The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Today’s readings

And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.

 

Luke notes all throughout Jesus’ young life that Mary kept the events of Jesus’ life and reflected on them in her heart.  At the visit of the shepherds, and again after finding Jesus in the temple, Mary kept those memories for later reflection.  It’s kind of like she was keeping a scrapbook of memories in her heart, and I found myself wishing during these Christmas days, that I could take a look at that scrapbook.  She had a first-hand view of how Jesus grew in wisdom and grace, and as Luke tells the story, her perspective of God’s work in the life of her family had to be incredible.

Mary’s reflection on the life of Jesus is really a model for us.  Keeping those events close to her and reflecting on them later is her way of reflecting on the Word of God.  Whether she understood them at the time or not, she didn’t just live through the moment and move on.  She went back to those events later in her life – even after the death and resurrection of Jesus – and came to a new understanding guided by the Holy Spirit.  And thank God she did that.  It’s probably her later reflection on those events that made the early Church Evangelist able to record them and pass them on to us.

We too, must reflect on the Word of God.  We have to put ourselves in the presence of the Story, and ponder it in our hearts.  If we’re confused by Scripture, we have Mary as our patron to help us reflect on that Word and come to understand it, guided as we are by the Holy Spirit.  But we also have her encouragement to keep those Scriptures in the scrapbook of our hearts, to keep coming back to them.  That’s the only way the Spirit can work on us and help us to come to new and more beautiful understandings of the Word of God, and in doing that, to come to a renewed and vibrant relationship with our Lord.

If we would make a resolution for this new year, maybe it could be to follow Mary’s example.  Maybe we could set aside some time on a regular basis – even if just once a week – to put ourselves in the presence of the Word of God.  And not just here at Mass, although that’s a good start.  But maybe in private prayer or even in an organized Bible Study – we have a few of them going on in our parish on a regular basis.  If we regularly open ourselves up to the Word of God, maybe we too could come to new and more beautiful understandings of the Scriptures; and a closer and more beautiful relationship with Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God.

Mary, mother of God the Word, help us to understand the Word as you did.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God:
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Today’s readings

And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.

Luke notes all throughout Jesus’ young life that Mary kept the events of Jesus’ life and reflected on them in her heart.  At the visit of the shepherds, and again after finding Jesus in the temple, Mary kept those memories for later reflection.  Maybe she understood them, or perhaps had to work them out later, but keeping them in her heart, she was able to ponder the Word.  It’s kind of like she was keeping a scrapbook of memories in her heart, and I found myself wishing during these Christmas days, that I could take a look at that scrapbook.  She had a first-hand view of how Jesus grew in wisdom and grace, and as Luke tells the story, her perspective of God’s work in the life of her family had to be incredible.

Mary’s reflection on the life of Jesus is really a model for us.  Keeping those events close to her and reflecting on them later is her way of reflecting on the Word of God.  Whether she understood them at the time or not,  she didn’t just live through the moment and move on.  She went back to those events later in her life – even after the death and resurrection of Jesus – and came to a new understanding guided by the Holy Spirit.  And thank God she did that.  It’s probably her later reflection on those events that made the early Church Evangelist able to record them and pass them on to us.

We too, must reflect on the Word of God.  We have to put ourselves in the presence of the Story, and ponder it in our hearts.  If we’re confused by Scripture, we have Mary as our patron to help us reflect on that Word and come to understand it, guided as we are by the Holy Spirit.  But we also have her encouragement to keep those Scriptures in the scrapbook of our hearts, to keep coming back to them.  That’s the only way the Spirit can work on us and help us to come to new and more beautiful understandings of the Word of God, and in doing that, to come to a renewed and vibrant relationship with our Lord.

If we would make a resolution for this new year, maybe it could be to follow Mary’s example.  Maybe we could set aside some time on a regular basis – even if just once a week – to put ourselves in the presence of the Word of God.  And not just here at Mass, although that’s a good start.  But maybe in private prayer or even in an organized Bible Study – we have a few of them going on in our parish on a regular basis.  If we regularly open ourselves up to the Word of God, maybe we too could come to new and more beautiful understandings of the Scriptures; and a closer and more beautiful relationship with Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God.

Mary, mother of God the Word, help us to understand the Word as you did.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God:
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Today’s readings

One of the ways that I think we come to know about ourselves and our families, is the shared memories and stories that our parents and senior members of our families share with us over time.  I always enjoyed hearing stories from my grandparents about Mom and Dad, and my aunts and uncles, when they were growing up.  Now, we get to hear stories about me and my sisters.  Those are sometimes a little harder to enjoy!

I wonder if Jesus felt the same way about the stories about him that Mary must have told.  Luke tells us of all the amazing things that were observed and said about Jesus, even in his infancy, and all these things are what Mary kept and reflected on in her heart.  I think it’s fair to say that she may not have understood all of them at the time, or at least she didn’t know where they were leading, although she certainly knew that her son was someone very special, the Son of God.  And so she keeps all these things and reflects on them in her heart.  She is the first, really, to receive the Gospel – observing it, as it were, while it was happening and unfolding.  And so she is the model for all of us hearers of the Word; we too catch little phrases or episodes that we later reflect on in our hearts.  When we first hear them, it might well be that we don’t understand them.  But we know that we can later reflect on them in our hearts, and the Holy Spirit will reveal their meaning.

