Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God
The Gospel describes a scene that is popularly presented on Christmas cards even while it is captured in the nativity crèche in most Churches. It is the familiar site of the Holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, gathered in a Bethlehem stable shortly after the birth of Jesus, as they are joined by the visiting shepherds. However, perhaps an even more popular and poignant religious image of the Christmas season is the Madonna, the image of Mary holding the infant Jesus. In fact it is an image that is less restricted to the Christmas season as Mary is depicted holding a child of a variety of ages even beyond infancy. Our own statue of Mary depicts her holding her Son, presenting Him for all of us to see. The Madonna and child has long been a staple subject of the great artists over many centuries. In recent years classical artistic representations of the Madonna have been used for Christmas stamps. Although in more recent years the Holy Family and the Magi have been used.
These pictures of Mary and Jesus vary, but all bring out the unique intimacy between this Mother and child. Each captures the unique intermingling of human and divine. The image of Mary with the child Jesus held in her arms is a great statement of the obvious. Mary had a relationship with Jesus unlike anyone else. Consequently, she has a relationship with God, unlike anyone else.
Today we celebrate the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. It is as on last Sunday’s feast of the Holy Family another affirmation of the mystery of the incarnation, made manifest with the birth of Jesus. In choosing to become incarnate, in choosing to dwell among us in the flesh, He chose to be born like any other human. He chose to be dependent on the pre-birth nurturance of a woman for the nine months in the womb as well as in the years of infancy and childhood. St. Paul, in our first readings, makes a point of noting that when God sent His Son, He was born of a woman. St. Paul then went on to note that the Son accomplished a ransom on behalf of those who would believe, it is a ransom from the debt that sin brings. It is a ransom that allows us believers to become children of God, to have the Holy Spirit within our hearts so that indeed we, children of God, can call upon God as Father with the endearing title of Abba.
It is important to note, however, that as profound as this is, as profound as the gift of the Holy Spirit that binds to God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we must note, that Mary enjoyed an even more intense fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Because of her yes when God called upon her to cooperate in His plan of salvation, the Holy Spirit entered her heart, her entire being in such a way that within her flesh, God took flesh. The Holy Spirit acted deep within her womb to enable her to call God not only Father but Son. As we profess in the apostle’s Creed, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Today’s feast helps us to prolong the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ as it moves us into a New Year according to our secular calendars. The New Year is a great time for making new beginnings, new efforts, new resolutions. Perhaps no greater resolution can be made than to recommit ourselves to our own relationship with Jesus Christ. The intimacy between Jesus and Mary that is so beautifully pictured in the various artistic representations is an intimacy that Mary wishes to share. She does want us to know and love and cherish her Son, just as she did. And while we can never carry an infant Jesus in our arms, we can embrace His truth, with all its beauty and power, in our minds and hearts. And we can move forward into a new year holding Him up and outward in our interactions with others.