Today on the first day of the calendar year, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Mother of God. This solemn feast is the Octave Day of Christmas. The Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, was sent to sanctify the womb of the Virgin Mary and to cause her to conceive the eternal Son of the Father in a humanity drawn from her own. Therefore, Mary is rightly called the Mother of God since she is the mother of the eternal Son of God made man, Jesus Christ, who is God himself.
When we think of Mary as the Mother of God, we might tend to think of her as bearing and raising Jesus when he was an infant and toddler and young boy but having not much else of an influence on him as he matured. Saint Luke's Gospel contradicts such an idea. Jesus went down to Nazareth with his parents and was obedient to them. Mary kept all these things in her heart, and Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man. We all cherish the wise things and sayings that our own mothers taught us. Well, so it seems did Jesus. In Chapter 1 of Luke, Mary's magnificent song of praise to God called the Magnificat appears. In it, Mary praises God for her impending giving birth to Jesus, the Son of God. Mary rhapsodizes that her soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and her spirit rejoices in God her Savior, just as in Luke 10 her Son Jesus rejoices in the Holy Spirit and gives praise to his Father. This is the Magnificat, the hymn of praise to the heavenly Father, by her Son. Mary is elated that God lifts up the lowly—the lowly and humble of the land such as herself and casts down the great and mighty from their self-exalting thrones. Just so is Jesus rejoicing in the Spirit that the mysteries are hidden from the wise and learned but are revealed to the childlike. We can coin a phrase and say, “Like Mother, like Son.” Mary's canticle of praise epitomizes the entire Gospel that her Son will teach as he turns all worldly conceptions on their heads: the conceptions of rich over the poor, of the sophisticates over the simple, the powerful over the weak, the self-righteous over sinners. These worldly conceptions are all turned upside down in the proclamation of the Good News by Jesus. Jesus Christ our God and Savior is indeed the son of Mary, who is also our mother.
Mary is not only the Mother of Jesus, God and Savior, but is also the Mother of all who will be saved through him. On Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, Mother Mary is surrounded by the Apostle shepherds who in the power of the Holy Spirit will bring the saving Gospel to all people. We see a foreshadowing of this in the stable scene today where Mother Mary and Joseph and Jesus are surrounded by the shepherds of Bethlehem who will go forth from them on the birthday of Jesus with the announcement of the new born Savior, Christ the Lord. Mary and Joseph and Jesus remain with us. In heaven they are always praying to incorporate us more and more into the Holy Family. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.
Yes, Mary, Mother of God, is our mother and, mirabile dictu, we too are “mother of God.” Jesus tells us explicitly, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my mother.” This means that the more our lives conform to those of Jesus and Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, the more each of us helps to give birth and nourish the body of Christ that is the Church for the salvation of all people. We are called by God in Jesus and Mary to surrender to God's will as did each of them: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. “Be it done unto me according to your word,” Mary says to the Father through the Angel of the Annunciation. Jesus prays like his Mother during his agony in the Garden saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” Like Mother, like Son.
Mary gave her own body and blood to Jesus, as he was formed in her womb. In Holy Communion Jesus gives us his own glorified body and blood which he received from Mary. The Word and Eucharist together are the seed of the Holy Spirit in the womb of our hearts. Proclaimed and given to us, we receive both with the “Amen” spoken in faith, hope and love. May we all together give birth to Christ and bear Christ into our world. It would be the greatest blessing of this new year.
Madonna of the Carnation by Bernardino Luini. Excerpts from this morning’s homily by Father Luke.