The Church gives us this wonderful feast of Mary on this, the octave day of Christmas.  In a very real way, the Church still celebrates this day as Christmas Day – that’s one of the wonderful things about being Catholic.  We get to celebrate this glorious event for many days.  But to celebrate the eighth day of Christmas as the feast of Mary, the Holy Mother of God is a wonderful and appropriate thing to do.  We all know that we are indebted to Mary’s faith, a faith which made possible the salvation of the whole world and everyone ever to live in it.

More than that, Mary’s faith is a model for us.  Much like Mary, we often do not know where God is leading us, but in faith we are called to say “yes” anyway.  How willing are we to do that?  We are often called upon to take a leap of faith, make a fiat, and cooperate with God’s saving plan for us and for others.  Just like Mary, we have no way of knowing where that might lead us; just like Mary, that might lead to heartache and sorrow; but just like Mary, it will lead to redemption beyond belief, beyond anything we can imagine.

And so, yes, Mary is the Mother of God.  And let me tell you, this was a doctrine that came without its price.  People fought over whether a human woman could ever be the mother of God.  How would that be possible?  But the alternative, really, would be to say that Jesus was not God, because we clearly know that Mary was his mother.  So to say that Mary was not the Mother of God is to say in a very precarious way that Jesus was not God, and we know just as surely that that would be incorrect.  Jesus was fully human but also fully divine, his human and divine natures intertwined in his person without any separation or division or degradation of one nature at the expense of another.  And so, as theologians teach us, Mary is the Mother of God the Word according to his human nature.  Every once in a while, when I’m feeling particularly theologically courageous, I reflect on that statement and marvel at its beauty.

So, Mary is the Mother of God, but Mary is also the Mother of the Church, leading its members to her Son Jesus and to faith in God.  She is mother of priests, caring for us in a special way and interceding for the faithful completion of our mission.  She is the mother of mothers, interceding for them and showing them how to nurture faith in their children.  She is the mother of the faithful, showing us how to cooperate fully with God’s plan.  She is mother of scripture scholars and those who just love the scriptures, having seen the Word unfold before her and treasuring it in her heart.  She is the mother of disciples, having been the first of the disciples and the most dedicated of them all.  She is the Mother of God, and our mother, and we cannot sing our Christmas carols without singing her praises too.  We honor her faith and example today, and we ask for her intercession for our lives, for our families, for our Church and our world.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Mary, the Mother of God

Today’s readings

Today, on the Octave day of Christmas, we have an opportunity on this Christmas Day to pause and celebrate Mary, the mother of God. This solemnity is a special one for us as Catholics because people for a long time argued over whether Mary, a human being, could possibly be the mother of God. Eventually, the Holy Spirit led the Church to realize that downplaying Mary’s role in all of this really downplays Jesus’ divinity, so denying that Mary was the Mother of God was a substantial part of the heresy of Nestorianism. To say that Mary is not the Mother of God is, in some way, to say that Jesus is not God, and that of course, is not what we believe. So, for centuries the Church has taught that “Mary is the Mother of God the Word according to his human nature.”

Sister Sarah made me memorize that line in my second year of seminary, and I’ll never forget it. Basically, there are two parts. Mary is the Mother of God the Word: Mary, chosen from all eternity to be a virgin inviolate and a fit Mother for God, is blessed by conceiving the only Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. Calling Jesus “God the Word” in this definition takes us to the opening verses of the Gospel of John which tells us that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The Word is traditionally believed to be the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

The second part of the definition asserts that Mary is his mother according to his human nature. We know that Jesus was both human and divine, and both natures coexisted in Jesus Christ without any diminishment of either nature at the expense of the other. We also know that only God himself could beget God the Word, but it would have to take a human woman, a very special human woman, to be the mother of his human nature. Jesus is consubstantial, of the same substance, with the Father, as we pray in the Creed, but in a very real sense, he is also consubstantial with us through Mary, in his human nature.

St. Paul tells us today that “when the fullness of time had come, 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 daughters.” Today we rejoice in Mary’s faith that God’s promises to the human race would be fulfilled through her. It is because of her faithfulness that God was born into our world in the person of Jesus Christ and became one of us, walking our walk, living our life, dying our death, and leading us to new life that lasts forever. If not for Mary’s fiat – her “yes” to God’s will for her – salvation history might have gone rather poorly. Thankfully, because of her great faith, we have adoption as sons and daughters of God.

Did Mary understand all of this when she said yes to God’s will when Gabriel came to announce the birth of Christ in her? I don’t know; maybe, maybe not. But she, as our Gospel tells us today, “kept all these things and reflected on them in her heart.” She was able to study the Gospel before it had ever been written, by reflecting on all the events surrounding the birth and life and death of her Son. And because of Mary, we can reflect on it all too, and rejoice that we are sons and daughters of God.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.