As Dame Catherine reminds use over at iBenedictines:
Like January itself, named for the old pagan god Janus, it is a feast that looks two ways: back into the history of the Chosen People, forward into eternity. Mary herself is the hinge between the Old and New Covenants: she gives us Jesus Christ to be our Saviour, and we ourselves, by virtue of our baptism, are part of the great chain of being centred on Him. But an octave means eight days celebrated as one, with the eighth day a symbol of perfection, the point at which we go beyond time and enter eternity. So today is Christmas Day just as much as 25 December, but also our launch-pad into eternity.
We monks sing a short song in Mary’s honour at the very end of the day’s prayers every single evening. Depending on the time of the year, we address her as the ‘Kindly Mother of the Redeemer’; ‘Queen of the Heavens’; ‘Queen of Heaven’; ‘Queen and Mother of Mercy’ and ‘Holy Mother of God.’ Every time Pope Francis leaves Rome, he goes first to the Basilica of Mary Major, to pray before an icon of Mary, ‘Health of the People of Rome’. He visits it again on his return, sometimes on his way back from the airport, even before he returns to the Vatican. Mary is big in the Catholic landscape….
All of these titles and devotions can seem a bit exotic to some people’s taste. Some over-rational minds find it all a bit much. It looks to them as if we simply cannot say or celebrate anything about Jesus without somehow dragging Mary in it too. Or that we don’t understand the uniqueness of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, and life and ministry of Jesus, or the unique saving power of his Passion, Death and Resurrection well enough, and so feel the need for mediators and third parties… Some write off Marian devotion completely as superstition or emotion and as a sign that we don’t really take the Gospel seriously.
They are wrong! In fact they couldn’t be more wrong! It is because we take the Incarnation seriously that we honour Mary! Mary is the proof and guarantee that God, in Jesus, became truly human. Mary was not a surrogate or a mere incubator, to use language which has become current in our ‘brave new world’…. Jesus was physically her true son, the fruit of her womb, with all the wonderful and sometimes messy consequences which that entails. A spirit doesn’t have a mother. A human being does…. A projection doesn’t feed at the breast. A baby does….. There is no more serious way of getting in touch with the reality of what God in Jesus did at the Incarnation than to reflect on and honour the bodily maternal role of Mary. She is the mother of Jesus. But she is more. For, because Jesus truly is whom we say he is – God – so is Mary the God-bearer, the Theotokos. She is the MOTHER OF GOD. Out of the many hundreds of titles of honour for Mary, that is the one under which we honour her today, the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. What could show more clearly that God in Jesus truly became one of us than the fact that he had a human mother?
Mary the Dawn, Christ the Perfect DayMary the Gate, Christ the Heav’nly Way!Mary the Root, Christ the Mystic VineMary the Grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!Mary the Wheat-sheaf, Christ the Living BreadMary the Rose-Tree, Christ the Rose Blood-red!Mary the Font, Christ the Cleansing FloodMary the Chalice, Christ the Saving Blood!Mary the Temple, Christ the Temple’s LordMary the Shrine, Christ the God adored!Mary the Beacon, Christ the Haven’s RestMary the Mirror, Christ the Vision Blest!Mary the Mother, Christ the Mother’s Son.Of all the celebrations in honour of Mary that I listed at the start, the feast of her motherhood, on the first day of the year, is by far the oldest. Over the centuries, the naming and circumcision of Jesus was given more emphasis. This is understandable, given that today’s Gospel tells us that the naming and circumcision took place ‘after eight days had passed’. However, since Vatican II, New Year’s Day has happily once again become the feast of Mary’s motherhood. I say ‘happily’ because the feast of Mary as Mother of God is not only the oldest celebration in honour of Mary. In a real sense, it is the greatest one. All of her other titles, and all of her privileges – including dogmas the Church teaches about her, such as her Immaculate Conception, her virginity and her Assumption – only make sense because Mary is the Mother of God. Were she not God’s mother, would she have been preserved free from the stain of sin from the moment of her conception? Were she not God’s mother, would she have been saved from physical decay and assumed bodily into heaven? Of course not! It is because she is Mother of God that she enjoys these privileges. And more significantly for us, it is because she is Mother of God that we can claim her as Mother of the Church and our Mother too. Rightly we sang at the beginning of this Mass:
Salve sancta Parens….Hail holy Mother, Child-Bearer, who have brought forth the King who rules heaven and earth for ever.
Sub tuum præsidium confugimus….We fly to your patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.So let us not be bashful about expressing our love and devotion for the Holy Mother of God! Drawing close to her, we draw close Jesus – Emmanuel, the God who comes to save us. She is the glory of Jerusalem. She is the joy of Israel. She is the highest honour of our race.
You bore for me the One who came to bless
And bear for all, to make the broken whole.
You heard his call, and in your open ‘yes’
You spoke aloud for every living soul.
Oh gracious Lady, child of your own child,
Whose mother-love still calls the child in me,
Call me again, for I am lost and wild
Waves surround me now. On this dark sea
Shine as a star and call me to the shore.
Open a door that all my sins would close
And hold me in your garden. Let me share
The prayer that folds the petals of the Rose.
Enfold me too in love’s last mystery,
And bring me to the One you bore for me.
Other homily's on the Solemnity:
Pope Francis - Homily for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God