“The Virgin in Prayer” by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato (1640-50)

On New Year’s Day the Church celebrates the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. Considered the greatest of Mary’s titles, she is the “Mother of God” because she gave birth to Jesus who is the God-man. This feast day falls eight days after Christmas on the day of the circumcision of Jesus. According to the Mosaic Law, eight days after birth, Jewish boy babies were circumcised and received their name. This is the day that Mary’s son is named “Jesus”, meaning “God saves.” Mary, then, becomes the Mother of the Saviour.

The gospel reading for the solemnity speaks about the events of Christmas: “shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger,” then they glorified God for what they had seen. Then the gospel gives us a glimpse into the interior life of Mary: “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” She had experienced some amazing events in the miraculous conception of her Son, the rough journey to Bethlehem while heavily-pregnant, finding no place in the inn to give birth, and the angels and shepherds giving glory to God for the birth of her Son. Later she would receive the wise men from the east bearing gifts worthy of a King.

What was Mary to make of all this? She retains her inner peace, ever trusting in the Lord, calmly pondering God’s mysteries in the events of her life in her heart. She had the Scriptures and Torah as her guide to interpret the mysteries. Gabriel the Archangel’s words at the annunciation would have brought comfort and enlightenment. She had the consolation of Jesus’ presence always with her, as well as the loving protection of her beloved spouse, St Joseph.

Is this not the model of the Christian spiritual life? Christians are guided by the Word of God found in Scripture, and are consoled by the real presence of the Word made flesh in the Eucharist. We are protected by the prayers of the angels and saints who have gone before us in the journey of faith. Our spiritual life is nourished by regular meditation on Scripture and frequent reception of the Sacraments, particularly Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

The first reading for this solemnity from the Book of Numbers reveals that peace is a gift from God and is linked to the splendour of the face of God. The liturgy, then, is telling us where to go to find peace. The liturgy for this solemnity links true peace to the Christ-event, in particular, to the Incarnation. Mary received the gift of peace from God in the message of Gabriel, and she contemplated the face of God in her Son, the Prince of peace. We too can receive the gift of peace at Mass where Jesus becomes truly present among us. Likewise, in Eucharistic adoration, spending time with Jesus, we can pray for peace in the world. On this great solemnity of the Mother of God, let us pray: Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!

(Copyright © 2016)