Have you ever wondered why the Church decided to celebrate Mary, as Mother of God, on the first day of each calendar year? After all, we’re still in the midst of Christmas! Isn’t this season already busy and full of Feast Days and devotions? Before she could be revealed as the Immaculate Conception, or celebrated as Our Lady of Fatima, Lourdes, or Guadalupe, or even honored as Lady Poverty by St. Francis, Mary first had to accept God’s will for her in salvation history in order to become the mother of the savior who was born on Christmas Day.
In St. Luke’s Gospel, Mary is first hailed as God’s “favored one!” If this title, bestowed by the Almighty’s messenger, wasn’t honor enough, Mary would later receive the even greater title of “Mother of God.” Her cousin St. Elizabeth would confer this title upon her with the words, “the mother of my Lord.” First, of course, Mary had to agree to what God asked of her! Mary may not have understood just how great the decision was that she made, but, despite her youth, she nevertheless had the great gift of faith in God. Because of her infinite trust in God and her famed fiat, we can definitively venerate Mary, the Mother of God, and ask for her intercession.
Mary fulfills a unique role in the Mystery of Christ and the Church. Hailed as Theotokos (literally, “God Bearer”) by the Church in 431 at the First Council of Ephesus, Mary’s title reflects not only her role in salvation history, but also asserts the divinity of Christ. Just as the moon does not bear its own light but instead reflects the light from the sun, Mary entirely reflects the brilliance and grace of God. While a universal celebration on October 11 of the feast of the “Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary” was not declared by the Church until 1931 by Pope Pius XI, history records similar celebrations as part of the Christmas octave as early as the 13th or 14th century in Rome and Spain. Later celebrations developed in the 18th century in Portugal, Brazil, and Algeria and continued to take root around the world. After this great feast was finally moved to the first day of January by Pope St. John XXIII (in his 1960 revision of the liturgical calendar and rites), the Church would, at the Council Second Vatican, reaffirm Mary’s place in the Church Universal:
Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved. She is “the mother of the members of Christ... having cooperated by charity that faithful might be born in the Church, who are members of that Head.”… The Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother.
Even more recently, Pope Francis reflected upon why Mary is thus honored as the Mother of God and not just the Mother of Jesus:
From the moment that our Lord became incarnate in Mary, and for all time, he took on our humanity. There is no longer God without man; the flesh Jesus took from his Mother is our own, now and for all eternity. To call Mary the Mother of God reminds us of this: God is close to humanity, even as a child is close to the mother who bears him in her womb.
As we continue our celebration of Christmas, let us consider how, in His mother, God the Son was made Incarnate not only to be with us, but also to be like us! The Blessed Mother, seen in every nativity scene, faithfully watches over the infant in the manger as the Mother of God and also as mother to each of us! She does so with great love, silently in her heart (cf. Luke 2:51). In Mary we find what really matters—not only during the Christmas season, but in the whole of the Christian life. As her children, may we look upon Mary with love and faithfully call upon her intercession with great affection.
To celebrate the Catholic Apostolate Center passing 50,000 "likes" on Facebook, Communications and Social Media Intern Andrew Buonopane created a list of 50 Ways to Enjoy your Faith. This is the last post in a five-part series where we have shared the whole list!
#10- Read Baptismal Promises
During the Easter season, we are sprinkled with Holy Water during Mass and during the Easter Vigil we renewed our Baptismal promises with those who were being baptized that night. Take some time to go back and read those promises. How has your understanding of these promises evolved as you’ve gotten older?
#9- Learn more about your Confirmation saint
Even though you probably know something about your Confirmation saint when you chose him or her, learning more about them is a great way to strengthen your faith!
#8- Learn more about your name saint
Were you named after a particular saint? Spend a few minutes researching your name saint and learn about why your parents may have chosen to name you after him or her.
#7- Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Lourdes, and Fatima
Our Blessed Mother is known by many names and titles throughout the world. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Lourdes, and Fatima are just a few. What is your favorite devotion to Our Lady?
#6- Learn more about Catholic Social Teaching
We often hear talk about Catholic Social Teaching, but have you ever studied the tenants of Catholic Social Teaching? Try learning more about this important facet of our faith, one that Pope Francis has urged us to focus on!
#5- Vocational Discernment Resources
Not sure of your vocation in life? Check out our Vocational Discernment resources, or read through these great blog posts about vocations!
#4- Joyfully TALK about your faith
TALKing about faith is a great acronym to help with Evangelization. Tone it down, Assume the best intentions, Limit your claims, Keep to the issue. The New Evangelization calls for all of us to talk more about our faith. For more information, see our New Evangelization resource page!
#3- Who Jesus Is: God and Man
One of the core tenants of our faith is that we understand Christ as both Human and Divine. Reflect on what this might mean for your own understanding and encounter with Christ.
#2- Receive Jesus Christ.
#1- Say “Thank You” to The Holy Trinity! The God who is love has given us everything!
It’s easy to pray to God for things we want or things that are troubling us, but never forget to pray simply to thank God for all his blessings!
To read the previous installments in this series, click here: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV
Andrew Buonopane is the Communications and Social Media Intern at the Catholic Apostolate Center