Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God
December 31, 2022/January 1, 2023
Humble and bold. Two words we typically do not associate in our minds. Humble and bold…. we find them both in the person of Mary, the Mother of God.
The humble Virgin Mary, docile to God’s will, to God’s Word, yet the most bold of all the witnesses to the Word made flesh, to her Son and Lord, Jesus! Mary, the Mother of God, Theotokos.
No, it was not Peter. No, it was not James or John or Paul who was the boldest yet most humble of all the witnesses of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. No, it was Mary, theotokos, for it was from her heart that came these words: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord! My spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. The Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.
It was Mary who bore the most humble yet bold witness to her Son. It was Mary who bore the Word of God in her heart and then conceived that Word in her womb. To quote Pope Francis, “The flesh of Christ was knit together in the womb of Mary… The Blessed Virgin is the woman of faith who made room for God in her heart and in her plans.” (Francis, 1-1-15)
Only because of her faith in that Word that had come to her, a Word she nurtured and pondered in her immaculate heart, was she then able to conceive that Word by the power of the Holy Spirit, and bear the Son of God, her creator and savior, Jesus. Yes, she is “God-bearer”, Theotokos in Greek, as the Church Fathers proclaimed in the Council of Ephesus in 431.
We, God’s people, cannot understand Jesus without his Mother. Mary is so closely united to Jesus because she kept close to her heart the Word made flesh. She spent her life contemplating and pondering the World of God that was and is her son, Jesus. Mary in contemplating her son, Jesus, becomes a model for the Church who also reflects on the Incarnation, on the mystery of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis said, “… inseparable are Christ and the Church; the salvation accomplished by Jesus cannot be understood without appreciating the motherhood of the Church…Mary [is] the first and most perfect disciple of Jesus, the model of the pilgrim Church, is the one who opens the way to the Church’s motherhood… She, the Mother of God, is also the mother of the Church, and through the Church, the mother of all men and women…” (Ibid)
Yes, Mary kept close to her heart the Word made flesh. She said, “Yes!” She said “Fiat!” St. Augustine would write that Mary was more blessed for hearing God’s word and keeping custody of it in her heart than because of the flesh she gave to her divine Son. Since this was true, Mary was able to follow her Son every step of the way. She was able to stand by her Son as he died on the cross, stand by him without staining her immaculate heart. She knew it was by virtue of her faith in the Word of God that she had been able to conceive that Word in her womb, and it was by faith in that Word that she was able to give bold witness to her Son when he gave up his life on the Cross.
Mary, who surpasses all of us in her sanctity and her fidelity, Mary, the Mother of God, remaims like us, a member of the Church, and a member of the Body of Christ, her Son, and a witness to her Son’s life, death, and resurrection.
You too are members of the Body of Christ, the Church. You also carry God’s Word in your hearts and you are to be witnesses to that Word, to Jesus Christ. Just as St. Augustine spoke of Mary, St. Ambrose spoke of us when he wrote: Blessed are you who have heard and believed; every soul that believes conceives and begets the Word of God. May Mary’s soul be in each of us to glorify the Lord. May the spirit of Mary be within each of us to exalt in God. (Commentary on Luke, CCL 14, 39-42)
You will be more blessed and find greater dignity in the Word you nourish in your hearts and profess with your lips than in any office you may bear. You are first, and most importantly, members of the Body of Christ. Never separate yourselves from this Body, from the Church! Never!
You cannot become witnesses to Jesus unless you have first welcomed the Word in your hearts, treasured it, nurtured it, pondered it, obeyed it, followed it, and trusted it. Mary would not have become the Mother of God, Theotokos, had she not first accepted and kept the Word of God in her immaculate heart. You cannot become witnesses to Jesus if you do not first hold in the purity of your hearts the Word entrusted to you. Mary could not have endured the passion and death of her Son had she not first cradled in her heart the Word that had come to her. You will not be able to endure the trials and difficulties of life without first knowing, nurturing, and loving the Word entrusted to you.
Yes, our lives, both individually and together as the Church, are to be modeled after Mary. Ours is a vocation of humble service to God and humanity. We are to give humble yet bold witness to Jesus Christ.
May our lives magnify the Lord, as did Mary’s!