Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Mary is the mother of God the Word, according to his human nature.

That’s the formula that my Christology teacher in seminary, Sister Sarah, made sure that we memorized about the nature of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s relationship with her son, Jesus.  I’ve been thinking a lot about motherhood in these days.  These are some of the reflections that have led up to my celebration of this great feast:

You might know that my sisters and I have been taking care of my ailing mother, pretty much 24/7, for the last few months.  It’s difficult in many ways, especially emotionally, but it’s also a blessing.  We have the holy opportunity to spend these last moments, however many or few of them we may be granted, with her.  She who has been mother to us for all our lives now requires some of the care she selflessly offered to us.  Jesus certainly knew that his own mother would require the same when he gave her as mother to John the Beloved at the foot of the Cross.

Also in these days that we mourn the loss of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, I was reminded he spent his final days at the monastery Mater Ecclesiae, Mother of the Church.  Mary was no doubt a special consolation to him in his last days, he whose devotion and dependence on her for all of his seventy-one years of priesthood was well-known.

My other reflection this week was remembering my trip to Rome several years ago, and seeing, in Saint Peter’s Basilica, the wonderful sculpture of the Pieta by Michelangelo.  You can’t help being taken by the sculpture as you enter the basilica, and looking on the sorrowful face of our Blessed Mother, knowing the sorrow that every mother has when she loses a child.

And so we come to this great feast of Mary, whose cooperation with God’s plan for her, made possible the salvation of all the world.  She who was full of grace, cooperated with that grace, and loved the Child entrusted to her all the way to the Cross.  She was mother to Jesus, mother to his disciples, and mother of a Church that would be born at his Resurrection.  She embraced true motherhood from that fiat to the angel in her home at Nazareth, to the empty tomb, and beyond.  She continues to mother the church and us fledgling disciples as we make our way to our true home in heaven one day.

So today, on the octave day of Christmas, which we still celebrate as Christmas Day, we are blessed to remember the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God. We do this because we all know that Mary’s faith made possible our own lives of faith and even more wonderfully made possible the salvation of the whole world and everyone ever to live in it. She was the one, chosen by God, to see the Gospel come to life before her very eyes. She intimately beheld the Word, she held our God in her faithful and loving hands, treasuring each moment in her heart.

So Mary’s faith is a model for us, a goal which we disciples must strive to attain.  God’s call will often take us into unknown territory, as it did for our Blessed Mother, but in faith we are called to say “yes” to his plan for us anyway.  God’s call will often call for sacrifice and even sorrow in the short term, as it did for our Blessed Mother, but we are still asked to give all that we have.  Mary did that without a second thought or a moment’s regret.  How willing are we?  Can we take a leap of faith, make a fiat, and cooperate with God’s work in our lives and in the world?  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 may lead to redemption beyond belief, beyond anything we can imagine.

So, Mary is the Mother of God, and 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 work of our calling.  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 and study and proclaim 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.  And she is the Mother of Mercy, who gave birth to our Savior and birth to our eternity.  She is the Mother of God, and our mother, and we cannot sing our Christmas carols without singing our thanksgiving for her.  We honor her faith and example today, and we ask for her intercession for our lives, for our families, for our Church and for our world.

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