Happy New Year to one and all on this day, the day we Catholics commemorate and celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, a Holy Day of Obligation.
While we all look forward to 2016 and hope and pray for good things, personally and beyond, we Catholics look in this instance, with the help of Father Steve Grunow, at the Mystery of Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church:
Today, while much of the world marks the new beginning of the calendar year, the Church commemorates the great solemnity of the Mother of God.
What does this mean?
That the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of God means that the child— conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, carried in her body for nine months, and born into this world— is God. As such, this celebration highlights the pivotal truth of the Church’s Faith- that God has, in Jesus Christ, accepted a human nature, chosen to be born into this world as we have all been born into this world, and has lived a real, human life.
In doing so, God has accepted the full implication of what is means to be human, including the experiences of suffering and death.
The “how” of God accepting a human nature is an absolute mystery. It is a revelation that while it can be appreciated and believed, it can never be fully explained.
That the Blessed Virgin Mary is called Mother of God is not pious boilerplate, a kind of title by which we honor the woman who is the mother of Jesus Christ.
To testify that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of God is simultaneously a statement about her and a statement about Christ. On the one hand, it highlights the identity and mission of the Blessed Virgin Mary, an identity and mission that is absolutely singular and unique. No one else is or will ever be the Mother of God. No one else knows Christ as God in the manner that the Blessed Virgin Mary did.
God chose her in such a way that he does not choose us. God made the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary something that our lives will never be. There are points of contact between her experience and our own. She is fully and completely human, like we are. She is not divine. Nor does she, as a result of her unique identity and mission, turn into some kind of divine being. She is like us, but there is something so radically different about her identity and mission that while we can love her, we cannot fully understand her. She is a mystery.
So it is with her Divine Son.
When we identify the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother of God, the emphasis is only secondarily on her- it is primarily about Christ. Mary being referred to as the Mother of God tells us that Jesus Christ is God and was always God. Christ did not “turn” into God, and calling Christ God is not just some kind of projection by which we make Jesus of Nazareth someone very important. That Jesus is really and truly is God is a fact. God accepting a human nature in Christ and lived a real, human life is not just a story we tell that is all symbol, myth and legend- it is all true and it really happened.
Now, you might be waiting at this point for the “lesson”- a point of contact between the testimony I have given and your experience. We are accustomed to think that preaching must always deliver a lesson, but in this case, if there is a lesson, it is that God will always exceed human expectations and will do so in ways that are absolutely extravagant. What God had done and will do will not fit neatly into our categories of understanding nor will he be bound by what we think he should do.
What God will deliver to us are mysteries, and it is through these mysteries that we will be able to see and, even in our own limited way, understand who God is and what he asks of us. But even as this happens, what is given to us is not a way of figuring God out. The Incarnation of God in Christ is the singular and privileged way by which God reveals himself to the world. We see in Christ with the greatest clarity possible who God is and what he is all about.
For many years, I joined the throngs of believing Christians who thought the Catholic focus on Mary was too much, was idolatrous, was extreme and even cultic. That thought was borne of ignorance in many respects but also from my own intentional desire to be as completely Christ centered as I could possibly be as I chased being a faithful guy.
Now I’m finding that the more I come to honor Mary, the more devoted I am to her, the more I venerate her as the Father’s chosen salvific vehicle, the more aware of Christ I become.
It is truly a God delivered mystery, one I’ve come to embrace fully.
Mother Mary, pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.
Crossposted at Brutally Honest.