As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. What Mary did, treasuring and pondering the mysteries of Christ, as twice reported by St. Luke, is what the Church ever does; what the liturgy does; what theologians do, what monks do, what all Christians who pray do. Today is the eighth day specially given to us to ponder, with Mary, the mystery of Christ’s birth. It’s the Octave day of Christmas, the day on which Jesus was circumcised and named, and the first day of our New Year.
Today’s Solemnity proclaims, once again, that the One our Blessed Lady bore at Bethlehem is truly God. He is truly the Word made flesh, and she is truly his Mother. Today we ponder again how he came down, in order to raise us up; how he took what is ours, in order to give us what is his; how, in St. Paul’s words, he became a slave, in order to make us sons.
So the liturgy today sings: O admirabile commercium! “O wonderful exchange!” Creator generis humani… “The Creator of the human race, taking a human soul and body, deigned to be born of the Virgin: and coming forth as a human being, though without an earthly father, gave us a share in his own divinity.”
It will be impossible, as longs as this world lasts, ever to plumb in all its depths the greatness of this divine mystery. No single person, nor the whole Church together, could ever come to an end of wondering at it, nor ever fully grasp all its implications, nor ever sufficiently praise and thank God for the goodness, mercy and love he has shown us through it.
And if it’s true that we can never sufficiently praise God, it’s also true that we can never sufficiently honour his Blessed Mother. Since her glory comes from being Mother of God, one would first have to comprehend God in order to measure the greatness of her dignity.
So in the Divine Praises we call her the “Great Mother of God, Mary most holy”, and we bless her holy name. Benedicta magna Mater Dei, Maria sanctissima…. Benedictum nomen Mariae, Virginis et Matris. She is blessed among all women, and through her we receive the greatest of all blessings, which is Jesus. In him God’s mysterious face, and name, invoked in the blessing of Aaron, becomes no longer a mere metaphor, but immediately present and visible to us. And if in Jesus God uncovers his face to us, and lets it shine upon us, how much more to her, his own Mother?
Mary’s dignity as Mother of God can never be taken from her. Her divine Motherhood was not just a passing moment in her life, a necessary stage which salvation history made use of, then subsequently moved on from. No: the humanity Jesus took from his holy Mother, he took with him into heaven at his Resurrection and Ascension. There it abides for all eternity, and the unique relationship he had with her on earth remains unique forever in heaven.
Celebrating the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God on 1st January was a post-Conciliar innovation. One immediate consequence of it is that the whole coming year is placed, as it were, under the banner of Mary. We don’t know what this year will bring. We do though today entrust to her motherly care, and her powerful intercession, all our hopes and aspirations for it: for peace in the world; for the restoration of economic stability; for our own growth in grace; for the flourishing of holy Church, especially through good new vocations,; for relief for the afflicted, healing for the sick, light for those in darkness, the conversion of sinners, an end to the persecution of Christians.
But whether in God’s providence 2015 turns out to be for us predominantly a year of rejoicing or of sorrow, we know that in God’s grace it will be an opportunity, an invitation, a call. As we look today at Mary, Mother of God, we reflect again on the greatness of the vocation we all share; on the great possibilities open for all of us. For all of us are called, with Mary, to be God bearers. All are called to be, with her, sons and daughters of God in Jesus Christ; with her to be his disciples and witnesses; with her his cooperators for the salvation of the world.
The title of Mary we celebrate in today’s feast will always retain its dogmatic significance, as the defence against all heresies, against all interpretations of the Gospel which diminish or distort the full force of its good news. But nowadays we want to understand it also as a defence of the dignity of every human person, and perhaps especially of the dignity of all women. For God loves each person, as he loves his Mother, for his or her own sake. People may indeed be abused, degraded, exploited; they may be deeply culpable morally; they may through their own folly or sin make a mess of their lives. In each case, though, the desire of God is always to honour them; to draw them to himself in love; ultimately to raise them to an eternal throne in heaven, where they can be united in joy forever with Jesus, and with all who belong to him.
Secular atheism understands nothing of this. It celebrates Christmas, unaware of the cause of our joy. It professes to defend human rights, but does so only selectively. Heedless of the source of all our blessings, knowing nothing of our divinely given dignity and vocation, it does not give God either love or thanks or praise. Yet to give God the glory is our supreme happiness, our own glory, ultimately even our life, for we were made for that, and cannot be happy without it.
Today, then, with the whole Church, with all the Saints and Angels, we magnify the Lord, with Mary, and through Mary. We praise and thank him especially for all he has done in and through his most Blessed Mother. And turning to her in love and veneration, we ask her to add, to our own faltering efforts, the praises of her Immaculate Heart. Hail Mary, full of grace, we cry, certain that in so doing our prayer will be pleasing to her Son, and will give him great glory.