1 January [Mary Mother of God]
The shepherds went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
A new year is like a new baby: it has to be given a name, and yes, today’s readings are about naming. The first reading says, “They shall put my name on the people” (Numbers 6:27), and in the Gospel the child is named Jesus (verse 21). We begin the year in God’s name, and in the name of God’s Son. Who are we? We are the people who have been given the right, because of Jesus, to call God “Abba, Father” (2nd reading, verse 6). In the hymn, God addresses you: “I have called you by your name, you are mine.”
Mary’s presence marks the beginning of the year. It is appropriate to have a mother to accompany our first steps. January 1st is always her feast. Her title, ‘Mother of God, affirms equally the humanity and the divinity of Christ. The Nestorians – followers of Nestorius, the 5th-century archbishop of Constantinople – said that Christ was two persons: the man Jesus and the divine Son of God. This view was rejected at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD), which insisted that he was one person with two natures, divine and human. The most emphatic way they could say this was to affirm that Mary was not just the mother of the man Jesus, but that she was the mother of God. This was their way of saying that Christ was one person, not two. The word used of Mary was ‘Theotokos’ (Greek for ‘God-bearer’). The Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) continued the use of this term, and it has become orthodox Christian teaching. Note that it is more a statement about Christ than about Mary – or rather, equally so. Icons of the ‘Theotokos’ are common now in the West.
In a sense, when a child is born a mother is born. When a child is born, its mother begins to be a mother. Even if she was already mother to other children this new child makes her a new mother; a new chapter in her mothering begins. In the birth of the Son of God, Mary begins to be the Mother of God. When a Child is born, a Mother is born.
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