Mary, the Mother of God

Central Idea: Mary, the Mother of God. Doctrine: Jesus Christ, true God and true Man. Practical Application: Contemplate Christ and his Mother.

To view Lectionary 18, for the Octave Day of Christmas, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, click here.

Central Idea: Mary, the Mother of God

Reading 1 Nm 6:22-27

The LORD said to Moses:
“Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them:
This is how you shall bless the Israelites.
Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites,
and I will bless them.”

  • Mary has been blessed by the Lord in full. Before she became the Mother of God, the Lord looked upon her more kindly than any woman who ever lived, redeeming her from original sin. Then when her Son, who was the Lord, was born, his face literally shone upon her daily, looking upon her kindly. And now as Queen of Heaven, that same Lord looks on her with infinite favor.
  • A beautiful truth for us is that Our Lady looks down on us with that same favor. Like the moon does with the sun’s light, she reflects for us all she receives from God the Most High.
  • Another beautiful truth is that we can look upon those around us with a reflection of God’s favor. We can give them, as Pope Benedict XVI put it, “the look of love that they crave.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8.

R. May God bless us in his mercy.

May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.

May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.

May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!

  • One way that the nations, that is, non-believers, will become believers is if some people witness to God’s being and goodness, so that people see God’s face through them.
  • God’s way can be summarized as to love God above all things and to love one’s neighbor as self. One who does this does have fear of God. This is a sufficient guide for all the nations to live in harmony.
  • Above all others, Mary is the one that God has had pity on, has blessed, and has let his face shine upon. She is the one, par excellence, to whom he has made known his ways.

Reading 2 Gal 4:4-7

Brothers and sisters:
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.
As proof that you are sons,
God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying out, “Abba, Father!”
So you are no longer a slave but a son,
and if a son then also an heir, through God.

  • Mary was the first mere human being to be ransomed, to be adopted as a daughter of God, to receive the Spirit of the Son in her heart, to call God, “Abba, Father,” to be not a slave but a daughter, and to be an heir of heaven.

Alleluia Heb 1:1-2

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets;
in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son.

  • Since God has spoken to us definitively through his Son, we should listen to him and reflect on what he has “said,” in his words and his deeds, in our hearts.
  • One way to “listen” to him is to see the effect he has on those who have listened to him the most closely.
  • Mary has heard the word of God and kept it. She advises us to “do whatever he tells” us. She stood at the foot of the cross.

Gospel Lk 2:16-21

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision,
he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb.

  • What did Mary ponder in her heart? The answer is surely many things. Two of them we know from the Gospel of St. Luke.
    • First, at the Annunciation, Gabriel said of this baby, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And this will be able to occur because “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Lk 1:32-35).
    • Second, at the Nativity, Mary must have pondered what the Shepherds told her the angel told them: her baby is “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11).
  • Mary’s son is not only the promised heir of David, not only a “Savior” of Israel, not only the long-awaited “Christ” or Messiah, and not only “the Lord.” Most important, not only will he be called “Son of the Most High” and “the Son of God” but he really is God’s Son.
  • And if Mary’s son is the Son of God, then she is the Mother of God.

Doctrine: Jesus Christ, true God and true Man

  • The Blessed Virgin Mary and we are mere Jesus Christ was man but he was not merely a man. The doctrine of the Incarnation means that Jesus Christ “became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man.” (CCC 464)
  • Christ is not an extraordinary creature in some way adopted by God; rather, he was “begotten, not made, of the same substance (homoousios) as the Father,” as taught in Nicaea in 325 (CCC 456).
  • Christ is one divine person, the Son, who has united to himself a full human nature. “St. Cyril of Alexandria and the third ecumenical council, at Ephesus in 431, confessed ‘that the Word, uniting to himself in his person the flesh animated by a rational soul, became man.’ Christ’s humanity has no other subject than the divine person of the Son of God, who assumed it and made it his own, from his conception.”(CCC 466)
  • This is why we dare to say and need to say that Mary is the Mother of God. As the Council of Ephesus taught in 431, “Mary truly became the Mother of God by the human conception of the Son of God in her womb: ‘Mother of God, not that the nature of the Word or his divinity received the beginning of its existence from the holy Virgin, but that, since the holy body, animated by a rational soul, which the Word of God united to himself according to the hypostasis, was born from her, the Word is said to be born according to the flesh.’” (CCC 466)
  • There is, of course, much more to be said, but this is sufficient to contemplate Mary as the Mother of God.

Practical Application: Contemplate Christ and his Mother

  • One good thing we can do on a solemnity like this is to contemplate the reality behind the doctrine. Reason can ponder Divine Revelation (the Biblical narrative), with the help of the theological concepts, and in light of the poetic imagination.
  • Below is the medieval poem “I Sing of a Maiden.” It is about the Incarnation of Christ in the immaculate, virginal womb of Mother of God. It could be such a vehicle to join imagination, emotion, reason, and Revelation for our benefit.

Medieval English original

I syng of a mayden
That is makeles,
king of alle kinges
to here sone she chees.

He cam also stille
Ther his moder was
As dew in Aprylle,
That fallyt on the gras.

He cam also stille
To his modres bowr
As dew in Aprylle,
That falleth on the flowr.

He cam also stille
Ther his moder lay
As dew in Aprylle,
That falleth on the spray.

Moder & mayden
Was nevere noon but she:
Well may swich a lady
Godes moder be. 

Modern English version

I sing of a maiden
That is matchless,
King of all kings
For her son she chose.

He came as still
Where his mother was
As dew in April
That falls on the grass.

He came as still
To his mother’s bower
As dew in April
That falls on the flower.

He came as still
Where his mother lay
As dew in April
That falls on the spray.

Mother and maiden
There was never, ever one but she;
Well may such a lady
God’s mother be.

  • The humble young virgin (maiden) chose the King of Kings (Christ) to be her son.
  • She is “makeless,” meaning simultaneously matchless, spotless, and mateless.
  • His conception happened as gently and mysteriously as the appearance of dew on a spring morning on an arbor of new grass, flowers, and sprays of leaves.

The Homiletic Directory recommends the following Catechism points and themes for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God:

  • CCC 464-469: Jesus Christ, true God and true Man
  • CCC 495, 2677: Mary is the Mother of God
  • CCC 1, 52, 270, 294, 422, 654, 1709, 2009: our adoption as sons
  • CCC 527, 577-582: Jesus submits to the Law, and perfects it
  • CCC 580, 1972: the New Law frees from restrictions of the Old Law
  • CCC 683, 689, 1695, 2766, 2777-2778: in the Holy Spirit we can call God “Abba”
  • CCC 430-435, 2666-2668, 2812: the name of Jesus
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