Jan 1, 2016

New Year - new life


O God, who through the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary
bestowed on the human race
the grace of eternal salvation,
grant we pray, 
that we may experience the intercession of her, 
through whom we were found worthy
to receive the author of life, 
our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son. 

(Opening Prayer of Mass)


Once called the Feast of the Circumcision - thankfully the focus was changed on that title -  the first day of the year now marks in our liturgical calendar the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.  

In our Catholic/Christian spirituality, we are very familiar and comfortable with this title for Jesus' mother.  However, it was a great point of controversy in the first centuries of the Church as various opinions about the nature of Jesus circulated. They all pretty much settled around the tension or blend between the nature of Christ - his divinity and humanity.  

How fully human was he really?  Did he pre-exist before time or did the Father sort of bring him into existence, as a kind of lesser God, in the womb of Mary.  Was he of the same "substance" as the Father?  How equal was he to God the Father and the Spirit?  How could God be born of a human mother?  Why would he need to? 
If Jesus was born of Mary, how could he be equal to God?  

It was not until the 4th century that Emperor Constantine called the Council of Ephesus and demanded the Bishops in a sense get their act together on these crucial issues and decide once for all who Jesus is.  The added title for Mary as "Theotokos" (God bearer) was certainly contoversial as you can imagine.  

Finally, the opinion prevailed that Jesus, being of the same substance as God: "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God . . ." as we regularly proclaim in the Creed, was indeed divine yet took on human nature fully, thus was born of a human mother.  

Therefore, if Jesus is divine, God himself, Mary was given the singular privilege never to be repeated of bearing the Son of God.  She is in that sense the "Mother" of God.  It not only fleshes out the fullness of who Jesus is but supports the great privilege Mary was given.  

While she is the mother of Jesus she is also therefore our spiritual mother.  And we, born of water and spirit, are children of the Church.  

In the Gospel below, that for this beautiful new year beginning, we see not the powerful and mighty but lowly shepherds become the great voice to announce to others the birth of the Savior.  Like the shepherds we too are called to be the voice of the good news that God has visited his people.  History is forever changed and as our Holy Father Pope Francis reminds us, "Mercy is the heart of God. It must also be the heart of the members of the one great family of his children: a heart which beats all the more strongly wherever human dignity- as a reflection of the face of God in his creatures - is in place."  (December 8, 2015).

Mary Mother of God, pray for us. 

Lk 2: 16-21

The Shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.  All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.  and Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.  
When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.