As the secular world recovers from New Year’s Eve celebrations (and admittedly one or two of us may have stayed up past midnight), Catholics begin the year with a feast known as the Solemnity of Mary Holy Mother of God. This feast day was added to the church calendar in 1969 during the church’s reform of the liturgical calendar.
The title “Mother of God” was officially promulgated at the Council of Ephesus in 431. In fact, one of the reasons this council was called was to put to rest the debate over Mary’s role. What it produced turned out to be the first Marian dogma. The council went so far as to declare the following:
“If anyone does not confess that the Emmanuel (Christ) in truth is God and that on this account the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Theotokos) in as much as she gave birth to the Word of God made flesh…let him be anathema.”
This declaration was backed soon after by Saint Gregory Nazianzen who is considered both a Father and Doctor of the Church. He stated:
“If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Mother of God, he is severed from the Godhead. If anyone should assert that He passed through the Virgin as through a channel, and was not at once divinely and humanly formed in her (divinely, because without the intervention of a man; humanly, because in accordance with the laws of gestation), he is in like manner godless.”
In more recent years Venerable Fulton J. Sheen wrote:
“Any objection to calling her the ‘Mother of God’ is fundamentally an objection to the Deity of Christ. The consecrated phrase ‘Theotokos,’ ‘Mother of God,’ has ever since 432 been the touchstone of the Christian faith…As [Doctor of the Church] John of Damascus said: ‘This name contains the whole mystery of the Incarnation’…It implies a twofold generation of the Divine Word: one eternal in the bosom of the Father; the other temporal in the womb of Mary. Mary, therefore, did not bear a ‘mere man,’ but the ‘true God.’”
We must also remember that not only is Mary the Mother of God, but that she is our Mother as well. Jesus gave her to us from the Cross. Mary is always listening and waiting to help us. This can be a hard concept for non-Catholics to grasp. In fact, it is one of the largest hurdles for many converts to overcome. However, a clear understanding of how much God Himself loved Mary is proof that we are to do the same.
Mary was God’s perfect and spotless vessel for carrying His Son. As Jesus took up his ministry, who did he listen to when asked to perform his first miracle? Mary at the wedding feast of Cana. Mary is a pathway to Christ. His love for Mary, the Queen of heaven, means he will answer her every request.
It is fitting for us to take a moment today to honor Mary the Mother of God, our Mother. As St. Maximilian Kolbe tells us, “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”