As people around the world make resolutions for the future and for new beginnings on this New Year’s Day, which is also the octave day of Christmas, it is fitting that the Church lifts up for us the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God. Celebrating this solemnity on this first day of the year, explained Blessed Pope Paul VI, is meant to commemorate the part played by Our Lady in the ongoing mystery of salvation (Marialis Cultus, 5).
Mary is “the new Eve, the obedient and faithful virgin, who with her generous ‘fiat’ became through the working of the Spirit the Mother of God, but also the true Mother of the living” (Marialis Cultus, 6). She not only gives birth to our Salvation, by her eternal “yes” to God, she continues to point the way for us and, with maternal solicitude, travels with us as we journey through life. To make a good start this year, and to make sure that we stay on the path of goodness and authentic happiness, we want to look to and follow our guiding star Mary.
In this year of 2017, we will be celebrating Mary, the Mother of God who is also our Blessed Mother, in a special way with the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima. From May 13 to October 13 of 1917, she would appear and speak with a mother’s voice and heart to the shepherd children Lucia, Blessed Francisco, and Blessed Jacinta, urging penance, conversion, and prayer for the salvation for souls, while assuring she would be with us through all hardships, ever commending us to her Son.
While it is almost second nature to us today to speak of “Holy Mary, Mother of God,” as we do in the Hail Mary prayer, there was a time when this was disputed in certain quarters when the early Church was discerning who Jesus is exactly. Some, most prominently Nestorius, insisted that Mary, being only a human creature, only gave birth to and was the mother of Jesus in his humanity as the Christ and not in his divine nature. This view, as noted by Cyril of Alexandria and others, effectively divided Jesus into two distinct halves, one human and one divine.
In 431, the Council of Ephesus, the city where according to tradition Mary lived for a time with Saint John, definitively decreed that Mary was rightly called Theotokos (Greek for God-bearer), confirming that Jesus is inseparably true God and true man (CCC 469). Thus, we see that in calling her “Mother of God,” Mary again points us to her Son. In fact, all Marian doctrines ultimately are about Jesus Christ.
As the new year dawns, we continue to venerate Mary as the mother of Jesus and therefore the Mother of God, who is also our mother and mother of the Church.