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.
“Who do people say I am?” Jesus once asked; and “Who do you say I am?” (Mt 16:15). It is a question that never goes away, and every believer faces it again and again. You can be quite clear in your mind about the Church’s answer to the question, but every believer has to experience the force of the question addressed to him or herself. “Who do you say I am?” In a sense it cannot be fully answered with words but only with one’s life. I could have the right formulation, but it has little significance if my life contradicts it or ignores it.
Through the centuries every possible answer has been given. 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 Jesus 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 to say that Christ was one person, not two. The word used was ‘Theotokos’ (Greek for ‘God-bearer’). The Council of Chalcedon (451 AD) 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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