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  • Writer's pictureFather Puddleglum

Mary Mother of God 2023

Today the Church celebrates the feast of Mary the Mother of God. This title of Mary is an important one that was given to Mary almost sixteen hundred years ago at the council of Ephesus in 431. In the early Church there was much controversy over Jesus. Who and what was He? Was He God or was He man? Was He neither but only like God or like a man? These are questions for which we now have answers but in the early years of Christianity it all had to be hashed out. And there was a man named Nestorius who taught that Jesus was only a man who was inspired and united to God the Son but was not Himself God the son. In other words, Jesus was fully man but not actually God become man. To reinforce this teaching Nestorians taught that Mary could not be called the mother of God since Jesus wasn’t truly God. You can’t be the mother of God if your son is not God. Rather, Nestorius claimed that Mary could only be called mother of Jesus’ human nature. Therefore she was to be called the mother of Christ. However, we know what the Church teaches and that Mary can and should be called the mother of God because Jesus is fully God. The Council of Ephesus taught that Jesus was fully God and fully man. These were His two natures that were united in His divine personhood of God the Son. Mary is therefore the mother of God not because she existed before Him and not because we believe that she is greater than God. Rather, we believe that Mary is the mother of God because Jesus is truly and fully God.

And so you will see that while this feast is named Mary the Mother of God, it points to Jesus. We celebrate the truth and the fact that God has become man in the person of Jesus Christ. But the Church celebrates this truth in a slightly different tone than Christmas. We celebrate how this profound historical reality, God becoming man, shaped the life and story of a young, unknown woman from the small town of Nazareth. Through Mary’s yes she allowed God to shape her life and raise her up from her lowly state to the Queen of Heaven and Earth. Mary allowed God to use her to bring about our redemption even though there would be sorrows and struggles along with the joys. This yes to the invitation to become the Mother of God radially changed Mary’s life and subsequently the entire world.

And Mary is the perfect model for Christians. What if we all tried our hardest to be like Mary? What if we truly allowed the Incarnation, the historical reality of God becoming man, to shape our lives? What if we strove to always act in reference to the truth of our faith? It would change everything. Too often we treat our faith as a project that is extra in our lives. We are tempted to give politics priority over our faith. We are tempted to give sports priority over our faith. We are tempted to value human relationships more than our relationship with Jesus. However, if we truly believe and have faith that Jesus is truly God become man, then that should be the truth that shapes and informs every aspect of our lives. It should change the way we shop, change the kind of music we listen to, change how we prioritize our events, change the way we treat others especially those we don’t get along with. Just as Mary said yes and allowed the Incarnation to change her life we should do the same. We have the fullness of truth, the fullness of God’s revelation to man. This truth is not something we own but rather something that owns and governs all of us. It is the Christian duty to allow this truth to shape our lives just as it shaped Mary’s life.

You have probably heard that Pope Emeritus Benedict passed away yesterday at the age of 95. In the estimation of many he was the greatest theologian of the 20th century. He is certainly my favorite contemporary theologian. Please pray for him. Pope Benedict truly knew what it meant to assent to the truth and allow it to shape our lives just as Mary was receptive to the truth. I want to close with a quote from him. This quote comes from the first homily delivered by Pope Benedict when he was elected in 2005. He worked tirelessly at defending the faith in an age when so many say that truth is relative, truth is what we make it, that we are the ones who give and find our own meaning in life. Pope Benedict saw how wrong this was and how we must always live in reference to Jesus and allow the truth of Christianity to shape our own lives. He says

“Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceipt from truth.

We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.”

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