We begin the New Calendar Year with the celebration of the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God. All Marian Doctrines focus on Mary’s relationship with Jesus. This Solemnity acknowledges that the child born of Mary was fully human and fully Divine. Mary is honored because of the Divine Nature of Jesus as the Mother of God. At the Annunciation the Angel Gabriel told Mary; “’He shall be called, Emmanuel,’ a name which means “God is with us.”
The Catechism describes Mary’s divine motherhood as, “Called in the Gospels ‘the mother of Jesus,’ Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as ‘the mother of my Lord’. In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God.” CCC 495
The Gospel is a short and simple account of the Nativity of Jesus that describes the response of the shepherds to the angel who appeared to them to announce the birth of Jesus, and the multitude of angels that appeared singing glory to God. The shepherds hurried to Bethlehem, found the Holy Family. The passage ends with the Shepherds returning to their flocks glorifying God, and word quickly spread about their experience and they announced this to everyone about Jesus. Nothing is written about the Holy Family’s reaction to their visit except that, “Mary kept all these things, in her heart.”
This passage has three lessons for us. The first, be attentive to how God speaks to us. Most of us do not experience angels appearing to us, but God’s word comes to us in numerous ways. He always speaks to us out of love and as a gift that we should be mindful of each day whether in Liturgy, the Bible, through others, or in our hearts. In all these we are called to “hear” God speaking in our hearts. The second lesson, Mary’s example in how she responded to her experiences of God’s presence. She savored the experience the visit of the shepherds and their account of how they had come seeking the newborn child. We live in a fast-moving world in which we have numerous experiences each day, and we quickly move from one to another without reflecting or cherishing these encounters. From Mary’s response we are given a lesson to reflect on our experiences of God’s presence and allow them to remain with us as a means of support in our faith journey. Finally, the shepherds returned to their flocks. As attentive as we might be, and as reflective to God’s presence at a particular moment, we too, must return to our regular lives. Like the Shepherds we should return changed by our experience in a way that will give us a new appreciation of what God has called us to do, and insight into how to make our experience of God more a part of our lives.
This Solemnity is part of our Christmas Celebration that continues until Sunday, January 10th, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Our immediate response can be to herald Christ’s birth like the angels, or witness to God’s love like the Shepherds. This is a season for us to rejoice at the Incarnation. So don’t be in such a hurry to take down the tree and put away the decorations. Be a witness of our Faith by wishing people a “Merry Christmas” until January 10th.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Image: Brother Placid Sellers, O.S.B., Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica