Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Eight days after his birth, our Savior was circumcised and received the name Jesus. Until the Second Vatican Council, this naming at the circumcision was the event that the Roman Church would celebrate on this day, and the readings for today’s Mass still recall the event of the naming (Lk 2:21), the fact that the Word made flesh is born under and keeps the law which circumcision indicates (Gal 4:4), and the blessing that God intends through the name that will be given to Jesus (Nm 6:22-27).

On the current Roman calendar, we now wait until January 3rd to celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus. Today, eight days after Christmas and on the first day of the new year, the Church instead draws our attention to the Virgin whom we celebrate as the Mother of God. Mary, too, is present in today’s readings, but in a more hidden way. The blessing that God offers us through Numbers 6 and Psalm 67 is most especially offered to us through the woman who is “blessed among women” and the fruit of whose womb is blessed (Lk 1:42). This blessing is, of course, Jesus Christ, who shares with us the fullness of his divine life through his human life.

Though philosophers (and even theologians) can get stuck on the question of what God “can” do or “must” do, for the Christian, the question of what God chooses to do should be a more interesting question, for it is in what God chooses to do that God reveals to us who he is, and what love is. And, the baffling thing is that the uncreated Son of God who is God himself wants “to be born of a woman, born under the law” (Gal 4:4). God wants a mother, and a mother who is one of us. As a truly human baby in her womb, the body of the divine Son will be knit together from her body; his human spirit will be formed from the love and care that Mary will show him in the womb, as any child is formed by a mother who loves him, sings to him, cares for him, even in the womb. As the uncreated Son surrenders himself without reserve to the uncreated Father, so this same Son, in time, surrenders himself without reserve to the care of this human mother. As a little child, Jesus will be able to place complete confidence in his mother as she teaches him how to walk, how to speak, how to pray the prayers of Israel. He will not second-guess her, playing the “little god,” but rather will learn from her in a truly human way, as a child who can trust his mother.

Jesus can entrust himself to this immaculate mother who—through a grace flowing from the cross that Jesus will endure—is the crowning of Israel’s struggles to be God’s perfect partner. But we, too, are redeemed by that same cross. If we do not merely accept the grace offered to us from the cross but let it become the basis for our lives, then we are not only given Mary to us as our mother (Jn 19:27), but may also be given the grace to share something of the motherhood of God in our own Christian lives. If, like and with Mary, we faithfully “keep these things, reflecting on them in [our] heart” (Lk 2:19), so that through the Holy Spirit “it is no longer I who live, but Christ in me” (Gal 2:20), then maybe we, too, may have the privilege not only of being cared for by God, but also of caring for God, who actually wants to be able to entrust himself completely to us, calling us, “brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt 12:50).

January 1st, 2017