Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Readings: Num 6:22-27; Ps 67:2-3.5-6.8; Gal 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21

While today we stand on the threshold of the New Year we also find ourselves in the middle of the Christmas season. The Incarnation of God’s Only Begotten Son is too important to celebrate with only one day. Of course, during the latter part of Advent and throughout the Christmas season, Mary, the Mother of God, figures prominently.

The Blessed Virgin Mary occupies a very unique place in the divine economy of salvation. As Christians, we venerate the saints, those holy women and men who have gone before us, lighting the path along the Church’s pilgrim way. Our technical term for this is “veneration.” The Greek word for "veneration" is dulia. In accord with the first commandment, we worship only God, who is Father, Son, and Spirit, and God alone. “Worship” is denoted by the Greek word latreia.

Just as parents, even absent or dead parents, occupy a unique space in the lives of their children, between God and other people, the Blessed Virgin Mary occupies a unique space in the divine economy. As Catholics, the Church is our Mater et Magistra (i.e., our Mother and Teacher). At the very end of the speech with which he brought the Second Vatican Council to a close, Pope Saint Paul VI declared Mary Mater Ecclesiae (Mother of the Church).1

It is important, especially in our day, to understand that “the Church” is not just the hierarchy, but the entire People of God. And so, because Mary is Mother of the Church, she is our Mother too. This is made clear in Scripture. In Saint John’s account of Jesus’s crucifixion, as he hung the cross, Jesus seeing his mother “and the disciple there whom he loved,” said to Mary: “Woman, behold, your son.”2 “Then he said to the disciple,” who stands for the Church, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”3

In honor of her unique place in God’s plan of salvation, while we do not worship Mary, we more than venerate her, as Christians have from the Church’s beginning. Here’s another Greek word for you: hyperdulia. If dulia means “venerate,” then hyperdulia means just what it sounds like it means: hyper-, or super-veneration!

While immaculately conceived, Mary is a creature like us. While we do not worship her we do pray to her, trusting her intercession. In fact, the fruit of the fifth and final of the Glorious Mysteries- her Coronation as Queen of Heaven- is trust in her intercession. Precisely because Mary is our Mother, we can entrust our prayers and petitions to her in the confidence she will intercede for us.

Because Christ is the Prince of Peace, Mary, his Mother, is the Queen of Peace. In conjunction with today’s solemnity, the Catholic Church also observes the World Day of Peace. In his Sermon on the Mount, the Lord taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”4

In his message for this year’s World Day of Peace, Pope Francis stated:
The world does not need empty words but convinced witnesses, peacemakers who are open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion or manipulation. In fact, we cannot truly achieve peace without a convinced dialogue between men and women who seek the truth beyond ideologies and differing opinions5
It is Good News, my friends, that because “God sent his son” to ransom us from the law, by virtue of our rebirth in baptism, we have received adoption as God’s children.6 As a result, like Jesus, we can call God, “Abba, Father.”7 How blessed we are to call Mary our Mother, she who continually reflected on the glorious events of her son’s birth.8

I think the first homily of the New Year should contain some practical advice, which I will give by way of a challenge. From today through 31 December 2020, I urge you to pray the Rosary daily. Because 2020 is Leap Year, this means praying 366 Rosaries during this time. By “praying the Rosary,” I mean praying a full five decades, one complete set of mysteries. In addition to your own petitions, I ask you bring to our Blessed Mother petitions for our parish, our pastor, and those who are on our parish prayer list.

And so, as we begin not only a New Year but a new decade:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!9
Holy Mary, Mother of God, as we begin this New Year, pray for us.

1 Address of Pope Paul VI During the Last General Meeting of the Second Vatican Council, 7 December 1965.
2 John 19:26.
3 John 19:27.
4 Matthew 5:9.
5 Pope Francis, Message for the Celebration of the 53rd World Day of Peace.
6 Galatians 4:4-5.
7 Galatians 4:7.
8 Luke 2:19.
9 Numbers 6:24.26.

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