Daily Saints – 1 January.
Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.
‘World Day of Peace’
Today’s Feast of Mary, the Mother of God is a very appropriate way to begin a new year. This celebration reminds us that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is also our Heavenly Mother. We celebrate her as the Mother of God, because, in bearing Christ, she bore the fullness of the Godhead within her.
Mary was called the Mother of God from very early in the Church’s history. One of her earliest titles in the liturgy is ‘Theotokos’ which translates “God-Bearer”. From this title she began to be called “Mother of God”. This title of Mary was given precisely in order to reinforce the teaching on Christ’s nature handed down from the Apostles—that Jesus was truly God and truly man.
The dogma of Mary as the Mother of God was established at the Council of Ephesus. From the decree: “If anyone does not confess that Emmanuel is God in truth, and therefore that the holy virgin is the mother of God (for she bore in a fleshly way the Word of God become flesh), let him be anathema.”
The decrees of the Council were then approved by Pope Sixtus III. The universal Church declared once for all that Mary is indeed the Mother of God, and this title was established to protect the true doctrine of Christ’s nature from every heresy that denies it.
The oldest Christian greeting of Mary was proclaimed when Mary’s relative Elizabeth called her “Mother of my Lord.” When Elizabeth welcomed Mary, she recognized both the great privilege God had given Mary and Mary’s great faith in accepting it.
For centuries, Mary has been praised because she believed. She is Mother of God because of her faith in God. The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, celebrates Mary’s faith and trust in God alone. The Church wants us to imitate her faith.
In the early centuries of the Church, once Christmas began to be celebrated as its own feast on December 25, the Octave (eighth day) of Christmas, January 1, took on a special meaning. In the East, and throughout much of the West, it became common to celebrate a feast of Mary, the Mother of God, on this day. This feast was never established in the universal calendar of the Church, however, and a separate feast, celebrating the Circumcision of Our Lord Jesus Christ (which would have taken place a week after His birth), eventually took hold of January 1.
With the revision of the liturgical calendar at the time of the introduction of the Novus Ordo, the Feast of the Circumcision was set aside, and the ancient practice of dedicating January 1 to the Mother of God was revived—this time, as a universal feast.
The Church observes this day also as the ‘World Day of Peace’ and invites us to pray specially for peace in the world. Inspired by Pope John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical, Pacem in Terris, Pope Paul St. Paul VI, in 1967, instituted this feast.
“On the first day of the year, we celebrate this nuptial union between God and mankind, inaugurated in the womb of a woman. In God, there will forever be our humanity and Mary will forever be the Mother of God. She is both woman and mother: this is what is essential. From her, a woman, salvation came forth and thus there is no salvation without a woman. In her, God was united to us, and if we want to unite ourselves to him, we must take the same path: through Mary, woman and mother. That is why we begin the year by celebrating Our Lady, the woman who wove the humanity of God. If we want to weave humanity into this our time, we need to start again from the woman.” – Pope Francis, 1 January 2020
“The text tells us, “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (v. 19). She kept all these things: joy at the birth of Jesus and sadness for the lack of hospitality shown in Bethlehem; the love of Joseph and the amazement of the shepherds; the promise and the uncertainty of the future. She took everything to heart, and in her heart, she put everything in its right place, even hardships and troubles. In her heart, she lovingly set all things in order and entrusted everything to God. In the Gospel, Mary does this a second time: at the end of the hidden life of Jesus, we are told that “his mother kept all these things in her heart” (v. 51). This repetition makes us realize that “keeping in her heart” was not something nice that Our Lady did from time to time, but something habitual. Women typically take life to heart. Women show us that the meaning of life is not found in making things but in taking things to heart. Only those who see with the heart see things properly, because they know how to “look into” each person: to see a brother apart from his mistakes, a sister apart from her failings, hope amid difficulty. They see God in all persons and things.” – Pope Francis, 1 January 2020
“As we begin this new year, let us ask ourselves: Do I know how to see with the heart? Do I know how to look at people with the heart? Do I take to heart the people with whom I live? Or do I tear them down by gossip? And above all, do I put the Lord at the centre of my heart, or other values, other interests, like advancement, riches, power? Only if we take life to heart will we know how to take care and overcome the indifference all around. So let us ask for the grace to live this year with the desire to take others to heart and to care for them.” – Pope Francis, 1 January 2020
In the encyclical “Marialis Cultus” (1974) Pope Paul VI states: “This celebration, assigned to January 1 in conformity with the ancient liturgy of the city of Rome, is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the ‘holy Mother . . . through whom we were found worthy . . . to receive the Author of life.’ It is likewise a fitting occasion for renewed adoration of the newborn Prince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the angels, and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace. For this reason . . . we have instituted the World Day of Peace, an observance that is gaining increasing support and is already bringing forth fruits of peace in the hearts of many” (no. 5).
“The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the word of God in her heart and in her body . . . is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the Redeemer…. Rightly, therefore, the Fathers see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but as freely cooperating in the work of man’s salvation through faith and obedience” (Second Vatican Council, “Lumen Gentium”, nos. 53 and 56).
Mary, the Holy Mother of God
Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory of Nazianzen