JANUARY 1, 2006, MARY, MOTHER OF GOD: GAL 4:4-7; LUKE 2: 16-21


WHEN THE APPOINTED TIME CAME, GOD SENT HIS SON, BORN OF A WOMAN, BORN A SUBJECT OF THE LAW, TO REDEEM THOSE SUBJECT TO THE LAW. Today we celebrate the greatest of Maryís honors. She is the mother of God for the child to whom she gave birth is himself divine, one with God the Father with whom he is united in the Holy Spirit. It is in view of this high distinction that the other favors she received were bestowed on her from on high. It was not immediately apparent that this title Mother of God, Theotokos in Greek, was appropriate; serious objections were made by earnest and religious men opposing the use of this term in her regard? Before this question could be answered, the more basic question concerning the nature and person of Jesus had to be clarified. For this to be done a fresh concept of person required to be worked out, and the relation of person to nature. And so it was only after three centuries, in 431 A.D. at Ephesus, that the Church officially gave approval to this title, Theotokos, which means literally "God-bearing", that is "Mother of God."

One reason this title of Mary gave rise to such confusion and became a source of division is that the birth of Jesus is the beginning of a new creation. Nothing quite like this event had ever taken place, not will it ever be repeated; it is unique. And so the concepts that are used to set it forth simply did not exist; they had to be forged and shaped so as to fit the reality they signify. Many found it unacceptable to think of God becoming man. When Jesus laid claim to a power considered exclusively a possession of God- the power to forgive sins- he was judged to be guilty of blasphemy. Yet he deliberately healed a paralyzed man in order to show that in fact he possesses that divine prerogative. Mary gave her consent to enter into the Divine plan without having any clear conception of just what it entailed beyond believing that her child belonged more to God than to herself. She was to live with this obscure knowledge day by day in the intimacy of family life. St. Luke gives us a glimpse of how necessarily limited was her understanding of the relation Jesus bore to the Father when, upon finding him in the temple after three days when he was lost to her, her son tells her that he has special knowledge of the Fatherís plans that she lacks.

In fact, the mystery of the Incarnation that took place through her consent in faith, surpasses the powers of the mind and spirit to grasp in any extensive detail. It can be accepted only in the obscurity of faith. That remains true even after the Resurrection of our Lord, although that event is given as a powerful stimulus to this belief, yet only faith gains access to this profound mystery. As intimate as was her relation with her son, Mary lived out her life in the same condition of faith that is our response to her son. In a certain way, her faith was tested daily and grew day by day as she participated in the experiences associated with relating to one who was growing through the various stages of human development. She never lost confidence that there was a divine plan being realized in each human stage of her sonís course, however obscure the surface realities of everyday life. For, living in a small town Mary was subject to the same influences that all of us experience from our immediate neighborhood and our families. In Markís gospel we are given an indication that Mary was one point carried along with relatives out of very human if misplaced concern for our Lordís welfare. Yet her faith in his person and his mission remained intact and strong so that at the hour of his greatest suffering and rejection she stood by him, faithful to the end.

And so she fulfilled the high mission assigned to her, not only to conceive and give birth to the Son of God, but to be his teacher and trainer in the art of life and his most intimate associate.

Maryís fidelity and faith enabled her to bear the Son of God and to assist him to prepare for his work as Redeemer of our race. She shows us that faith is the fundamental expression of love, and that love gives rise to trust stronger than death itself. At her intercession, may God our Father, who chose her to be mother of his Son, grant all of us the grace to imitate her faith and prove constant in our witness to His truth and His mercy.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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