment when Mary conceived Jesus in her womb, God became man. Jesus, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son of God, took on flesh. At that moment, He became the God-Man (100 percent God, 100 percent man). And, so, as Mary carried Him in her womb, she carried the Lord God, and, then, on that wonderful Christmas day, she gave birth to God, to the God-man. There was never a moment, from the moment of His conception onward, that Jesus’ divinity was separated from His humanity. From that moment on, He was, and will forevermore be, fully God and fully man.
That is why we call Mary, the Theotokos, or, the Mother of God. She conceived in her womb, gave birth to, and then raised the Son of God, fully God and fully man. It is a mystery beyond our ability to fully comprehend, but one that is vital for us to believe as Catholics.
So it is that, as in all things, the reality of who Mary is and her role in Salvation History brings us to a deeper understanding of who Christ is.
Mary is often referred to as “the first disciple.” She has given the Lord her life. She has given Him her will. In every ounce of her being she lives for Him. We ought to follow suit. Mary is a wonderful example to all of us. As Christian disciples, our lives need to proclaim the Gospel. Just like Mary, we should give ourselves to the Lord in selfless service, so much so, that all we do and say brings others closer to Christ.