The Church begins each new calendar year with a Marian feast, celebrating the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God, Theotokos – literally the ‘Bearer of God’ – defined at the Council of Ephesus in 431, against the heresy of Nestorius, who claimed that Mary only bore the human person of Christ, and hence only Christotokos, the ‘bearer of Christ’, for how could a divine Person be ‘born’?
But, contrary to what many Catholics may at first think, Christ was not a human ‘person’, but a divine one; for if there were two persons in Christ, as the Fathers of the Council reasoned, in what way were they united, and how did He then become ‘man’? Rather, as the Church proclaimed, the Second Person – hypostasis in Greek – of the Trinity united to Himself a perfect and complete human nature in the womb of the Virgin Mary, who in turn gave birth to God on that Christmas morning. Hence, the ‘hypostatic union’, by which we are now all in some way united to Christ, as the Second Vatican Council proclaimed, a truth beyond our imagining. God become Man! As the readings for today rejoice, truly the face of God has shone upon us! Alleluia, indeed! And if Christ is for us, who, really, can be against?
Here is in part what Pope Benedict XVI had to say on this wonderful truth in 2012:
The first to be swept up by this blessing was Mary the virgin, the spouse of Joseph, chosen by God from the first moment of her existence to be the mother of his incarnate Son. She is the “blessed among women” (Lk 1:42) – in the words of Saint Elizabeth’s greeting. Her whole life was spent in the light of the Lord, within the radius of his name and of the face of God incarnate in Jesus, the “blessed fruit of her womb”. This is how Luke’s Gospel presents her to us: fully intent upon guarding and meditating in her heart upon everything concerning her son Jesus (cf. Lk 2:19, 51). The mystery of her divine motherhood that we celebrate today contains in superabundant measure the gift of grace that all human motherhood bears within it, so much so that the fruitfulness of the womb has always been associated with God’s blessing. The Mother of God is the first of the blessed, and it is she who bears the blessing; she is the woman who received Jesus into herself and brought him forth for the whole human family. In the words of the liturgy: “without losing the glory of virginity, [she] brought forth into the world the eternal light, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Preface I of the Blessed Virgin Mary).
Today is also the World Day of Peace – with much for which to pray, as the world is destabilized by the current Covidian crisis, many regions, even of the ‘civilized’ West, descending into further chaos – when we pray and hope that in each new year Christ, the Prince of Peace, will bring reconciliation in the hearts of men. For it is in the human heart that all conflicts – even, perhaps especially, the biggest of them – have their origin. But the human heart is also where harmony, justice and, most of all, charity are brought forth. As Saint Augustine put it, pax opus iusititiae – Peace is the work of justice.
Here are the words of Pope John Paul II back in 2002 on this day, which seems like an eternity ago now:
“Hail, holy Mother! The Child to whom you gave birth is the King of heaven and earth for ever” (cf. Entrance Antiphon).
With this ancient greeting, today, the eighth day of the Octave of Christmas and the first of the year 2002, the Church greets the Blessed Virgin Mary, invoking her as Mother of God.
In her the eternal Son of the Father took our very flesh and through Her became “son of David and son of Abraham” (Mt 1,1). Thus Mary is his true Mother: the Theotokos, Mother of God!
If Jesus is Life, Mary is the Mother of Life.
If Jesus is Hope, Mary is the Mother of Hope.
If Jesus is Peace, Mary is the Mother of Peace, Mother of the Prince of Peace.
Entering the new year, let us ask this holy Mother to bless us. Let us ask Her to give us Jesus, our full Blessing, in whom the Father blessed all history once and for all, making it become the history of salvation…
“Salve, Madre santa“! Virgin Daughter of Zion, how deeply must your Mother’s heart suffer for this bloodshed!
The Child you embrace has a name that is dear to the peoples of biblical religion: “Jesus”, which means “God saves”. So the Archangel named him before he was conceived in your womb (cf. Lk 2,21). In the face of the newborn Messiah, we recognize the face of all your children, who suffer from being despised and exploited. We recognize especially the faces of your children, to whatever race, nation or culture they may belong.
For them, O Mary, for their future, we ask you to move hearts hardened by hatred so that they may open to love and so that revenge may finally give way to forgiveness.
Obtain for us, O Mother, that the truth of this affirmation – No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness – be engraved on every heart. Thus the human family will be able to find the true peace, that flows from the union of justice and mercy.
Holy Mother, Mother of the Prince of Peace, help us!
Mother of Humanity and Queen of Peace, pray for us!